Sports staff predicts Applewhite’s ability, offense strength
Football is facing new challenges this year. A new head coach, scheme and players fighting for a roster spot will certainly add to the dynamic of this upcoming season.
Despite a new look, the team is still coming off of a 9-3 record and look to have an easier schedule than last year. The sports section discusses how they think the team will do this season and moving forward.
Reagan Earnst, assistant sports editor
Predicting how the Cougars will fare in 2017 is no easy task.
Between having a new head coach and quarterback, there are a ton of question marks on the offensive side of the ball. We haven’t seen what a solely Major Applewhite-run offense looks like before, although I don’t anticipate it to vary too much from Tom Herman’s offense of the last two seasons.
For the first time in recent history, the team has a quarterback battle sure to produce a formidable starter come September. Whether it be Texas A&M transfer Kyle Allen or the dynamic D’Eriq King, the quarterback position will be in good hands to begin the post-Greg Ward Jr. era.
With what will likely be five returning starters on the offensive line, whoever wins the quarterback job will be in a great position to succeed.
Where the team doesn’t get enough credit is on the defensive side of the ball.
In 2017, the Cougars are returning eight starters and seven seniors who are poised to see significant playing time.
Sophomore defensive lineman Ed Oliver’s play speaks for itself, and barring injury, he will be one of the nation’s top defensive players. In addition to Oliver, senior linebackers Matt Adams and D’Juan Hines provide experience in the middle of the field.
All in all, if the team can stay healthy, I believe they will escape the season with a 9-3 record.
Anthony Cianciulli, football beat reporter
The Cougars should have no trouble adapting to Applewhite’s offensive scheme, which will probably operate similarly to last year’s. The team is essentially the same with a plethora of returning starters on both sides of the ball, including “The Truth,” aka Ed Oliver. The secondary will need to improve along with the run game to make this team a legitimate contender for the conference title.
Kyle Allen will provide the Cougars with their first traditional quarterback since the gun-slinging days of Case Keenum. That’s not to take anything away from D’Eriq King, who Applewhite already said was going to receive snaps at the quarterback position, regardless of depth. He is a talented athlete with loads of potential, and it would be a waste to leave him on the sideline.
With a cupcake schedule and only one ranked preseason opponent, the Cougars have only themselves standing in the way of a potential double-digit win season. This might seem like a whimsical prediction, but it could happen if they continue to dominate at home.
UH’s record at TDECU Stadium is practically unblemished, and they currently hold a 14-game win streak at home. Their toughest opponents of the season, which include Tech, SMU and Navy, are all home games.
Unless other teams within the conference improved dramatically over the offseason, I see Houston emerging as AAC Champions under first-year head coach Applewhite. Now that’s what you call a hot take.
Peter Scamardo, assistant sports editor
As the resident skeptic, I have every faith Major Applewhite will be a good coach for the Cougars. Despite his unimposing nature in interviews, many former coaches have spoken in favor of Applewhite and his abilities as a coach.
The problem for the Cougars lies in the rest of the conference. USF was a solid team last year and has only improved with the arrival of Charlie Strong and retention of quarterback Quentin Flowers. Navy’s triple option offense will continue to trouble the entire conference. Plus, Memphis will continue to be a menace to the Cougars’ season as they have the last two years.
And although the defense will continue to be strong with Ed Oliver, the offense will have its problems. Don’t expect Kyle Allen to be the savior at quarterback. As someone who followed his career at Texas A&M closely, he has the talent to dominate smaller opponents but risks the chance of cowering in the big games.
A part of Allen’s fall may have been due to the Manziel-era culture, but simply put, he was an athlete who could not win the big games and lost his job to a true freshman.
I expect the Cougars to win nine games this year, but I won’t be surprised if they only reach seven.