This year will be a big year for many on the Cougars’ roster trying to make an impact this season.
The team has seen plenty of changes among the coaching staff and players. But over the course of training camp, they built around the culture of head coach Major Applewhite and are ready to face Arizona on Saturday.
Here’s who The Cougar sports staff thinks will break out this season.
Sports Editor Frank Campos
Sophomore D’Eriq King showed himself to be a versatile asset last season by playing quarterback, wide receiver and by returning kicks. This year, I think the team will take it to the next level and fully utilize King by giving him more opportunities on the field.
King is primed for a breakout season.
Coming out of high school, the Manvel native was a four-star recruit after a stellar high school career. As a Maverick, King totaled over 10,000 passing yards and 3,000 rushing yards. The No. 14-ranked recruit in the U.S. by ESPN chose UH over schools like Baylor, Clemson, Michigan State and TCU.
Last year, the versatile QB saw action in 10 games and showed he can be dominant. King had 254 yards and a touchdown in just 10 returns along with 29 receptions for 228 receiving yards. He also saw minimal action at quarterback but made the most of every down he was given.
This year, if Applewhite uses King right, he can be all over the field again at every position he played last year. With a year under his belt, the experience should help him stay on the field longer as a wide receiver. That is where I see him making the biggest impact.
Applewhite also hinted at giving him a bigger role in the return game even though he will likely not get his shot at quarterback until next season.
Assistant Sports Editor Reagan Earnst
Sophomore running back Patrick Carr has a chance to have a breakout season in 2017. However, in order to see the field, he will need to continue to impress coaches.
Carr transferred to Houston after playing one season for the Colorado Buffaloes. While in Boulder, the Woodlands native struggled to find playing time but showed what he can be capable of in a Halloween-night start against the UCLA Bruins in 2015.
The then-true freshman carried the ball 19 times for 100 yards and a score in what was his breakout game of the season. Despite his brilliance against UCLA, Carr received 10 or more rushing attempts just two times all year.
Carr was a highly-touted running back out of the Woodlands High School. There he finished as the Highlanders’ all-time leading rusher and scorer. Before committing to Colorado, Carr was ranked as the 286th recruit in the nation, according to ESPN.
Having now been with the Cougars for an entire year, Carr has impressed coaches with his agility and lateral speed. The only thing standing in his way of a breakout season is the Cougars’ immense depth at running back.
Regardless, I expect him to contribute in the special team’s game if he is unable to find carries at tailback.
Staff writer Anthony Cianciulli
Junior running back Duke Catalon led the Cougars in rushing yards last year despite missing four games from a concussion. The stout 6-foot, 215 pound junior has a mixture of power and speed allowing him to be an every-down back. His multidimensional repertoire as a pass catcher and bruising back will allow Applewhite to use him at will against opposing defenses.
Regardless of who starts under center, none of the quarterback options will be asked to take on the rushing responsibility Greg Ward had last season, leaving those carries to be distributed to running backs.
Catalon, the most experienced back among the UH rushers, should run away with the starting job. Literally.
He has the stamina to wear down opposing defenses over the course of a game. His punishing style of running, coupled with a seasoned offensive line that has four returning starters, will add a dimension to the Cougar offense that was lacking last year.
While it is this exact hard-nosed style that got him sidelined early last year with a concussion, he played out the remainder of the seasons six games injury-free. If he remains healthy, and no one emerges to threaten his status as a starter, I see this being Catalon’s best statistical season at UH.