The days until the Saturday morning kickoff between the UH football team and Baylor Bears continue to tick away, and the Cougars have released their first projected depth chart for the game.
Of the many areas of interest that draw attention, the depth chart for the team’s offensive line is among the top and on Tuesday afternoon, offensive line coach Brandon Jones spoke to the media about his unit.
Here are the projected starters at O-line from the depth chart that Houston released on Monday and what Jones said about the group on Tuesday:
Left Tackle – Patrick Paul
The 6-foot-7-inch redshirt freshman had a unique end to the 2019 season for the Cougars. While he enters the year with all of his eligibility, he is not a rookie lineman as he started in the final three games of the 2019 season, which has Jones touting about the experience he was able to pick up.
“(Playing last season) was extremely beneficial for him,” the offensive line coach said.
The unanticipated playing time helped Paul understand that position better as well as sped up his maturity.
Another factor that benefitted Paul in a big way was that he got to sit behind lineman Josh Jones, who was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2020 NFL Draft this past spring.
The 72nd pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and Paul were able to develop a strong bond that is expected to pay dividends this season, offensive line coach Brandon Jones said.
“They worked out a lot during quarantine,” he said. “(The relationship is) kind of a big brother, little brother deal.”
Another notable name on the depth chart was that of sophomore tackle Ruben Unije, who is behind Paul in the depth chart, and coach Jones expects him to impact the Cougars on the field in a short time.
“I don’t think he’s that far off,” Jones said. “These past few weeks he’s continued to get better and better. He will contribute here sooner than later.”
The O-line coach said that Unije is still working on cleaning up his technique and a few other things.
All in all, Jones is happy about the depth he has at left tackle.
Left Guard – Keenan Murphy
The 6-foot-3-inch senior Keenan Murphy left little doubt in the mind of Jones on who was starting at the left guard position.
“He was by far our best interior player (during spring workouts), and he picked up right where he left off during fall camp,” Jones said. “He’s the guy.”
Murphy appeared in all 12 games during 2019, starting in seven of them, and six at the left guard position.
Center – Jack Freeman
The sophomore center’s helped the Cougars plenty a season ago when he made seven starts at the position and showed the team that he can more than hold his own against the pass rushers of other teams.
It was his play at the position last year that helped Jones’ decision to move Braylon back to guard an easy one the offensive line coach said.
Right Guard – Braylon Jones
In 2018, the Tyler native started 13 games for Houston at right guard. In the 2019 season, he played four games at center before suffering a season-ending injury that forced him to redshirt.
“I knew I needed to get Braylon back at guard to try to sure up the interior,” the offensive line coach said on Tuesday.
The last time the 315-pound lineman started at guard, the Cougars’ offense was among the best in the nation (fifth scoring offense), and the unit as a whole had a stretch of five games where they did not give up a sack to an opposing team.
Right Tackle – Dennis Bardwell
The 6-foot-7-inch senior is no stranger to starting games for the Cougars.
Last season Bardwell made an appearance in seven contests and started in four of them for Houston.
“Dennis had a pretty steady camp,” Jones said
Jala Mason contributed to this report.