2019 Houston Cougars Team Preview

Major Applewhite went 15-10 in two years at Houston. He got fired.

Obviously I don’t agree with the decision, but Houston has said they expect to be competing at a high level, and with two 13-1 seasons in the past eight years, you can see why 15-10 might not cut it.

The one reason I don’t completely hate the decision to fire Applewhite though is the replacement, West Virginia’s Dan Holgorsen left the Mountaineers to return home, previously having been the OC at Houston for two years before leaving to become the head man at WVU. Getting an active P5 coach to leave for a G5 job is impressive, but the schedule is tough, and another sub-ten win year feels very likely, so we’ll see if Holgorsen gets more of a leash than Applewhite did.

Offense

The new offensive coordinators are Marquel Blackwell and Brandon Jones. Blackwell was the running backs coach at West Virginia under Holgorsen and Jones coached the offensive line at WVU rival Texas Tech.

Holgorsen and the co-OC’s will have a lot of pieces to play with on offense, most notably QB D’Eriq King who was on pace for 4,000 combined yards rushing/passing if he didn’t deal with end of year injuries. King was efficient too, completing 64 percent of passes and throwing at a 36-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

800-yard rusher Patrick Carr returns (5.7 yards per attempt) at running back and the Cougars add Texas grad transfer Kyle Porter along with a highly touted freshman in Kelan Walker. The top three in the receiving corps return as well in a group led by 1,000-yard receiver Marquez Stevenson.

Houston’s line was pretty good last year but they will have to replace two starters. Texas Tech/UCLA grad transfer Justin Murphy and highly touted junior Keenan Murphy will come in to plug the two holes.

The offense fell apart after King got injured last year, but assuming he can stay healthy this will be one of the best groups in the G5.

Defense

Holgorsen is an offensive-minded guy so he brought in a great DC in Joe Cauthen, who held the same role at Arkansas State for the past five years, to try and right the ship.

The Houston defense struggled mightily last year, especially after star lineman Ed Oliver went down with an injury. Oliver isn’t the only departure, as Houston also loses both starting corners, both starting linebackers, their nickel back, and Jerard Carter on the line. Cauthen’s ASU defenses were some of the best in the G5 with Sun Belt talent though, so I’m excited to see what he can do at Houston.

End Isaiah Chambers will be the biggest difference maker off the bat. The one-time TCU transfer missed over half the year with injury but still managed to net 4.5 sacks. The Cougars return Blake Young and Payton Turner on the inside and Leroy Godfrey on the other end. JUCO transfer Taures Payne will add some depth.

On the second level, Jordan Carmouche will step into the middle, and JUCO Terrance Edgestone helps provide some help next to him. A&M transfer Jordan Moore adds safety depth where Deontay Anderson and Gleson Sprewell return, but I am concerned about the cornerback play.

This defense has some talent but the corner play is a huge issue. This will be much closer to a 2018 Houston defense than the 2016-17 version.

2019 Outlook

Six of Houston’s 12 games are projected to be decided by 3.1 points or fewer so this season feels like it could go quite a few different ways.

Dana Holgorsen has already brought in some transfers and recruiting looks good though, so just hitting Applewight’s seven to eight win mark seems like a good goal for year one, although if some injuries come this team could be in danger of missing a bowl due to the tough schedule.

Schedule

DateOpponentopp. rankProj. Margin
1-SEPat Oklahoma6-20.2
7-SepPrairie View A&MNRn/a
13-Sepvs. Washington State (Houston, tx)41-3.1
19-Sepat Tulane84-0.2
28-Sepat North Texas80-1.1
12-OctCincinnati44-0.0
19-Octat Connecticut12915.1
24-OctSMU896.3
2-Novat UCF22-9.6
16-NovMemphis30-1.8
23-Novat Tulsa982.2
30-NovNavy11013.2

Average Projected Record: 6.6 wins, 5.4 losses (4.6 wins, 3.4 losses)