The Houston Cougars are one week away from flying to Memphis for next Friday’s opener against the Tigers. Coach Dana Holgorsen and his staff are finalizing rotations at each position for a season that will be unlike any other on Cullen.
With no redshirts in 2020 due to new COVID-19 protocols, coaches won’t be making decisions based on four games, redshirts, or anything other than onfield performance. Season-long depth should be better, which has been an emphasis for Holgorsen in the preseason.
“Everyone gets a free year so that creates more competition,” Dana said in his most recent media session. “We’re old and we’re experienced.” He pointed to the depth at the offensive tackle position in particular.
“We got a lot of depth, more depth on the O-line than we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Holgorsen said. “Patrick’s (Paul) working left tackle…seven other guys that will be repping at tackle as well.”
I think Paul is a lock at LT but the concern is right tackle, where five guys started last year (three of them decided to leave: Jarrid Williams, Justin Murphy, and Dixie Wooten).
Gio Pancotti is serviceable at RT and Jordan Boatman had a start against Tulsa but no one stood out in Williams’ absence. Right tackle is the biggest question mark on the line and could be a week-by-week situation like last season.
There are seven returning linemen that started 3 or more games last year – Pancotti (10 starts), Freeman (7), Murphy (7), Bardwell (4) Jones (4), Banes (3), and Paul (3). This year’s trick will be to take that depth and build a cohesive starting unit. The 2019 line was patched together on a weekly basis and lacked a shutdown guy anywhere. Depth is nice but quality, frontline starters are needed to keep QB Clayton Tune upright.
The 2019 OL allowed 95 tackles for loss and 35 sacks. In his nine career starts, Tune has been sacked 35 times, too.
Other news and notes:
– Tonight, D’Eriq King debuts as the new Miami QB. For an offense that was embarrassingly bad last year, are the additions of King and Jarrid Williams enough to make them competitive? The Canes scored 20.3 ppg in their 7 losses – that’s Rice/UConn level terrible.
King and Williams are UH grads and, even though they are playing elsewhere, I’m interested to see how they perform.
– Will the Coogs regret not playing a game before Memphis? A lot of teams have looked awful in the early going this year (none worse than Navy). Going on the road to face a top-25 team in a stand-alone national TV game is a big spot to debut this team. I believe UH could have strongly benefitted from a warm-up – even a game against an FCS team.
Houston has been sluggish to start the season each of the last three years in games at Arizona, at Rice, and at OU. This is the fifth-straight season that UH has started the year away from TDECU.
– With Mulbah Car still battling back issues and his status for Memphis unclear, Kyle Porter will be the go-to guy at running back early on. Following a scrimmage last week, Dana said that Porter ran the ball “as hard as I’ve seen him since he’s been here.” That’s encouraging as Porter needs to be more of a north-south runner to take his game up a notch.
– Final words – from Dana Holgorsen:
“You get caught up so much in the day to day football of it, trying to make up for lost ground. You forget that we’re dealing with human beings and relationships – what’s going on in the world and what’s going on in their head and what’s going on with their personal stuff.
“I’d like to think that within the walls of this building, everybody is treated the same. If the world was like what’s going on in a locker room, I think everybody would be better because of it.”