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Texas Tech Opponent Prospectus | Houston Cougars

2010 Texas Tech Opponent Prospectus

Game 1: SMU Mustangs (9.5.10) :: Game 2: @ New Mexico Lobos (9.11.10) :: Game 3: Texas Longhorns (9.18.10) :: Game 4: @ Iowa St. Cyclones (10.2.10) :: Game 5: Baylor Bears (10.09.10) :: Game 6: Oklahoma St. Cowboys :: Game 7: @ Colorado Buffaloes (10.23.10) :: Game 8: @ Texas A&M Aggies (10.30.10) :: Game 9: Missouri Tigers (11.06.10) :: Game 10: @ Oklahoma Sooners (11.13.10) :: Game 11: Weber St. Wildcats (11.20.10) :: Game 12: Houston Cougars (11.27.10)

General Information

Opponent Houston
Nickname Cougars
Location Houston, TX
Enrollment 37,000
Conference Conference USA
Head Coach Kevin Sumlin
2009 Record 10-4, 6-3
Starters Returning 9 Offense : 5 Defense
Blogs Fourth And Fifty : Fight for Red and White
Links 2010 Spring Prospectus

Join me after the jump for a closer look at the Cougars.


Statistic Houston Texas Tech
Pass Offense 433.71 (1) 386.77 (2)
Rush Offense 129.64 (83) 84.00 (115)
Total Offense 563.36 (1) 470.77 (4)
Scoring Offense 30.07 (94) 37.00 (7)
Pass Efficiency 155.33 (7) 143.79 (19)
Sacks Allowed 1.29 (24) 2.38 (87)
Pass Defense 224.71 (72) 225.62 (73)
Rush Defense 226.57 (115) 126.77 (38)
Total Defense 451.29 (111) 352.38 (49)
Scoring Defense 30.07 (95) 22.46 (41)
Pass Efficiency Defense 130.77 (67) 117.38 (35)
Sacks .164 (85) 3.09 (4)
Tackles For Loss 4.64 (105) 6.46 (34)
Turnover Margin 0.29 (44) -0.46 (94)

Top Returners

Category Player
Rushing Charles Sims :: 132 Rushes : 693 Yards : 9 TD
Passing Case Keenum :: 492/700 : 5,671 Yards : 15 INT : 44 TD
Receiving James Cleveland :: 104 Receptions : 1,214 Yards : 14 TD
Tackles Marcus McGraw :: 79 Solo : 77 Assists : 156 Total
Sacks Marcus McGraw :: 4 Solo : 0 Assists : 42 Yards : 4.0 Total
Interceptions Jamal Robinson :: 5 INT : 42 Yards : 1 TD

Key Losses and Returning Impact Players

Disclaimer: I'm not an expert on the opponent, but I try my best. If I have something wrong, please let me know and I'll correct or revise as necessary.

Key Losses:

WR Chaz Rodriguez, WR Tim Monroe, C Carl Barnett, OT Jarve Dean, DE Tyrell Graham, LB C.J. Cavness, CB Brandon Brinkley, SS Carson Blackmon

Impact Offensive Player :: QB Case Keenum:

Could I have picked anyone else? Probably not, but the scary part for Cougar opponents is that Keenum has a ton of returning talent around him, which make Keenum even better. Keenum was spectacular all year, but like a lot of teams, Keenum is better in wins rather than losses. Keenum ended his last two games throwing 9 of his 15 interceptions (6 against Air Force) and I'd imagine that Keenum is looking to get started again.

Impact Defensive Player :: LB Marcus McGraw:

I think I had blocked out McGraw's performance against Texas Tech (19 tackles and 1 sack), but McGraw kept up this pace all year as he was 5th in the nation in tackles. Just a sophomore last year, McGraw was all over the field and you can look to McGraw being a huge part of Houston's defensive success.

Coach Speak:

Head Coach Kevin Sumlin talks about his team's signal-caller, Case Keenum:

"He's got to keep doing what he's doing and continue to improve and be honest with himself every week' Sumlin said. "It's hard to ask a guy who has led the country in total offense two years in a row to be better. He can't force things. The offense is coming to him and other players are rising to his play to take the pressure off of him.

"We've surrounded him with other playmakers. He needs to be a leader and be efficient and just play. He doesn't have to do any more or any less than last year. He knows what it takes to win. He's played long enough and studied enough tape. I'll put it this way - his expectation levels are a lot higher than most realize and even some of the coaches realize."

Spring Chatter:

  • Top Newcomers: SB Nation Houston runs down the top newcomers for Houston:
    Mtangi Tonga
    After playing in every game as a true freshman at BYU, Tonga had some personal issues, left school, and ended up spending a couple years at a JC. He actually gave serious consideration to entering the NFL draft, but after his family expressed a desire for him to complete his education, he decided to exercise his last year of NCAA eligibility. Despite being a one-year rental, Tonga received serious interest from a number of Pac-10 schools before choosing to play for Houston. It's hard to remember the last time UH's defensive line hasn't been suspect, but Tonga just might be the unstoppable force up front to change all that. With Houston's brilliant offense, and plenty of talent in the back eight defensively, Tonga's effect on the D-line could be the difference between an unbeatable team, and a very good team with a fatal flaw.
  • No Changes for Offense: Offensive coordinator Jason Phillips says there will be no changes to the offense:
    Asked what kind of signature he will put on the offense, Phillips said, "A lot of people have asked me that question about changes, changes. There will be no changes.

    "We've got a mature number of players who have been in the system for three years, and there's no reason for a change. We'll continue to impose our expectations and their expectations and make them realize they'll have to work."

  • Look at the Defensive Line: Head coach Sumlin and David Hunter look at the defensive line:
    "Nobody can play a full game," Sumlin said. "We're going to have to develop guys who are backups. Until we feel like we have six quality guys, we don't want to take those three guys off and put in three new guys. To do that, we need to be able to rotate the older guys at other positions and let Tyrone kind of hang out where he is. That way, instead of a six-man rotation, we can have maybe a five-man rotation. "I think our three defensive linemen, the starters we've got today, are legitimate guys." The three listed defensive-line backups heading into camp are ends Radermon Scypion (6-4, 242) and Ameen Behbahani (6-2, 282) and nose tackle DeAnthony Sims (6-3, 305). Count Hunter among those who can't wait to see the fruits of the Cougars change from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4. UH ranked 111th in total defense, 95th in points allowed and 97th in third-down conversion rate. "Our defense at this point has a lot of confidence," Hunter said. "We had confidence last year in everything we did. None of that really changed. At the end of the season, we had confidence. Now we have even more confidence just because of how hard everybody has worked in the summer and our confidence in the new defense.
  • 3-4 or the 4-3: Head coach Sumlin on on Brian Stewart's new defense:
    "I wouldn't classify us as a 3-4 team or a 4-3 team," Sumlin said, pointing out that Stewart has nine years of coaching experience at the 4-3 and nine with the 3-4. "We'll figure out what we can do. The crazy thing would be to force something on them that we can't do personnel-wise."

    The Cougars will spend the first few days installing the 3-4. Sumlin said the coaches will begin to get a lot better idea of what the players can do once the offense and defense start going head-to-head in contact drills. It wouldn't seem a fair fight: the nation's No. 1 offense, laden with experienced talent, vs. a defense trying to figure out what it's doing.

  • Talking O-Line: There may be some issues along the offensive line:
    Though the Cougars have eight returning starters from the nation's leading offense, they have offensive line issues to address that go beyond the final two games of last season. Even if starting right tackle Jarve Dean hadn't gotten kicked off the team for disciplinary reasons, the Cougars would have needed to develop some chemistry with a retooled line. Without Dean, a member of the All-Conference USA Second Team, the Cougars have even more work to do in creating chemistry and depth.

    Sophomore Jacolby Ashworth, who beat out Watts for the starting left tackle spot before tearing up his ankle four games into last season, had been penciled in at left guard. Ashworth is back at tackle, with senior Jaryd Anderson sliding into the first-team guard spot. Last year's left guard, senior Jordan Shoemaker, has slid over to center to replace three-year starter Carl Barnett. Dependable junior Chris Thompson is back at right guard and should be an all-league candidate. It's not set in stone yet which sides Ashworth and Watts will play.

vs. Texas Tech:

This was by far the most frustrating game for me last year. After the game, reports surfaced that RG Brandon Carter had lashed out after the loss, leading to a suspension and there were many questions regarding Leach's in-game coaching decisions as well as an inability to punch the ball in the endzone.

The scary thing is that this Houston team returns a ton of starters on offense and could be even more potent than they were last year. We all know about Keenum, but running backs Charles Sims (698 YDS; 9 TD) and Bryce Beall (670 YDS; 7 TD) were both incredibly productive last year. Sims was declared ineligible for this year, so that is one returning starter that could cause a problem, but Beall is still pretty good. The offensive line returns four out of five starters, only needing to replace their left guard. And of their returning starters (again, this was part of an offense that averaged 130 yards rushing and only allowed 1.29 sacks allowed, 24th in the nation) along the line, there are 3 seniors (RT Jarve Dean, C Jordan Shoemaker and LT Roy Watts), 1 junior (RG Chris Thompson) and the new starter is a sophomore (LG Jacolby Ashworth).

And the receivers are scary-good as they're only replacing 1 starter from last year as Patrick Edwards, Tyron Carrier and James Cleveland all return. Cleveland was the best statistically last year, but consider that Houston returns the following pass-catchers: Cleveland (104 REC; 1,214 YDS; 14 TD); Carrier (91 REC; 1,029 YDS; 7 TD); Edwards (85 REC; 1,021 YDS; 6 TD); and Sims (70 REC; 759 YDS; 1 TD). That's over 4,000 receiving yards returning.

The only possible dent in the Houston armor would be that offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen has left for Oklahoma St. Personally, I think that Holgorsen was a huge part of why that offense clicked and it's disingenuous to think that losing Holgorsen won't have any effect on the offense. I think Holgorsen was pretty darned good at his job and although the likely scenario would be that the Houston offense doesn't skip a beat. Again, I'm grasping for straws here.

When I saw that Houston had hired former Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Brian Stewart to be their defensive coordinator I thought that this was a questionable hire. Although I'm not necessarily a Cowboys fan, I do live in Dallas and from what I remember with Stewart's tenure here in Dallas was that Wade Phillips tabbed Stewart to be the Cowboys' defensive coordinator and by the end of Stewart's tenure, Phillips had stripped away just about any and all defensive play-calling responsibilities from Stewart. Stewart will be switching to a 3-4 defense (maybe) and Houston did start a lot of young players last year, but overall, the defense wasn't good.

Looking at the numbers above, Houston was 115th in the nation in rushing defense and 72nd in the nation in passing defense. Again, they couldn't stop anyone last year (except seemingly for Texas Tech). Sure, there are some good returning players for Houston, but they do lose their top pass-rusher, LB Tyrell Graham, DB Jamal Robinson, who had 4 interceptions last year, and DB Brandon Brinkley, who broke up 12 passes last year (the next best was at 7). For a team that lacked playmakers, Houston seems to be losing quite a few that made a difference last year.