Mr. Football Is a Coog!
New head coach Tony Levine and his staff pulled off one of the biggest coups in UH recruiting history when they stole wide receiver prospect Deontay Greenberry from Notre Dame. The switch by Greenberry (6-3, 185), who is rated a five-star prospect by Scout, the seventh-best wide receiver in the nation, and was named California high school's Mr. Football, made national news and brought even further positive attention to UH. Receivers coach Jamie Christian had recruited Greenberry at Arizona State and apparently formed a strong bond with him. And the new Cougar wideout had to realize how successful he could be in the UH air raid offense, which has led the nation in passing two out of the last three years. Will he replace Patrick Edwards on the outside or gain some weight and be a faster version of James Cleveland at the big slot? Time will tell. But signing California's Mr. Football was about as huge a gift under the tree as a Cougar recruiting buff could have found.
Keeping Up with the Joneses
There was a time two decades or more ago when UH could compete with schools such as Texas for elite recruits, but after having been banished to C-USA, that generally has not been the case. That's not to say that previous classes at UH never included a player that an Arkansas or Oklahoma State wanted, but such kids were few and far between. That all changed with the 2012 class. The following schools reportedly offered scholarships to '12 Cougar recruits, and only two of these offers were unique to Deontay Greenberry: Alabama, USC, Notre Dame, Missouri, Arizona State, Utah, Arkansas, Tennessee, (some half the schools in the SEC offered UH recruits), Michigan State, and Colorado, to name a few.
UH signed a ready-made, impressive front four for the new defensive alignment with defensive tackles Donald Hopkins (6-2, 280) of Lago Vista and Tomme Mark (6-2, 260) of Lufkin, home to former great Cougar defensive linemen such as T. J. Turner and Dewayne Calloway, along with defensive ends Bryan Singleton (6-4, 250) and Calvin Malveaux (6-6, 225). Malveaux is a so-called "sleeper," a recruit who is projected to develop into a good player after a redshirt year and plenty of time in the weight room. As Coach Levine said, "You can't teach 6'6," much less a time of 4.8 in the forty for a defensive lineman. But the other signees were among the top recruits in the region and turned down offers from major programs to attend UH. Hopkins, who dropped SEC-bound Missouri in favor of the Coogs, was rated a four-star prospect and the #29 overall player in Texas by ESPN. He has the ability to dominate the line of scrimmage and should be ideal as a 4-3 defensive tackle. Mark was also highly sought, and said "no" to numerous elite schools. Singleton is exactly what the coaches were looking for in a 4-3 defensive end. Rated the #21 prospect in Louisiana, which is no small feat given that Louisiana produces more FBS players than any state per capita, Singleton has the kind of size and quickness to be a force rushing the passer and also stuffing the run. All three represent as fine a group of defensive linemen as UH has signed in ages. When was the last time the Cougars beat Alabama for a defensive tackle? All three could see the field as true freshmen; they are that good.
A Tiger Transfers
Cougar fans may look at the Signing Day list and forget that the Cougars got another four-star prospect, only this one spent a year at LSU. Trevon Randle (6-2, 210), formerly of Clear Springs, was rated the #8 outside linebacker in the nation last year, and also had offers from Oklahoma and Nebraska. He'll sit out 2012 and be eligible the Coogs' first season in the Big East. Randle should be quite the complement to Derrick Matthews at linebacker.
Faster than a Speeding Bullet
Some college football programs have a reputation for a certain style or quality or standouts at a position. Besides a prolific passing offense, UH is known for the speed of its skill players. A number of recruits should have no trouble keeping that tradition alive. Athlete Devin Parks (5-10, 165) of Edna, who will be tried at slot receiver, was the state 100 meter champion in his school's classification, and has reportedly run a 10.4 in the 100 meters. North Shore's Larry McDuffey (5-11, 165) will also play receiver. Discussing McDuffey with Vype Magazine, which referred to the wideout as "the fastest man in Houston, " North Shore's recruiting coordinator said, "[McDuffey] consistently clocks a 4.3 in the 40-yard-dash and is just as fast laterally. He has great hands and will be a good fit for Houston." Jontrey Tillman (5-9, 170) makes up in speed what he lacks in size. Remember that LaMichael James is 5'9, Jacquizz Rodgers 5'6. Levine described Tillman as "a 10.4 100-meter guy." Ryan Jackson (5-10, 180) of Angleton is one of the prize recruits of this class. UH held off a strong push from Missouri to keep him in the fold. Jackson won the 3-4A regional in the 100 meters, and is a favorite to win State in the event as a senior. Levine described him as "explosive."
Happy Hunting Grounds
UH went as far as California for a recruit this year, and also signed players from Louisiana and Oklahoma. Even so, more than half of the Cougars' class came from the two areas most familiar to the program over the years—Greater Houston and East Texas. Out of a class of 25 (Randle included), 14 players hail from high schools within 100 miles of Houston.
New Kids on the Block
Coach Levine and his staff, which includes five new coaches, deserve major credit for both holding together the better part of an incomplete class but one with potential to be outstanding while also bringing in very impressive new recruits, including two players ranked four stars by at least one Internet recruiting service. Coach Christian was largely responsible for getting Deontay Greenberry, and Coach Mathis made inroads in the Metroplex. But Zac Spavital may deserve the most valuable recruiter award thus go-round. When it was all said and done, he was pretty much the point man on a third of the players in the incoming class. Reactions among Cougar fans to the hiring of Levine were somewhat mixed, but given the dominating performance in the TicketCity Bowl and now the signing of the top class in C-USA, everyone should want to jump on the bandwagon.
Athlete Adrian McDonald reminds some longtime Cougar fans of some of the great veer operators of yesteryear. He ran the option deftly at Lawton (OK) Eisenhower, and was a good-enough option signal caller to be offered a scholarship by Navy as a quarterback. The steal of the class may be Houston Wheatley athlete William Jackson (6-2, 180), who was supposedly under the radar, but there's also a report that he was offered by Colorado, Texas Tech, and Louisville, and he also signed with a junior college, so he may have some work to do on the academic side. He is simply a playmaker on both sides of the ball. Jackson played wide receiver and cornerback in high school, and the UH coaches aren't quite sure where he'll end up. Free safety may not be a bad idea. The Cougars got three promising offensive linemen in Mac Long (6-4, 280), an ESPN four-star prospect, Jacob Ables (6-5, 290), and man mountain Blake Hermann (6-8, 295). Coach Levine said all have good feet and are long. Hermann looks almost trim. He should have no problem playing over 300 in a couple of years. Still, three offensive linemen is one or two fewer than programs ideally want in a class. Look for that position to be a focus next year. With the additions of Greenberry and juco Xavier Maxwell, who was Blinn's leading receiver as a freshman, the Cougars may have found starters for the positions vacated by Patrick Edwards and E. J. Smith and possibly Justin Johnson. Both new receivers will be given the opportunity to win starting jobs. The new Cougar linebackers will be about as fast as the secondary at some programs. Randle and Legrone are legitimate 4.5-4.6 players, and Aikens and Thomas were safeties in high school. One to keep an eye on is Terrence "Boda" Taylor. He's a running back who doesn't run a 4.4 or weigh 225, yet he somehow manages to put up huge numbers. In one game this past season, he rushed for 365 yards, and he had almost 2,000 yards total. He could be the power back to complement speed backs Ryan Jackson and Jontrey Tillman. Another RB trio like UH had in '11 would be fine with Cougar fans.
For the second time in three years, UH has won the mythical Conference USA recruiting championship. Given that C-USA was the top-rated non-AQ conference in Sagarin this year, that's not too shabby. Both Scout and Rivals have Houston with the top class in the league. Of course, all that matters is what happens between the white lines on Saturdays. Before Texas won the national championship in 2005, people who referred to Mack Brown as "Mr. February" weren't complimenting him. Even so, it's better to be at the top than the bottom, and the top is where UH is.