Houston Cougars Recruiting and Depth Chart

With nearly twelve weeks to go until summer practices begin (and sixteen until the first games of the 2012 college football season are played),

very boring to college football fanatics. With that in mind, I've decided to bridge that gap by creating a chart listing who I think will be on scholarship for the 2012 football season, which will also serve as a basis for a discussion on recruiting needs and a depth chart analysis. Disclaimer: Notice that I wrote "who I think will be on scholarship" as this entire article is my opinion on how the 2012 team will look heading into the season. I asked head coach Tony Levine for an official scholarship chart and he respectfully declined, stating that the scholarship count is forever changing. Case in point, as I was writing this article I found out (via twitter) that receiver DeAndre Perry is no longer with the team due to academics. I originally had him as one of the fifteen receivers, and 85 total athletes, on scholarship. The count is now down to 84 as I'm sure coach Levine will award his scholarship to a walk-on near the end of summer practices or merely hold the spot for an incoming freshman for the 2013 season (if DeAndre was on scholarship in the first place). Also note that both Tyrone Campbell (DL) and Chris Wilson (RB) are not listed because of medical conditions which have effectively ended their careers. Both are still a part of the team but their scholarships do not count as part of the 85.

The Cougars appear set at quarterback for both the current and distant futures as both David Piland and Bram Kohlhausen have years of eligibility remaining, with Piland being a redshirt sophomore and Kohlhausen a redshirt freshman. Coach Levine on what set Piland apart from both Kohlhausen and redshirt senior Crawford Jones (who is still battling Bram for the 2nd string spot), "David has the experience. He's been in this offense going on his third year and he knows it as well as anyone on the offensive side of the football. He's gained weight, maturity, confidence and has a great arm." He even has the ability to audible even as a young QB as Levine noted, "We as coaches will never call a perfect play. If we call a play that he thinks won't work versus a certain defense or blitz then he has the ability to change it at the line. It's like if you see this then you can call this or this, depending on what we practiced that week." In other words, the trust and freedom are there with Piland behind center. As for the battle at backup QB, offensive coordinator Mike Nesbitt best summed it up, "One guy has the age (Jones) and one guy has the ability (Kohlhausen). Jones understands that you have to be smart with the football while Bram played like a true freshman during the first spring scrimmage. What I liked was that he continued to improve throughout spring and played really well for both teams during the Red/White game. Between Bram and Crawford we have a good mix and they help each other out."

The only potential problem I could see at the QB spot is if Kohlhausen see's the proverbial ‘writing on the wall' in realizing if things remain the same over the next few years, he might not start until his redshirt senior season. Piland has only one more year on the former Lamar Redskin. I intend on conducting a follow up interview with Kohlhausen to get his thoughts on the QB battle as him potentially transferring is mere speculation on my part. Drew Hollingshead is a redshirt junior but is not listed on my chart as he hasn't seen much game action in his three plus years on the team. Incoming freshman Rex Dausin will most likely redshirt with the four aforementioned QB's in front of him. Dausin, out of San Antonio's Earl Warren High, has the intangibles to be a nice QB on the college level. He's listed at 6-foot-3 inches tall but only weighs around 185 pounds. He's more of a pocket passer who can make all of the throws but lacks mobility, which is what's needed in order to execute Nesbitt's Air raid scheme.

2013 potential prospects: The Cougars have an offer out to four star prospect Kenny Hill out of South Lake Carroll. Although he's committed to Texas A&M I'm sure the coaching staff will continuing contacting Scout's 21st ranked prospect (as coaches do) until the February signing period. Other QB's offered include three star prospects (out of N. Hollywood, Ca.) Chad Kanoff, Metairie, Louisiana's Damian Williams, Austin Westlake's Carter Tomsu, and Bellaire's Austin Robinson. All five have a few key traits in common, among them all being at least 6 feet tall and are known more as pure pocket passers.

At running back, Charles Sims and Kenneth Farrow look to receive a majority of the snaps this season. Sims will touch the ball around 25 to 30 times per game, according to Coach Nesbitt as he looks to be the work horse back now that Bryce Beall and Michael Hayes have graduated. Farrow will spell Sims, particularly in short yardage situations, in order to take advantage of his sturdy 205 pound frame, not that Sims can't handle short yardage situations as he's definitely not the scat back he was upon entering UH (he's also listed at 205 pounds). Sims uses his speed in averaging nearly eight yards each time he touches the ball, either rushing off tackle, or receiving dump off passes out of the backfield. He won Conference USA's Freshman of the Year award in 2009 and was a member of the First Team All Conference this past season. Farrow had an impressive spring rushing and catching the ball out of the backfield as well. After those two any other carries, in blow outs, would be split up amongst Braxton Welford, Randall Hollimon, and Kevin Wilson. Incoming freshman who may also see playing time include Terrence Taylor and Ryan Jackson. Fellow freshman back Devin Parks is said to being moved to receiver to take advantage of his speed. Taylor has a nice combination of size (205 pounds) and speed out of Diboll (Tx.) High. Jackson, out of Angleton, is a shifty back that has "great acceleration and excels at catching the ball out of the backfield" according to Scout.

2013 potential prospects: Of the three prospects who have already committed for the 2013 class, one is RB Denzell Evans out of Bellaire. At six feet, 205 pounds, Evans is known as a power back with speed. Also offered out of Stockton's (Ca.) Lincoln High is Scout's third ranked back in the nation – Justin Davis. The six-foot-one inch, 195 pounder also has offers from USC, Stanford, Oklahoma and Notre Dame among others. Other offers appear to be the scat back type such as Cy Woods' Trent Holmes and Sharpstown's Jerrod Taylor whom are listed in the upper 170 to 180 pound range.

At wide receiver, like running back, the Coogs appear to be very well stocked with many youngsters who are chomping at the bit to prove their worth. Coach Nesbitt mentioned two names that stood out to him during spring ball - Daniel Spencer and Ronnie Williams, "Spencer took more reps and made more plays than anybody else the entire spring and never batted an eye. He had good energy and looks to have the ability to be a big time workhorse for us. I thought Ronnie did a really good job of just separating himself at that ‘H' (slot) position and showed everybody that he's ready to be a player." Nesbitt also mentioned Isaiah Sweeney when talking about Spencer and Williams when he said, "...you have those three guys that you need to get the ball to in space." With Spencer and Williams working from the slot positions, another receiver that stood out during spring ball was Dewayne Peace, who might start (along with Sweeney) at the ‘X' and/or ‘Z' (or outside) receiver spots. Mark Roberts also excelled on the outside (until an ankle injury slowed him down) along with converted QB Aaron Johnson (who really impressed with his ability to get the ball at its highest point) the last week of spring ball. Kenneth Bibbins Jr could be a major mismatch from the slot (or as an H-back type) as he can use his speed to blow by slower linebackers or use his 6-foot-5 inch 235 pound frame over smaller defensive backs. The only thing stopping all of these talented receivers is consistency, which will be a main emphasis over the off-season according to Nesbitt, "we started throwing and catching good balls towards the end of the spring and now we just need to keep improving on catching the ball. We need to stay in rhythm so our muscle memory improves every day. You just can't put the ball down (over the offseason) and start all over again (at the beginning of summer practices). You can't play your way into shape. Those days are over. The guys that will play really improve over May, June and July." Of the aforementioned group, Williams and Sweeney are in their final years while Peace is a junior. Spencer, Roberts, Johnson and Bibbins are all either redshirt or true sophomores – making the receiver position the deepest on the team for years to come. Walk-on receivers who impressed during the spring include Wayne Beadle, Casey Martin, Gino Collins and Shane Ros.

Among the incoming freshman, just about everybody is excited to see what Scout's 7th ranked receiver and five star prospect, Deontay Greenbury, will do once summer practices actually begin. The beauty of the Air raid is that each receiver is assigned to one spot, and after he learns his assignments he drills them over and over and over again during practice, until they become habit. According to Coach Nesbitt, Greenbury might have the ability to play multiple spots in this offense as he has the leaping ability (and height) to get balls at their highest point (hello, corner fade in the endzone), while he has the hands and speed to break away from defensive backs (hello, inside screen). As deep as the receiver position already is, other freshmen who might see action this season include Jontrey Tillman, Jarrett Irving, Andrew Rodriguez and Xavier Maxwell. Tillman is a burner who was going to Stanford until a last second unknown transcript problem and according to Coach Levine, "is responsible for making a huge impact in not only Texas but the entire West Coast in that it's ok to come to UH to get your degree." Irving was named MVP for Houston's Dekaney High in their 34-14 victory over Cibolo Steele in last season's Class 5A state title game. Rodriguez, who had over 1300 yards and 18 TDs receiving for Allen High, has legit 4.4 speed and will hopefully become a Tyron Carrier type receiver in the slot. Maxwell played last season at Blinn JC and gives the Coogs yet another deep play threat with nice size (six feet, 180 pounds).

2013 potential prospects: Donald Gage (out of Patterson, La.) has committed to the 2013 class and can line up all over the field as he has excellent speed needed to play on the outside and the strength (six-feet, 180 pounds) and change of direction needed to play in the slot. Other notable offers include Ra'Shaad Samples and Rickey Jefferson out of Dallas Skyline and Destrehan, Louisiana respectively. Both are four star ranked receivers. Needless to say, with the pin ball type numbers this offense has been putting up in recent years, this position will never be lacking in talent.

Four starters return up front along the offensive line and account for 70 games returning in starting experience, anchored by Second Team All-Conference left tackle Jacolby Ashworth. The six-foot-three inch 305 pounder has started 29 games over the past three seasons. Beside him at left guard is Ty Cloud. The 6-foot-four inch 315 pound behemoth started all 14 games last season, his first season as a starter. At center, taking over current Dallas Cowboy Chris Thompson, will be Kevin Forsch, who started all 14 games last season at right guard but has seen plenty of practice time at center, making the transition a little smoother. At Forsch's right guard spot will be the only new starter along the line, Ralph Oragwu, whom beat Emeka Okafor over the course of spring ball, according to line coach Lee Hays. At right tackle, Rowdy Harper will be returning as the ‘runt' of the group, having started all 14 games last season. Rowdy, which is NOT a nickname by the way, is listed at ‘only' 290 pounds and earned a freshman All America nod last season.

In reserve will be the 6-foot-5 inch, 315 pound Okafor and 6-foot-6, 305 pounder Chris McNeil on the inside, with Bryce Redman (who was used plenty last season as a blocking H-back) and Austin Lunsford (a converted defensive lineman) battling it out for backup center. On the edges in reserve will be DeAnthony Sims, who played decent at left tackle last season after also transitioning from the defensive line his first year. Others will cross train at tackle in case of injury.

Of the three incoming freshman (Blake Herman, Mac Long and Jacob Abels) I wouldn't expect any of them to receive any playing time this season, instead taking a redshirt in order to fill out their still growing frames. Offensive line is usually the toughest position to master both from a mental and physical standpoint and the Cougars program is at a point now in which they can redshirt incoming freshmen so they can easily transition themselves to the grind of playing in the trenches.

2013 potential prospects: Coach Hays on his recruiting philosophy, "We try and recruit tackles and if they can't play tackle then we move them inside. We like to have size for our zone running schemes that we use and for pass protections." That describes perfectly 2013 commit Josh Thomas, who measures out at 6-feet-6 inches, 330 pounds, out of Shreveport, Louisiana's Evangel Christian Academy. Cougars new outside receivers coach, and former Coog standout, Brandon Middleton, was on staff last season at ECA. Middleton is using quite a bit of his recruiting contacts (namely Louisiana high school head coaches) in reeling in talent of one of Texas' main border states.

Of the Cougars top ten offensive linemen, one is a senior (Ashworth) while five are either redshirt or true juniors, Sims (true), McNeil (true), Oragwu, Cloud and Forsch (all redshirts). The last four being either redshirt or true sophomores - Harper, Lunsford, Okafor and Redman. The point being is that the offensive, along with the defensive line (mentioned in my previous article on the defense) are both going to need plenty of recruits this signing class in order to replenish the talent base for future years.

In summing up the intense year round job of recruiting, coach Levine on his duties during the current evaluation period, in which he is not allowed to go on the road per NCAA rules, "I'll call a number of high school head coaches' everyday to either maintain or establish relationships, as these coaches have a great influence on where their student athletes decide to go to college. I'm also heavily involved in calling prospects in which I'm allowed to make one call per week per prospect through this evaluation period (Apr 16th – May 31st)." When asked about his keys to recruiting he said, "There are three keys to recruiting; 1.) Evaluation (which is what our coaches are currently doing right now). 2.) Building and maintaining relationships (see inside receivers and special teams Coach Jamie Christian's relationship with Greenbury or the aforementioned relationships with Coach Middleton), and 3.) players relationships with each other (these kids are in constant contact with one another year round)."

I hope these past two articles Will Foster discussion about the teams prospects (both on the field and in the recruiting world), and I encourage each of you to become a Premium member as not only do the proceeds go straight to ‘Cougar Pride,' which helps to fund the educations of UH student athletes, but you can also access the Premium boards which has a plethora of recruiting news almost each day.

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