An Early Look at Recruiting: Offense Up until about ten years ago, recruiting became a hot topic around Thanksgiving Day, but these days, discussing who is going where should begin no later than the Fourth of July. Some schools already have filled up more than half of their scholarship allotment, and the Cougars are standing at three unconfirmed verbal commitments. Here, then, is a position-by-position analysis of UH recruiting needs along with some players that Coach Briles and his staff would like to see wearing the scarlet and white. The numbers in parentheses indicate how many UH likely will sign at each position.
UH heads into the '03 season with a dicey situation at QB. Redshirt sophomore Blade Bassler, redshirt freshman Shang Moore, and true frosh Kevin Kolb will conduct a duel in the sun to see who wins the job. The versatile Moore was moved from his H-back position when it was learned that both Barrick Nealy and Nick Eddy would be unavailable in August. He may return to H-back next year. Kendal Briles, a former first-team Texas Football Super Teamer, transferred from Texas and will be a prime candidate to get the starting nod next season, and assuming he gets his academics in order, Nick Eddy will be around as well. So from a long-range perspective, things look pretty peachy, but Eddy will be a senior and Briles a junior; moreover, Bassler could possibly be converted to another position if he does not win the QB battle this year. That means that going into '05, the year any QB was signed this coming February would be a redshirt freshman, UH may only have two quarterbacks, Kendal Briles and Kevin Kolb, and Briles, of course, would be a senior. So it is important, maybe critical, for the Cougars to get at least one good one in this class; two would be even better.
It's a bumper crop in Texas for QB‚s this year. Rhett Bomar, Kirby Freeman, Robert Reid, Graham Harrell, and Stephen McGee may all end up on national Top 100 lists. But the '03 QB class is so deep that there are at least 4-5 more top prospects. One that is high on the Coogs' list is local signal caller Joseph Fields (6-1, 200) of Houston Washington. Fields is a super athlete who would fit Coach Briles' offense very well. Another prospect to watch is Jordan Chambless (6-1, 190) of Corpus Christi Calallen. He also has good athletic ability and is a fine passer. Both of those schoolboys will make most state top 100 lists. It would be great for the Cougars to sign one of them and supercalifrag . . . well, you know, if both were part of the next UH class.
RUNNING BACK (1-2)
The Cougars are probably deeper at running back than any other offensive position. With juniors Bobby Tillman and Cody Thibodeaux, sophomore Anthony Evans, and freshmen Jackie Battle, Anthony Alridge, and Harold Taylor in the fold, UH really only needs to sign one or two. The Cougars will want to get at least one good one, however, since the quarterback situation illustrates how solid depth can morph into a glaring need in a matter of weeks.
One back the Coogs like is Brandon Roberson (5-9, 180) of Pearland. More of a scatback than former Oiler Anthony Evans, Roberson is, nonetheless, durable, and he has 4.5 speed. Hugh Charles of Keller is also high on the UH board. A physical phenom at 5-7, Charles runs a 4.4 and benches 360. Ivory Williams (5-8, 170) of Beaumont Central is another mighty mite with outstanding speed. Both Charles and Williams could, however, be moved to the slot. Coach Briles would love to sign Jamario Thomas of Spring Hill, but he is highly sought and a tough "get." Ross Irving of Georgetown (5-9, 175, 4.5) is also getting a hard look from the UH staff.
WIDE RECEIVER (3-4)
Depth is fair at this position, but given the nature of the new offense, Coach Briles will likely need to bring in at least three receivers a year. Chad McCullar, Vincent Marshall, and Leonard Gibson comprise a talented trio and are the future of the UH receiving corps. Others such as Mark Hopkins, who may also play tight end, Josh Carrethers, and senior Harrison Arceneaux are also on hand. New signees Bennie Swain, Donnie Avery, Jeff Fillmore, and Perry McDaniel should make their presence felt sooner than later.
As mentioned in the section on running backs, Hugh Charles and Ivory Williams are two speed merchants who could play slot receiver. With his 6-2 height and 4.5 speed, Kevin Robbins of Crockett could be ideal at the outside receiver position where Coach Briles likes a taller wideout able to go over the middle and also pose a deep threat. Kedrin Seastrunk (6-4, 210, 4.5), a super athlete from Newton, UH safety Will Gulley's alma mater, and Jonathan Ferguson (6-1, 180, 4.5) of Belton are in the same mold, and both have the Cougars high on their lists. Anthony Carr (5-9, 170, 4.5) of Baytown Lee, Jeremy Watts (6-0, 180, 4.5) of Nacogdoches, and Tyrone Jackson (6-4, 190, 4.6), are other possibilities.
TIGHT END (2)
The Cougars‚ tight ends should be the class of C-USA this year, but the problem is two of them are seniors and the other is a junior. Jon Pritchett was granted an additional year of eligibility, which means the running game will be that much more efficient. Steve Cucci was named to Texas Football‚s All-Texas Team, and Travis Griffith is 260 pounds of wrought iron and mercury. But next year only Griffith (and maybe Mark Hopkins if he makes the move from WR to TE) returns, so signing a couple of quality tight ends is a priority.
Guess what? Coach Briles has already gotten it done! Brian Boehm of Victoria Memorial is a 6-5, 220-pound younger version of Jay Novacek who will cause all kinds of problems for defensive coordinators, and Mark Hafner (6-4, 215, 4.6) of Waller is an outstanding athlete who could also play the big slot. With Boehm and Hafner committed, the Coogs may close the book on tight ends this year; however, there is a fine one at Jersey Village in Gabe Ratcliff. Ratcliff (6-4, 215, 4.6) is a bluechipper with all the tools. He is drawing interest from many schools and may be good enough to play as a true freshman.
OFFENSIVE LINE (4-5)
Most Cougar fans concede that Dana Dimel recruited well at UH, but the one position he had trouble signing top players is the offensive line. That's not to say that a few good ones didn't come on board. Roy Swan and David Douglas should be the linchpins of the offensive line after this season. But other than a few others, there just isn't a great deal of quality depth here; in fact, several walk-ons have made their way onto the second team. Of course some of those walk-ons, Abrahim Sameei and James Hong, to name a couple, could develop into fine players, but, nonetheless, Art Briles thought it essential to bring in a group of six OL in the last class. Players from that group such as Byron Alfred, Beau Tuft, Jason Wagner, and Jeff Akeroyd will help, but another group of 4-5 needs to be brought in again.
UH is getting some looks from some of the better offensive linemen in the state. Cody Harris (6-5, 270) of Cy-Creek is on the verge of joining the '400 Club players who have bench pressed 400 pound' and the Cougars have offered him. Eddie Rollman (6-4, 280) is a talented tackle from Burnet who will make a lot of lists; fortunately for UH, the Coogs are high on his. Shelton Watts (6-4, 265) of Fort Bend Hightower has been overshadowed by his partner in the Hightower trenches, Tyrone Byrd, but Watts is a legitimate major college prospect himself. Chad Rose (6-4, 270) is an outstanding center who played for Coach Mike Spradlin last year at Round Rock Westwood. Other offensive linemen who could end up on Cullen Boulevard include Alfred Adams (6-5, 240) of Jersey Village, Scott Dover (6-4, 300) of Deer Park, Aaron Saunders (6-7, 260) of San Antonio Jay, and Doug Smith (6-5, 270) of Houston Jones, Michael Terry (6-6, 250) of Crowley, and Travis Schneider (6-7, 245) of Bellville.