Houston Cougar Football Recruiting Analysis

With National Signing Day for the 2016 recruiting cycle officially in the books, Coogfans dives into what’s become the best signing class for a non-Power-5 school ever. This article examines why there’s an “HTownTakeover” in regards to ‘cruitin.

Full disclaimer; I’m not a “recruiting analyst.” I’m more of a ‘let’s see what they’ve got once they hit the field’ type of guy, but with the hype surrounding this signing class and coaching staff, I thought I’d view video clips of each signee and give my opinion on why they signed and where the program goes from here.

It all starts with head coach, Tom Herman. Entering his second season, many knew of his offensive exploits as he’s led high explosive offenses at Ohio State (2012-14), Iowa State (09-11), Rice (07-08) and Texas State (05-06) as Quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator along with Sam Houston State (01-04) as wide receivers coach and special teams coordinator. Herman learned from University of Texas head coach Mack Brown as a GA (graduate assistant) during the 1999-00 seasons after starting his coaching career as a wide receivers coach at Texas Lutheran during the 1998 season. What’s also known is that Herman and his staff know their way around the back roads of Texas which is key in recruiting as 16 of the 20 signees are from the Lone Star State.

Change of Culture

Herman probably learned the most about being a head coach at Ohio State with that first-hand experience of watching Urban Myers no-nonsense approach during the 2012 through 2014 seasons, culminating in winning the 2014 national championship. The former wide receiver from Cal Lutheran (1993-96) preaches tough, physical football; playing for the “love of the man next to you,” while also preaching accountability to your teammates. An example of the latter came in his first month on the job as he locked his players out of the locker room during winter conditioning drills after a few were late to early off-season workouts.

Use of social media

With his HTownTakeover hashtag on Twitter, the first year head coach is trying to accomplish, recruiting wise, what no previous UH coach could since Bill Yeoman during UH’s heyday of the 70s/80s; recruit Houston with fervor. While every UH head coach has wanted to “put a fence around the greater Houston area,” Herman is doing exactly that by preaching ownership of the hometown university to the local high school kids. Kevin Sumlin said upon his hiring at Texas A&M; we’re recruiting kids who wouldn’t open our mail or return our calls when we were at Houston. Herman is not only reaching these same kids, but signing them with Houston (I wonder how Summie feels about a certain former 5-star QB who recently transferred from College Station to that university on Cullen Boulevard where highly rated kids wouldn’t even return calls).

Hiring assistant coaches with strong Texas recruiting ties

EIGHT of Herman’s nine assistant coaches either played high school ball or coached in college in the state of Texas during their careers. Most are young and can relate to today’s student athletes;

 Major Applewhite – offensive coordinator and QB coach with past stops at Texas, as a grad assistant during the 03-04 seasons, after a 4 year standout career along the 40 acres. He also was the QB coach and offensive coordinator at Rice during the 06 season, returning to Austin one year after coaching at Alabama, staying from 08 through 13 as the running backs, QB and OC.

Darrell Wyatt – hired as wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator on January 7th, the former Trinity Valley CC (Athens, Texas) wide receiver who graduated from Kansas State in 1989, has multiple stops in the state including Sam Houston State (92-94) and Baylor (96) as receivers coach before making his way back into the state at the University of Texas for the 2011 through 2013 seasons as wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator with a specialty recruiting East Texas kids. The 26-year coaching veteran was born in Galveston.

Corby Meekins – Tight ends and fullbacks coach who spent the 04 through 14 seasons as the head coach at Houston Westfield, where a key recruit committed from (more on that later).

Kenith Pope – Running backs coach who’s been a 30 year assistant at Texas universities such as Lamar, SMU, TCU and A&M.

Derek Warehime – Offensive line coach. The Oklahoma native (which has always been a fertile recruiting area for UH as of late) has also coached at Rice, Sam Houston State, and New Mexico. Warehime in my opinion has probably done the finest pure coaching job on the staff as he’s led a mashed up unit (eleven different starting offensive lines in 14 games) to leading one of the top ranked offenses in the nation, finishing 10th in scoring (40.4 points-per-game) and 13th in rushing (235.8 yards-per-game).

Todd Orlando – Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. The former Utah State DC has no Texas experience, but brings pressure related defense that Herman likes. In two seasons at Utah State, the Aggies defense ranked among the nation's best in scoring defense (12th nationally in 2014 at 19.7 points per game, seventh nationally in 2013 at 17.1 points per game) and turnovers forced with 59 over two seasons, the nation's eighth-best two-year total, ranking 10th nationally in 2014 with 30 turnovers before leading the Coogs to finishing 20th in scoring defense this season (20.7 points-per-game allowed) along with holding opponents to only 108.9 rushing yards-per-game, ranking them EIGHTH nationally.

Craig Naivar – Safeties coach. In his 16 years as an assistant he’s coached at TCU, Sam Houston State, Texas St, Rice and Kentucky.

Oscar Giles – Defensive line. A key recruiter as the former defensive end has played at Texas (87-90), and coached there as not only a GA (98-99) but from 05 through 13 as a Defensive line coach, along with stops at SMU and Houston (03-04).

Jason Washington – Corner backs and special teams. The youngest coach on the staff has coached at both Texas St and Rice over the past decade.

Per articles this past spring in the Houston Chronicle and the Austin American Statesman, the experience in state was key as Herman and his staff has a combined 134 years of recruiting experience in Texas, 44 conference titles, two national titles, and four national championship game appearances. The head coach himself emphasizes this, “Eight of my nine assistants are from the state of Texas or have extremely strong ties to the state of Texas, and the ninth one, Todd Orlando, wishes he was from Texas. Yeah, it was a requirement, other than Todd. I wanted to get the best defensive coordinator that money could buy. Todd Orlando was certainly that. He had five or six job opportunities and chose to come to the University of Houston, and we’re blessed and thankful for that. Beyond that, I wanted guys who knew this state and who knew the recruiting landscape because it’s different. It’s the best high school football state in America, and in order to recruit it, I think you have to really develop strong relationships with the high school coaches. Between nine assistants and myself, we’ve got 134 years combined recruiting just the state of Texas.”

Overall analysis

What stands out about this class, besides the star rankings, is the balance as Herman and staff have signed 10 players to both the offense and the defense. The breakdown is as follows; four wide receivers, three offensive linemen, two quarterbacks (one dual threat and one pocket passer) and one running back. Defensively, six were signed at defensive back which was definitely needed as three starters and the nickel back were lost to graduation. Four were signed along the defensive line. Not one linebacker was signed, despite the loss of departing senior Elandon Roberts, but with 14 ‘backers on the roster already along with position switches which could be made before or after spring ball, the position still has depth in quantity if not quality. But again, just because there isn’t name power at the position today this isn’t necessary a weakness as many would not have seen the production that Roberts produced at inside linebacker (finishing the season FIRST in solo tackles with 88) entering the 2015 season. Houston coaches have always “done more with less” when it comes to coaching players up who weren’t highly regarded coming out of high school with Herman and his staff no exception.

Now on to the actual analysis of the 2016 signing class. Experts say the closer you play physically to the football the more important you are in the game. This implies both lines, offensive and defensive, and what stands out to me is the size along both lines so we’ll take a look at those signees before moving onto the skill positions. Note: star rankings are using Scout recruiting rankings.

Ed Oliver; 6’2, 289, 5-star, number one ranked DT – Westfield; All it took for the HTownTakeover campaign to start was for one local highly recruited athlete to take the plunge which was exactly what Oliver did, committing last June. He’s huge in recruiting other top rated prospects as he wants UH to become the next “U” (University of Miami who became a college football power house after recruiting local Miami kids).

As a player he’s got a sideline-to-sideline motor and is quick enough to shoot the gaps in order to create havoc in opponent’s backfields. Squaring his hips to the line allows him to not out-leverage himself against bigger offensive linemen. He’s also strong enough to withstand blocks at the point of attack and along with his low pad level (being “only” 6’2) he’s always a threat to end up in the opponent’s backfield. Even with starters B.J. Singleton and Cameron Malveaux along with key reserves Nick Thurman and Jerard Carter returning, look for Oliver to be a starter from day one as someone will have to step up to replace departing Tomme Mark’s leading 36 tackles along the line.

Aymiel Fleming; 6’2, 282, 2-star, defensive tackle, La Marque – Fleming finished 1st team All-district defensive tackle for a nine-win team that allowed only 19.9 points-per-game this past season. With a long reach, Fleming is easily able to disengage from opposing offensive linemen easily as a run stuffing 2-gap tackle. As a pass rusher he’s quick enough to shoot interior gaps to not only close in on the QB but to also bat balls down at the line of scrimmage. Fleming has the frame to add more muscle and will probably be redshirted this season in order to do just that.

Braylon Jones; 6’3, 282, 3-star, 52nd ranked defensive tackle and 10th best in-state, John Tyler – A two way player at Greg Ward Jr’s alma mater, Jones could play either the defensive line at tackle or offensive line as he’s quick on his feet for a kid his size. Recorded 88 tackles during the Lions 2014 run to the state semifinals before helping them to 8 wins this past season and a second round playoff loss. The staff is probably leaning on playing him on the offensive side of the football depending on the depth and will probably redshirt this season.

Hasaun Glasgow; 6’4, 225, 2-star, defensive end, Manvel – Whether it’s playing the run or pass, speed is the name of the game for Glasgow as he played a stand-up DE spot for a Mavericks squad that lost to Katy in the fourth round of the playoffs last season. Look for the ‘quick-twitch’ athlete to redshirt before being groomed to replace Tyus Bowser as Orlando’s outside linebacker-rush end specialist.

Na’Ty Rogers; 6’5, 290, 4-star, Offensive line, Iowa Western JC – The former South Carolina Gamecock was a 4-star who picked UH over schools such as TCU and Ole Miss. With three seasons to play as a Cougar and already enrolled for the spring semester, look for Rogers to contend for a starting spot at the important left tackle spot as he has the long arms, strength and overall athleticism needed to protect the QB’s blind side.

Dixie Wooten; 6’5, 320, 3-star, 60th ranked offensive tackle and 10th in-state, Lamar – Physical  mauler who loves to run block; perfect for Herman’s run first physical mentality. With all the talent on an already young offensive line look for Wooten to redshirt his first year then play at guard as he loves to finish off blocks along the interior.

Keenan Murphy; 6’2, 285, 3-star, Fifth ranked center and first in-state, Crosby – Though he played at tackle in high school, Murphy possesses the intelligence to call blocking schemes on the college level and was tough and athletic enough to play tackle for a Crosby squad that went 24-3 over the past two seasons.

D’Eriq King; 5’11, 170, 3-star, QB, Manvel – Herman and staff received an early Christmas gift as the heralded athlete committed a day before Christmas after de-committing from TCU after passing for more than 8,700 yards with 126 TD’s to only 16 interceptions. As a definition of a dual threat QB, King also ran for just over 2,700 yards with an additional 37 TDs while averaging 7 yards-per-carry over his three year varsity career. Though he may be a perfect fit for Herman and Applewhite’s smash mouth-spread scheme, look for King to redshirt this season before competing with Kyle Postma, recent Texas A&M transfer and former 5-star recruit himself, Kyle Allen, and…

Bowman Sells; 6’2, 180, 3-star, Ninth ranked in-state and 60th overall at QB, Lovejoy – The lefty pro style gunslinger has a solid pocket presence and passes with accuracy (nearly 63-percent over four varsity seasons) and is a good decision maker (only 26 career interceptions in over 1,000 career attempts), which Herman emphasizes. Has great touch on long balls and gets the ball out of his hands quickly in the short game. Would have started four full seasons of Varsity football if not for an injury cutting short his sophomore season to only four games. Over 9,600 yards passing with 107 passing TD’s along with another 18 on the ground and over 1,500 yards. Although above I stated that King would probably redshirt, it is possible that both he and Sells compete for the backup and number three spot in the rotation. Though Postma is pretty much set behind Ward, Herman always emphasizes competition so don’t be surprised if both true freshman get an early look over the summer, but especially Sells since he is a spring enrollee.

Courtney Lark; 6’1, 172, 4-star, ranked 7th in-state and 43rd overall at WR, Bellaire – Like King, Lark is another TCU de-commit who chose the Coogs late in the recruiting process. A deep threat who’s great at getting off the line and downfield quickly as he averages 17.9 yards-per-catch and nearly 90 yards-per-game (2,943 yards on 164 receptions) along with 39 TD’s in 33 career games. Has the athletic ability and hands to highpoint the football in jump ball situations, particularly in the red zone but is also a precise route runner who’s able to find holes in zone coverage. Needs to gain muscle but he reminds me of a young Demarcus Ayers in that Applewhite will look to get the ball in his hands out in space, whether it’s on a speed sweep, screen or dump off passing as he’s running out of the backfield.

Marquez Stevenson; 5’11, 175, 3-star WR, Northwood, Shreveport, La – Like many smaller Cougar receivers before him, Stevenson doesn’t let his size affect his route running whether it’s on a deep post or crossing route over the middle. Timed at 4.3 in the 40-yard dash at his high school, Stevenson has great straight ahead speed but needs to learn to become a crisper route runner. With the depth at the receiver position look for Stevenson to redshirt his freshman year to add more bulk.

Keith Corbin; 6’2, 175, 3-star, ranked as the 16th best WR in-state and 110th overall, Beaumont Westbrook – The first receiver to commit, in late July, Corbin makes tough receptions over the middle and is great in YAC yards (yards after the catch) as his 19.7 ypc attests (887 yards on 45 receptions). With as many receivers as there are ahead of Corbin in the pecking order, look for him to redshirt this season.

Terry Mark; 6’1, 190, 3-star wide receiver, Lufkin – Brother of recently graduated defensive lineman Tomme Mark, Terry was the first commit to the class in April of 2014. Nearly 1,400 yards and 20 TDs the past two seasons. Though he has the size of a possession receiver, the Lufkin product has the speed to go deep as well.

Mulbah Car; 5’11, 190, 3-star rated RB, Austin Reagan – With over 4,000 career rushing yards, Car excels as a one-cut back in a zone scheme and has the toughness to be effective between the tackles with the explosiveness to gain major yards as his career 7.2 yards-per-carry attests. While Car was the only running back signed, he may still redshirt with the amount of depth at the position on the roster.

Patrick Rosette; 6’1, 195, 2-star defensive back Richmond Foster – Pure athlete can play any position in the defensive backfield, though it looks as if he’s being signed as a corner back, which he has good size for. Also a sure a tackler who’s solid in run support. With three starters and the main nickel back graduating, Rosette has as good a shot as any of the incoming signees in the secondary as well as the upperclassmen already manning the corner position, IE Brandon Wilson, Howard Wilson and Jeremy Winchester.

J.J. Dallas; 6’0, 190, 2-star cornerback, Blinn JC by the way of Corpus Christi King – Signed, sealed and delivered during the midterm signing period, Dallas looks to have a heads up on the other signees as he’s already taking place in strength and conditioning coach Yancy McKnight’s off-season conditioning program along with getting acclimated to his coaches and new teammates. Broke up 11 passes and intercepted two balls last year at Blinn, returning one for a TD. Just the type of ball-hawking mentality that will adapt well into the “Jack Boyz.”

Terrell Williams; 6’4, 210, 3-star safety, NE Oklahoma A&M – Like Dallas, Williams is already on campus as a midterm enrollee. Williams has great size as a run supporting safety yet also excels in man and zone coverage. Made All SWJCFC (Southwest Junior College Football Conference) first team honors with 51 tackles, four pass breakups and two interceptions last season and will contend for major playing time at safety immediately.

Javian Smith; 6’1, 162, 2-star corner, George Bush – After originally committing to SMU, Smith committed to the Cougars a week later in mid-June. Smith excels in man coverage and can also contribute in the return games as well. Will be given the opportunity to compete come Summer practices like Herman gives all his student-athletes, but look for the young corner to redshirt his freshman season.

Ka’Darian Smith; 6’0, 175, 2-star corner, Spring – Another lower rated athlete that the coaching staff has a lot to work with in terms of sheer athletic ability with a ball hawkers attitude. Has the quickness and anticipation to jump routes but needs to improve on basic fundamentals. Like J. Smith, look for K. Smith to redshirt his freshman season, though anything is possible as a young freshman named Trevon Stewart showed four seasons ago.

Collin Wilder; 5’11, 190, 3-star, ranked as the 11th best safety in-state and 67th overall, Katy – Much like Stewart, Wilder just has “it,” with that it being a high football IQ. He’s a playmaker that always ends up around the ball as his 124 total tackles his senior year would attest. He’s as good in coverage as he is in run support as his 12 pass breakups demonstrates. He also has that innate ability to be a game changer as his two fumble returns for TD’s during the 2015 season shows as well. Wilder is a four year starter and the defensive leader for a 16-0 6A state champion Katy squad that surrendered only 3.9 points-per-game all season, including an astounding TEN shutouts. With both Stewart and Adrian McDonald graduated, Wilder has the work ethic and football acumen to become a four year starter in the backend and new leader of “The Jackboyz.”

The loss of 4-star receiver Tyrie Cleveland to Florida along with the fact that transfers don’t count (hello former 5-star and Texas A&M QB Kyle Allen), pushed the final Scout ranking of the Coogs to 51st nationally, though 247Sports (which is a composite of the four major recruiting services) has them at 40th.

Coach Herman on today’s class via uhcougars.com, “I am very excited about this signing class. We made history. We have signed the highest-ranked non-Power 5 recruiting class in the history of college football, and that should be commended,” the second year head coach commented.

Our staff, support staff, coaches, everybody who has a hand in recruiting should be commended for that. That is something that we don’t take very lightly. We know that we are a lot better coaches when we have a lot better players. We have to recruit really good players, and we did that. We addressed quite a few needs,” added Herman.

On how they were able to sign such a highly rated class, “One of the unique things, and maybe the thing I’m most proud of this class, is of all the high school players that signed with us today, all but one of them committed before we had ever played a football game as a staff. Why did they do that? The answer again is relationships, because they have tremendous relationships with their recruiting coaches.”

With Spring ball right around the corner, Monday March the 7th being the first day, stay logged into Coogfans.com over the next month for a spring preview, and over the entire off-season as the Cougars look to continue their exciting brand of football. 


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