The Houston Cougars continued their recent run of landing defensive backs in the NFL over the weekend. Senior Brandon Wilson and sophomore Howard Wilson both were drafted by Cincinnati and Cleveland respectively.
Developing a pattern of placing defensive backs in the NFL is of course a good thing, but losing players that were long time starters and more importantly losing a player with eligibility remaining is a bittersweet situation for the staff.
It’s no secret the Cougars felt the need to add more at the position. They flirted heavily with several big recruiting targets in the weeks leading up to last February’s National Signing Day. They also have been very close to landing a couple of high profile graduate transfers this offseason, but so far have not been able to land one.
Their desire to add more players isn’t necessarily an indication that there are no prospects for the Cougars at the position in 2017, just that they would love to have more insurance heading into fall camp. Most of the cornerbacks on the Cougars roster have all shown flashes of what they could become but as is the case with young players, need to work on consistency.
At the annual Red & White game, played recently at the conclusion of the Cougars’ spring workouts, the Cougars saw great things from the cornerback position.
Junior Jeremy Winchester will return the most experience heading into fall camp in August and he had a solid spring. He stayed healthy and even started the spring game off with an interception of a Kyle Allen pass on the first play. He will be the leading candidate to lock up one of the starting cornerback spots heading into the 2017 season.
Senior Alex Myres had a solid spring and earned the praises of both head coach Major Applewhite and defensive backs coach Clay Jennings throughout spring ball. He will be a player that sees the field next season but he will have to fight to earn the starters role in camp.
The biggest wild card of the cornerbacks, both figuratively and literally is 6-foot-4, 205 pound Isaiah Johnson who made the move from wide receiver to cornerback this spring. As is obvious he is very long and speed has never been an issue for him. He showed enough positive steps in the spring that he will be a name to watch early in camp along with Myres as the staff searches for the other starter as well as depth at the position. In the spring game, Johnson came away with one interception and simply couldn’t reel in another that would surely have been a pick-six.
A trio of second year players, all of which have shown flashes of what they can become, will all be in the mix in August not only for stating spots but also to round out the depth chart to see who will begin to get the valuable on-field playing time. Sophomores Javian Smith and Ka’Darian Smith will join redshirt freshman Patrick Rosette, part of a talented signing class in 2016 to see who begins to put it together first in order to push the upper classmen for playing time.
Joeal Williams remains listed as a cornerback on the Cougars depth chart and should be in the mix for snaps in the fall but has also seen his share of time at nickel back in the spring alongside Khalil Williams.
On the surface it doesn’t appear the Cougars will have any incoming freshmen expected to fight immediately for playing time but any late addition to the roster from a graduate transfer or late qualifying player could help add another layer of depth and potentially some more experience to a mostly young but talented group of players.
OUTLOOK: It appears Jeremy Winchester, Alex Myres and Isaiah Johnson are the three names out front for the Cougars at cornerback. Development by younger players however could increase the competition this fall and help develop depth for the Cougars in 2017.