Before we dig in specifically on how the Cougars are doing in their efforts to land the best defensive players in Texas, let's step back for a moment and look at where recruiting is overall at this juncture. Has UH ever had six commitments this early? Nope! Have the Cougars ever had even one commitment before the Fourth of July. Kelvin Banks and Mark Hopkins both made early pledges, but it seems they made them a little later in the year. What this slew of early commitments means, of course, is that Coach Briles and his staff are getting a great reception from Texas high school players and their coaches. And why wouldn't they? Art Briles is a product of and a legend among Texas high school coaches, and he's establishing a program that has integrity and character plus success on the field.
The six commitments are QB Clint Walraven of Alvarado, OL Matt Hart of Huffman, OL Justin Washington of Port Arthur Memorial, OL Jerrod Butler of Allen, DE Quinten Smith of Houston Yates, and DB Quinte Williams, also of Yates. If Coach Briles offered them this early, then they are players, regardless of where they are ranked on the recruiting lists. But most all of these kids have received interest and/or offers from major programs. Quinten Smith of Yates, a school that ought to be to UH what A&M Consolidated and Bryan High School have always been to Texas A&M, was sitting with offers from Arkansas, Iowa, and several others. He's a great-looking athlete, much like his teammate, Quinte Williams, who was being wooed by Oklahoma State, which had offered, and also OU. Jerrod Butler is a steamroller of an offensive lineman, who had an offer from Mountain West Conference power Colorado State and was also hearing from Iowa, LSU, Baylor, and SMU. Butler was an all-state selection last year and recorded over 100 pancakes–on the field last year, not at the breakfast table this morning. Justin Washington of PA Memorial is in the same mold. At 6-2, 300, he leads one of the state's best offensive lines. Lining up next to him in a few years may be Matt Hart, the first commitment of the Coogs' 2005 class and a great "get" for Coach Briles. Big Matt is 6-6, 300 and has good feet, making him the prototype OT. Clint Walraven hasn't gotten the attention of other Texas quarterbacks such as Chase Daniel and Colt McCoy, but is anyone going to question Art Briles on quarterbacks? I didn't think so! Walraven is very fast and more in the mold of Kendal Briles than Kevin Kolb.
So with six commitments already in tow, the Cougars are now looking to fill about 12 more scholarships. More than likely, about five of those will go to offensive players. UH would still like another quarterback, a running back, a couple of wide receivers, and a tight end; and Coach Briles probably wouldn't say "no" if Reginald Youngblood or Herman Sanders or some other such bluechip offensive tackle called and asked if he could be a Cougar. The remaining seven scholarships are intended for two more defensive ends, one defensive tackle, a couple of linebackers, and a defensive back or two. So let's take a look at who the Coogs are pursuing and who will help to reestablish the tradition of the Mad Dog defense.
One gets the feeling that Coach Briles could take the starting eleven off of Katy Junior High's offense, put them in UH uniforms, go to war with them, and still put points on the board against the ‘79 Steelers or the ‘84 Bears. But anyone who watched the Cougars last year knows that the team must develop a stouter defense to get to the next level. The Coogs are not bereft of talent on the defensive side of the ball, but a fresh infusion of talent is needed to make the defense as capable as the offense.
The Cougars biggest need in the defensive line, probably the biggest defensive need overall, is defensive end. Three of the top five DE's--Joe Clay, Kendrick Goss, and Travis Griffith–will be seniors in 2004, so the coaches need to restock the cupboard. The Coogs would like to sign four DE's, two jucos and two high school players, one of whom, the aforementioned Quinten Smith, is already on board. Another likely DE recruit is DaVell Lauder, a former state Top 100 prospect, who signed with the Cougars out of Smiley High School in ‘03 but went the juco route. Lauder is a guy who could step in and start next year. Two of the best defensive ends in the state are local kids, and both have UH at or near the top of their lists. Marcus Burton of Channelview, rated the 23rd best prospect in the state by Lone Star Recruiting, has offers from UH and one-third of the schools in the Big 12. Cougar defensive coaches have fallen in love with T. J. Minor of Houston Westside, an especially impressive physical specimen. UH might be able to pull off a trifecta this year at Westside with Minor and his teammates, Marcus and R. J. Jackson. Victor Brooks of Gregory-Portland isn't polished, but he's only 16 and has great physical tools. And watch for Eddrick Gilmore of Alief Hastings, the son of former Cougar nose tackle Eddie Gilmore. He's a good one and lists UH among his favorites. LaQuincy Williams of Richardson Berkner and Karl Glimp, a Hutto Hippo who doubles as a tight end, are also on the radar screen.
Going into the ‘04 season, UH has pretty good depth at defensive tackle. Even so, the following year will be the last for Kade Lane, D. J. Johnson, and Gerard Richard. With only some 16-18 scholarships available, UH plans to ink only one defensive tackle in February, so the coaches have the luxury of being a bit particular with the lone scholarship. Terrell Nemons of Cedar Hill is a man mountain who may have the ability to play as a true freshman. The competition for his services is intense. Like Nemons, Greg Jones of Ennis has the size and speed to become a dominant force in college, and the Coogs are among his favorites. Vincent Oghobaase of Alief Hastings is one of the best defensive tackles in the state. At this time, UH is not a favorite to land him, but a successful season and, say, an upset of Miami or OU, could drastically improve the Cougars' chances. Quenton Johnson of Port Arthur Memorial is mainly being recruited as an offensive lineman, but he's a defensive star in high school and could end up at DT in college. Phillip Farrish of North Garland is 300+ and likes the Coogs.
The area of concern for the defense going into this season is linebacker. While there are several promising candidates, only two or three players stand out as proven commodities. But, even so, linebacker is not a priority for this class. UH has signed seven linebackers–Trent Allen, Austin Griffith, Wade Koehl, Brenden Pahulu, Cody Lubojasky, Chris Pilot, and Rodney Rideau–the past two years, and three able transfers, Ashley Subingsubing, Jamie Green, and James Fitch, are on hand as well. And this appears to be something of a down year for LB's around the state. So the coaches will likely only take a top prospect at this position, possibly someone whom they think can contribute the first day he steps on the field. Some possibilities include Keefe Hall of Worthing, a very athletic linebacker, and another good prospect in what looks like a bumper crop for HISD players. Irving MacArthur's Eric Childs possesses exceptional speed and could develop into an outstanding outside linebacker. The coaches think that he, much like Cody Lubojasky, may grow into a defensive end. Eddie Inganyumia of Clear Brook, Justin Bickford of Livingston, Waymon Alexander of Aldine Eisenhower, and A.J. Montalvo of the Woodlands are among the best local prospects.
Given that there are often five of them on the field at the same time, defensive backs are always in demand. The Cougars have some talented young DB's. Starting free safety Will Gulley will be a sophomore. Ditto Willie Gaston who was holding off a stiff challenge from yet another soph to be, Ricky Wilson. And Marcus Ross and Rocky Schwartz are redshirt freshmen with fine careers ahead of them. But depth, a big corner, and a hard-hitting safety or two will be on the coaches' wish list. Actually, one of those wishes has been answered. Early Cougar pledge Quinte Williams of Yates is a six footer who will be tried at cornerback. Another big corner the Coogs like is Corderra Hunter of Longview. What a great last name for a DB! Hunter is 6-2. Marcus Gold of Irving High is another possibility at cornerback. K. J. Ellis of Arlington Lamar could be the hitman at safety the Cougars want. Andre Sexton of Cy-Falls is also well-liked by the staff, so much so, in fact, that he has been offered a scholarship. Scott Martin of Navasota is a dual-threat quarterback whose destiny probably lies in the secondary. Maybe the top safety looking at UH is Quinton Moore of Pearland. The competition for him is fierce, but the Cougars have a real shot to sign him. Some other local kids who could end up on the UH signing list include Purnell Jefferson and Ryan Hale of Baytown Lee, Desmond Jackson or Galena Park, Chris Davis of Dobie, Arkeith Brown of El Campo, and Micah Hill of Klein Forest.
Obviously the Cougars need to improve the defense. The best way to do that is by signing the best defensive players available. While UT and OU and others will always get the lion's share of bluechippers, the Cougars are, nonetheless, in the hunt this year for some of the state's best prospects. Players such as Quinton Moore, Terrell Nemons, Marcus Burton, T. J. Minor, and others could go most anywhere, but all of those youngsters are seriously considering UH. If Coach Briles can lure those kinds of players to Cullen Boulevard, in no time at all the Cougars will once again have a steel wall defense to match their rocket-powered offense.