DEFENSIVE LINE (3-4)
Heading into spring training, the Cougars have a goodly number of returning defensive linemen, but help is needed, nonetheless. UH started two freshmen at defensive tackle this past season, Kade Lane and Matthew Bentley. Both played well for their classification, but neither is assured a starting job in 2003. Lane and Bentley could be special players in time, but both need to work hard in the off-season to bulk up. Conversely, Sharrod McGowan, who lettered this season as a redshirt freshman, needs to work on his quickness, but at 6-2, 280, he brings needed size to the front four as does redshirt freshman Gerard Richard, the lone 300-pounder among Cougar defensive linemen. Highly regarded recruit L.C. Kirkpatrick could be moved from his high school position of end to tackle; he is 6-3, pushing 270, and was impressive playing for the scout team. At defensive end, Joe Clay (6-2, 255) gives the Coogs a steady performer who could push for all-conference honors this coming season. Ryan Huffman, who originally signed with Mississippi State before going the junior college route, has great size (6-6, 280) and tremendous potential and will benefit from a year of experience. Hopefully, he will mature as well. Farouk Adelekan, another juco transfer, isn‚t as big (6-2, 260), but he has a nose for the ball and makes big plays in a style reminiscent of former Cougar Louis Hampton. Adelekan should also be better after lettering in 2002. David Midyette, who played well in several games in 2001, returns from a redshirt year and could start. A hurdler in high school, Midyette brings speed and great athleticism to the position. Others who should contribute are Albert Martinez, the 3-A Texas high school player of the year in 2001, and Travis Griffith, who may be moved to defensive end. Clearly, UH will have some depth in the defensive line; however, an outstanding high school tackle or end with good size who can put pressure on the passer could definitely work his way onto the field. Coach Briles and his staff will likely try to sign a couple of run stuffers one or two pass rusher extraordinaires. A team can never have enough good defensive linemen.
The situation at linebacker is very different from the defensive line. While the front four is at least two-deep with solid players at every spot, linebacker is a position with some possible all-league candidates but no depth to speak of. The expected return of blue chipper Bryant Brown (6-1, 215) is a boost, and talented lettermen such as Justin Davis (6-2, 225), Damien West (6-3, 240), Lance Everson (6-2, 230), and Matt Schirmer (6-1, 230) are also on hand. But that's about it. If Travis Griffith is moved to defensive end, true freshmen or walk-ons will be counted on as first-line reserves. Coach Briles will be looking for quick, hard-hitting types, and he can legitimately promise them a chance to get on the field as freshmen. Linebacker is the Cougars‚ biggest need on defense. Look for UH to sign early commitment Austin Griffith and two more.
DEFENSIVE BACK (3-4)
The secondary is about as well-stocked as the defensive line, but given the secondary's poor play, several recruits will be prowling the Cougar secondary in practice and possibly even games. At cornerback, Stanford Routte, Roland Cola, Delenell Reid, Kentucky transfer Xavier Lane, and Willie Gaston will contend for the two starting jobs. Roshawn Pope will likely move to receiver. The Cougars could field an awesome 440 relay team with their cornerbacks! Routte, a national champion sprinter in high school, and Cola are legit 4.3 guys, and the rest have been clocked under 4.5. Cola and Reid will be seniors, so signing a couple of corners will be important. At safety, Jermaine Woodard, Levi Gaston, Tristen Robertson, Chad Davis, and Will Gulley return, and two intriguing transfers, Brian Hodges and Courtney Walker, are also in the mix. Hodge, in fact, is a safe bet to start at free safety. A former DB at Oklahoma where he alternated between running first and second team, Hodge is a great athlete who will minimize the loss of all-C-USA safety Hanik Milligan. Walker brings excellent size and speed to the secondary. He could push Jermaine Woodard, who will return for his third campaign, for the starting job at strong safety; Chad Davis will figures in. Levi Gaston may be the best pure athlete of all the DBs, which is saying something. Whether he plays free or strong safety is yet to be determined. Tristen Robertson brings more sprinter speed to the secondary. Safety is the one defensive area where UH could put off signing a player in order to stockpile at a need position, but at least one will likely be signed, and a couple of good corners are needed to replace departing seniors.