Scouting Report On Houston

Imagine OSU head coach Mike Gundy getting ready to play the University of Houston and at one time the quarterback you thought was going to lead your offense.

"Coach Gundy was one of the main reasons I was committed to OSU," said current Houston quarterback Kevin Kolb, a former Texas schoolboy standout at Stephenville, Texas. "Coach Gundy made some promises and told me they were going to throw the ball more and I was a reason for that. Then Coach (Art) Briles got the job at Houston and I knew going there was the best thing for me. It was tough telling Coach Gundy. One of the toughest things I've had to do."

Gundy was right about Kolb. The 6-3, 225-pound Houston senior is now the Cougars all-time leader in pass completions, passing yards and total offense. He is also a Heisman Trophy candidate, and he is looking forward to playing Oklahoma State.

"Ever since I saw them on the schedule," said Kolb. "I know a lot of the players, a lot of the names because I have followed them and rooted for them. When you almost go there you follow a school more than the average public. I've had this circled on the calendar."

Great, because Kolb operates a hybrid offense that features more than 20 formations and, as he says, can do about 100 different things. The Houston offense includes everything from option, (yes, option) to four wide receiver sets with all four receivers on the same side of the field. They run loads of unbalanced, one-back, two-back, and no-back sets.

"It's really a take what the defense gives you kind of offense," said Kolb.

What defenses don't give, Houston has the talent to take. The offensive line is veteran, but average. The backs range from jumbo back Jackie Battle to converted defensive back Roshawn Pope. The best rusher may be wide receiver Anthony Alridge, who has 195 yards on 10 carries, mainly reverses and bubble screens counting as runs. That leads us to the receivers in speedster Vincent Marshall, Donnie Avery and 6-5 Jeron Harvey. They are talented and they operate on a sixth sense with Kolb.

"That's really the best thing we have going for us," said Kolb. "I can start a sentence and they (receivers) can finish it for me."

The Cougars rank sixth in the nation in total offense averaging 478.0 yards a game. The bulk of that is in the air at 312.0 yards a game, which explains why head coach Art Briles is eager to see improvement in the running game.

They have improved some in special teams, which a year ago were atrocious. The net punt is still 32 yards a kick, returns are lackluster despite speed, and because of injury they are using a backup placekicker.

That leaves us with the defense. The old theory is you have to run to beat Houston. Most people believe if you rush for 200 yards or more then you have a great shot at winning. That theory holds water as all of the teams that beat Houston last season rushed for over 200 yards.

"We're not as dominant on that side of the ball as we need to be," said Briles. "We can't allow teams to go on long drives and we have to start forcing teams to more three play-and-out possessions. If we are going to take the next step that is something we have to do."

Briles' defense lost starting strong safety Rocky Schwartz in the Grambling game to a season-ending injury. Nose tackle Marquay Love and linebackers Trent Allen and Wade Koehl have experience. Saturday night they will get more in a turned up atmosphere in "bandbox" Robertson Stadium. It should be a lot of fun in the Bayou City.

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