|THE GAME AT A GLANCE|
|Date||Saturday, Sept. 9|
|Time||9:30 pm CT|
|Radio||KPRC 950 AM|
HITS ON HOUSTON
« Houston (0-0, 0-0 The American) opens the first season of the Major Applewhite era Saturday at Arizona (1-0, 0-0 Pac-12) at 9:30 p.m. Saturday's game airs on ESPNU and on KPRC 950 AM (radio) with radio pregame coverage starting at 8:30 p.m.
« Houston's season opener comes one week later than expected as the original opener on Sept. 2 at UTSA was postponed following the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey to Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast.
« Applewhite was named the 14th head coach in Houston history on Dec. 9, 2016, after serving as the program's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach the past two seasons. With a skeleton crew of a coaching staff, Applewhite dropped his head coaching debut in the 2016 Las Vegas Bowl to San Diego State.
« Houston enters the season opener at Arizona tied with TCU as the top team in the state of Texas since the start of the 2014 season with 30 wins in that span. Baylor's 28 wins are third and Texas A&M is fourth with 24 wins. Texas Tech is fifth with 17 wins.
« Houston and Alabama were the only two teams to claim double-digit wins over two top-10 teams in 2016.
« With its win over No. 3 Louisville, Houston has a program-record six straight wins over top-25 opponents, a number that leads the nation among active streaks against ranked opponents. It also marked Houston's fourth straight win over an AP Top 10 team (three of which have come in the last 14 games), which also leads the nation.
« Houston's 22 wins over 2015-16 were fourth nationally behind just Alabama (28), Clemson (28) and Ohio State (23). The 22 wins over the last two seasons marked the most wins over a two-year span in Houston history.
« After starting 5-0 in back-to-back seasons for the first time in program history, the Cougars are looking for at least eight wins to give them a fifth straight season of such, which would be a first in program history.
« UH ranks 10th nationally and the best in Texas with nine seasons with at least eight wins since 2006. LSU, Boise State and Oklahoma lead the way with 11 such seasons since 2016 while six teams, including The American's Navy, are tied with 10 such seasons.
« Houston enters the season with the nation's longest active home winning streak with 15 straight wins at TDECU Stadium. The Cougars need to win their first three home games to tie the longest home-winning streak in program history. Coincidentally, Houston's week one opponent, UTSA, claimed a win over Houston in the stadium opener.
« Houston sophomore defensive tackle Ed Oliver enters 2017 after one of the most explosive seasons by a true freshman in college football. The Houston native earned first-team All-America honors by seven different national outlets and was named The American's Rookie of the Year after totaling 23 tackles for loss, second nationally. He totaled 47 solo tackles, second best among all defensive linemen nationally while leading all defensive linemen with nine pass breakups.
« No. 3 Oklahoma became the highest-ranked foe to fall to Houston since the Cougars defeated No. 3 Texas, 29-15, on Nov. 10, 1984. OU would be the first No. 3 team to fall to Houston in 2016, as the Cougars would defeat No. 3 Louisville, 36-10, on Nov. 17, sacking eventual Heisman winner Lamar Jackson 11 times. Houston also defeated No. 3 Michigan State, 37-7, on Sept. 23, 1967.
« Houston is one of just four programs nationally with at least 13 wins on two different occasions over the last six years, joining Alabama, Clemson and Florida State in accomplishing the feat.
« The 2017 senior class enters the season with 30 wins, which currently ranks 19th on the Houston history for wins by a class. One win would move the 2017 class into 17th and five wins would move the class into fifth. The 2017 senior class needs eight wins to tie the 2016 senior class for most wins in program history.
« The Cougars own the longest winning streak by a non-autonomous 5 team against autonomous 5 opponents with six consecutive wins over the last three seasons. Houston now owns wins over Oklahoma, Florida State, Vanderbilt, Louisville (2x) and Pitt in its last six autonomous 5 matchups.
ABOUT THE 2017 COUGARS
« Twenty-nine full or part-time starters return in 2017 for Houston. The 2016 leaders in rushing, receiving, punt returns, all-purpose yards, punting, tackles, tackles for loss and forced fumbles all returned.
« The program welcomed an incoming signing class of 23 that is comprised of 17 freshmen, four four-year transfers and two junior college transfers. Junior college transfer kicker Dalton Witherspoon is the lone member of the 2017 signing class that joined the program for spring practice.
« While Houston lost just 11 players with starting experience, those 11 accounted for 262 career starts, an average of 23.8 career starts per player. By comparison, the 29 returning players with starting experience combine for 250 career starts, an average of 8.6 career starts per player.
« Since 2014, Houston leads the state of Texas among FBS schools with 30 wins. The Cougars are one win ahead of TCU, two ahead of Baylor, six ahead of Texas A&M and 14 games ahead of Texas and Texas Tech in that span.
« Houston also leads the state of Texas among FBS schools with nine seasons of at least eight wins since 2006. TCU is second with eight seasons while Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech are tied for third with seven each.
« After three years of competition, the 2017 senior class is the 20th-most winningest class in Houston football history with 30 wins since starting in 2014. The class is only four wins away from moving into the top five and eight wins away from the record of 38 established by the 2016 senior class.
« Houston, Alabama and Florida State were the only three teams to defeat a ranked opponent by double digits in the opening weekend of last season. They were also three of five schools nationally to score at least 30 points on a ranked opponent in the opening weekend, joining Georgia (33 vs. North Carolina) and South Dakota State (41 vs. TCU) in accomplishing the feat.
« Houston started 5-0 in back-to-back seasons in 2015 and 2016 for the first time in program history.
« Over the past two seasons, Houston has 22 wins, the fourth-best total in the nation behind the 28 wins of Alabama and Clemson, and 23 of Ohio State.
« Houston's 22 wins over the last two seasons mark the best two-season total in program history, topping the 21 wins from 2014-15.
« With its 36-10 win over No. 3 Louisville and 33-23 win over No. 3 Oklahoma last season, Houston has now won six straight against AP top-25 teams and four straight against AP top-10 teams, the longest active streaks for both entering 2017.
« In its sixth season under head coach Rich Rodriguez, Arizona enters Saturday's game at 1-0 after a 62-24 season-opening win over Northern Arizona. The Wildcats totaled 595 yards, 506 of which came on the ground, while forcing three turnovers and giving up 562 yards defensively.
« Arizona is led offensively by junior quarterback Brandon Dawkins who lead Arizona in rushing with 92 yards and two touchdowns on seven attempts vs. Northern Arizona while throwing for 89 yards a score on 7-of-13 passing. Senior Nick Wilson led the Wildcats' running backs with 87 yards and a score on eight rushing attempts. Junior slot receiver Tony Ellison led Arizona with five receptions for 79 yards and one touchdown.
« Defensively, the Wildcats are led by junior bandit Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles who had a team-best eight stops against Northern Arizona while interception two passes. Sophomore end Justin Belknap and freshman linebacker Kylan Wilborn had Arizona's two sacks.
« Saturday's matchup is the third meeting between the two schools with the two schools splitting the first two meetings, both in Tucson. Houston claimed a 34-17 win on Oct. 11, 1969 before Arizona evened the series with a 37-3 win on Sept. 6, 1986.
DEGREES IN HAND
« Nine Houston student-athletes entered the season having already earned an undergraduate degree. Linell Bonner, Reggie Chevis (Texas A&M), Nomluis Fruge, D'Juan Hines, Ellis Jefferson (Arizona State), Deon Mix (Auburn), Kyle Postma, Byron Simpson and Nick Thurman have all completed degree requirements prior to this season.
« Houston ranks 17th nationally with nine players having earned degrees prior to the start of the season.
TOP 25 RANKINGS
« Houston entered 2016 at No. 15 in the AP poll, its highest ranking since checking in at No. 12 in the 1991 AP preseason poll.
« Following its win over Oklahoma, Houston moved up to No. 6, its highest AP ranking since No. 3 on Nov. 10, 1990. It also marked the first time to be in the top 10 in the month of September since Sept. 8, 1980.
« Houston spent 16 straight weeks in the AP Top 25 over 2015-16, the fourth-longest in program history and the longest since a record streak of 42 weeks from 1988-91.
« Houston also spent five weeks in the AP top 10 in 2016, the third-longest stint in UH history and the longest since 15 straight weeks in 1979-80.
« Houston has won its last six games vs. ranked opponents and its last four games vs. top-10 opponents. Both streaks lead the nation.
ON THE OFFENSIVE
« Since 2006, only Oregon and Texas Tech have racked up more yards than Houston who has 71,251 yards in that time.
Rank Team Total Yards (06-present)
1. Oregon 74,190
2. Texas Tech 71,276
3. Houston 71,251
4. Oklahoma 70,820
5. Nevada 64,756
« Houston has scored in 212 straight games dating back to Sept. 30, 2000.
« Fifteen of Houston's 70 scoring drives last season lasted less than two minutes with three lasting less than one minute, the quickest just six seconds with a one-play, 13-yard drive on the first offensive play vs. Louisville.
« Houston had 11 scoring drives of four plays or less including three two-play drives and one one-play drive.
« With a balanced attack, Houston was one of just 15 schools nationally to average over 145 yards per game rushing (147.1) and over 295 yards passing per game (296.3).
« The Cougars were one of 19 teams nationally with at least 29 rushing touchdowns and 24 passing touchdowns.
« Houston was 17th nationally with 225 plays of 10+ yards.
« The versatility of the offense was evident as seven different players had rushing touchdowns last season for Houston while eight different players had receiving touchdowns and two different players had passing touchdowns.
« Against Louisville, Houston scored 16 points above the Cardinals' defensive scoring average and scored the most on UL since the Cardinals gave up 42 points to No. 5 Clemson earlier in the season.
« Houston totaled 624 yards against Memphis, its fifth game over 600 yards of total offense over the last two years. Houston now has 75 games with 600+ yards in program history.
« Over the last two seasons, Houston has 11 games with 500+ yards of total offense and has scored more than 40 points 12 times and more than 50 points five times.
A NEW LOOK UNDER CENTER
« With the graduation of Greg Ward Jr., the Houston program lost its second-most winningest quarterback in program history with 27 career wins.
« Ward also closed his career among the program's top five for career passing yards, passing touchdowns, completions and total offense. He finished 10th in program history for career rushing yards while setting the program's career rushing record by a quarterback with 2,375 career yards.
« Looking to step in for Ward in 2017 will be either senior Kyle Postma or junior Kyle Allen, who sat out the 2016 season under NCAA transfer rules after transferring to the program from Texas A&M. The nation's No. 1 quarterback in the 2014 recruiting class, Allen ran Houston's scout team during his season off.
« With the Aggies, Allen started 14 games over two seasons while seeing action in 20 games total. His sophomore season saw Allen lead Texas A&M in passing and total offense, completing 160-of-283 passes for 2,210 yards and 17 touchdowns against seven interceptions while also adding 102 yards on the ground as he became just the eighth quarterback in Texas A&M history to pass for 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns in a season.
« Allen threw for 1,322 yards and 16 touchdowns as a freshman against seven interceptions on 118-of-192 passing and closed the year with MVP honors in an AutoZone Liberty Bowl win over West Virginia, throwing for 294 yards and four touchdowns while adding 33 yards rushing against the Mountaineers.
« Postma has seen action in 19 career games over two seasons with two career starts at quarterback. His first three games of action came at receiver in 2015 when he caught six passes for 145 yards and a touchdown before being moved back to quarterback due to injuries suffered by others. Passing wise, he has thrown for 663 yards and three touchdowns against three interceptions on 72-of-114 passing.
HANDY TOOLS TO HAVE
« The wide receiver position provides Houston with talented leaders mixed with a group of promising underclassmen. The two leaders in Steven Dunbar (27) and Linell Bonner (11) combine for 38 career starts and 62 career games played while a quartet of sophomores will look to expand on true freshman seasons that saw each play an expanded role late in the year.
« Bonner leads all returning receivers in The American and is second nationally with 98 receptions in 2016. He looks to follow up on a season that saw the former walk-on total 1,118 yards and three touchdowns.
« Houston's No. 2 pass catcher in terms of touchdowns last season with five, Dunbar totaled 53 receptions for 692 yards and looks to expand his role with the graduation of Chance Allen who had 56 receptions for 815 yards and six scores.
« The two are joined by a sizeable addition in Arizona State graduate transfer Ellis Jefferson. The Denton, Texas, native saw action in 38 games over three seasons at Arizona State.
« The trio of Keith Corbin, Courtney Lark and Terry Mark combined for 20 games played as true freshmen in 2016. Corbin led the quartet with six receptions for 68 yards while both Lark and Mark had three each, going for 26 yards and eight yards, respectively.
« Others in the group who could step up this season are seniors John Leday and Derek McLemore. Leday has five career receptions for 50 yards and a score while McLemore has two for 12 yards.
« The group is joined by freshman Jeremy Singleton who closed his high school career as New Orleans' Brother Martin's career receiving leader with 76 receptions for 1,384 yards and 19 touchdowns.
BACK TO THE BACKS
« Houston returns every scholarship running back from the 2016 team led by junior Duke Catalon who totaled 528 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 145 attempts. He also added 44 receptions for 281 yards and three scores.
« Senior Dillon Birden, who started five games as a walk-on in 2016, will continue to push Catalon after running for 289 yards and six scores on 62 attempts while pulling in seven receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown.
« Sophomores Mulbah Car (49-206), Kevrin Justice (34-149), Josh Burrell (12-51) were next on the Houston rushing chart in 2016 while junior Kaliq Kokuma also rushed four times for 15 yards and junior Blake Hirsch had one attempt for three yards.
« Freshman Davion Mitchell joins the program after rushing for 1,598 yards and 31 touchdowns as a senior at Rockdale High School (TX). Mitchell totaled 3,283 rushing yards and 48 touchdowns in his high school career.
FIRST YEAR FACES IN NEW PLACES
« What Houston lacked in returning numbers, it makes up for in potential with sophomore Duke Catalon joining the program after transferring from Texas. The former four-star recruit redshirted in his lone season at Texas after being ranked the No. 10 running back in the nation coming out of Houston's Eisenhower High School.
« Catalon had a game-best 88 yards in the Houston-Oklahoma season opener on 22 carries. He also added four receptions for 29 yards including a 15-yard pass for Houston's first touchdown of the day.
« With Catalon held out of Houston's week two game against Lamar, the duo of redshirt-freshman Kevrin Justice and true freshman Mulbah Car took the rushing game reigns, with Justice rushing for 111 yards and Car 109.
« Six players have at least 100 rushing yards, led by 453 from Ward and 450 from Catalon, while seven have rushing TDs.
« Walk-on Dillon Birden, who shifted from cornerback to running back the week of the Cincinnati game, received his first career start against UConn, finishing with 27 yards and one touchdown on nine carries.
« Birden received a second start at Navy and became the first UH player since 2014 to have rushing and receiving scores in the same game, finishing with 51 rushing yards and one touchdown and 22 receiving yards and one score.
« Birden tied The American's best this season with three rushing touchdowns, part of a career-best 82 rushing yards vs. Tulsa.
« After missing three games with a concussion, Catalon returned vs. SMU with 17 carries for 54 yards and four receptions for 66 yards.
« Against UCF, Catalon had a game-best 82 rushing yards, including one TD, and seven receptions for 40 yards.
« Catalon pulled in a career-high nine receptions for 68 yards and two touchdowns, one coming off a deflection vs. Louisville while adding 39 yards and a score on the ground. .
PAVING THE WAY
« The group that returns the most in terms of experience will offer new offensive line coach Chris Scelfo a variety of parts to move around the line. Scelfo steps into a position with eight returners combining for 86 career starts and 133 career games played. All eight started at least five games in 2016.
« Center Will Noble leads all in terms of starting experience with 20 career games started, including eight in 2015 en route to earning FWAA Freshman All-America honors. The junior missed Houston's spring practice with a leg injury suffered in offseason workouts.
« Senior Marcus Oliver leads the team in overall experience with 34 career games played while totaling 15 career starts, eight of which came at guard in 2016. Juniors Mason Denley and Kameron Eloph also have experience at the guard position with Denley owning 12 career starts, six in 2016, and Eloph with nine career starts, four of which came in 2016.
« Sophomore Josh Jones stepped into the starting role at left tackle for the 2016 opener and never looked back, starting all 13 games after redshirting his first season on campus. On the opposite side, Braylon Jones started the final six games of the season at right tackle as a true freshman after stepping in for an injured Na'Ty Rodgers who returns for his senior season after starting the first seven games of 2016.
« Senior Alex Fontana rounds out the returning group with starting experience after picking up five starts last season - three at left guard and one each at right guard and center.
« Other scholarship linemen that will look to compete this spring are sophomores Ryan Deshotel and Jarrid Williams, redshirt-freshman Keenan Murphy and freshman Dixie Wooten III.
« The group added freshman Dennis Bardwell in the 2017 signing class along with Deon Mix, a graduate transfer from Auburn. From Huffman Hargrave High School in Huffman, Texas, Bardwell was rated the No. 10 offensive guard in the state of Texas by Scout. He did not give up a sack his senior year while totaling 80 pancakes in 10 starts.
THIRD WARD DEFENSE
« The Houston defense finished 2016 with the No. 4 rushing defense in the nation, allowing an average of 100.2 yards per game. Houston also ranked 13th in total defense (319.6 yards per game), ninth in first down defense (213) and 30th in scoring defense (23.5 points per game). UH led The American in rushing defense and first down defense and was second behind Temple in total defense and scoring defense. It ranked fourth in the league in passing defense.
« The Houston defense is one of just 10 nationally to hold opponents to an average of under 25 points scoring per game in each of the last four seasons. Taking it down a point further, UH is one of just seven schools to hold its opponents under 24 points per game in each of the last four seasons, joining Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Ohio State, Stanford and Wisconsin in accomplishing the feat.
« Houston was third nationally with five defensive touchdowns, trailing just Alabama (11) and Ohio State (7).
« The Cougars were 17th nationally and second in The American with 39 sacks. Houston had two players in the top four of The American in sacks with Steven Taylor and Tyus Bowser tied for third with 8.5 each.
« Navy snapped Houston's seven-game streak of not allowing an opponent to rush for over 100 yards when it ran for 306 yards. Prior to the streak, the Midshipmen were the last team to rush for over 100 yards. During the streak, Houston held Temple, Florida State, Oklahoma, Lamar, Cincinnati, Texas State and UConn to a combined 324 rushing yards. Houston held seven opponents below the century mark in 2016.
« The Cougars set a program record when they allowed Lamar just 73 total offensive yards, besting a 47-year old record of 74 yards set by the 1969 Houston team against Mississippi State.
« The Houston defense held Oklahoma, who averaged 43.9 points per game in 2016, to 23 points in its season opener.
« Oklahoma, who averaged 554.8 yards per game in 2016, had 393 total yards against the Houston defense including just 70 on the ground. OU averaged 236.8 yards rushing last season.
« Houston held Cincinnati to its lowest output of total offense at home (307 yards) since Dec. 4, 2010, against Pittsburgh. The 30 total rushing yards on 25 attempts were the Bearcats' fewest since rushing for 15 yards on 32 attempts in their 2010 season opener at Fresno State.
« Against UCF, the Houston defense held the Knights to only 29 total yards in the second half, including negative 55 yards rushing, after allowing 166 total yards and 95 rushing yards in the first half.
« Houston held Tulane to 128.1 yards below its rushing average with its lowest rushing output of the year (100 yards).
« Houston held Louisville to 32.5 points below its scoring average, 141.1 yards below its rushing average, 79.5 yards below its passing average and 220.7 yards below its total offense average while totaling 11 sacks.
« Louisville's 10 points were its lowest since scoring only seven vs. North Carolina on Oct. 8, 2011.
« Since the start of the 2013 season, no program has taken the ball away from opposing offenses more than Houston with 126 turnovers forced in that time with 18 in 2016, 35 in 2015, 30 in 2014 and 43 in 2013.
« UH has forced multiple turnovers in 43 of its last 60 games.
« Houston upped the ante against Cincinnati as it recorded three turnovers, all fourth quarter interceptions, to help Houston overcome a 16-12 fourth-quarter deficit en route to a 40-16 win. The Houston offense followed Howard Wilson's first interception of the night with an 11-play, 60-yard touchdown drive before Steven Taylor and Wilson ended the next two Cincinnati drives with back-to-back pick-sixes. After Taylor returned a Bearcat interception 74 yards for a touchdown, Wilson returned one on the very next play 28 yards for his first career defensive touchdown.
« Garrett Davis and Emeke Egbule teamed up for one of Houston's biggest turnovers this season when Davis hit Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans for a fumble-forcing sack that Egbule scooped up and returned 24 yards for the winning touchdown with 1:21 left in Houston's 38-31 win.
« Houston established a new season high with four turnovers vs. UCF with interceptions from Brandon Wilson and Howard Wilson and fumble recoveries from Davis and Taylor.
« UH recovered three fumbles against Louisville - one on special teams from Dillon Birden and two on defense by Howard Wilson and Malveaux.
« The Cougars were opportunistic when creating turnovers last season, turning 18 turnovers into 87 points, including 28 points directly on the interception returns from Steven Taylor and Howard Wilson at Cincinnati and fumble recoveries from Emeke Egbule vs. Tulsa and Jeremy Winchester vs. Tulane.
« The American Athletic Conference and the nation were quickly introduced to Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver last season as the true freshman earned seven First Team All-America honors, FWAA Freshman All-America Honors and was named The American's Rookie of the Year.
« Ranked the nation's No. 2 defensive tackle in the 2016 signing class by ESPN, Oliver did not wait long to make his impression felt for Houston, earning his first career start against Oklahoma and leading all defensive linemen in the game with seven tackles including two sacks.
« Oliver finished second nationally in 2016 with 23 tackles for loss and leads all returning defensive linemen nationally.
« Playing out of the tackle spot on a three-man line, he was second nationally among all defensive linemen with 47 solo tackles and 13th among all defensive linemen nationally with 66 total tackles.
« Oliver also led all defensive linemen nationally with nine pass breakups. The number also led all non-defensive backs in The American and was sixth in the league regardless of position.
« Oliver's 66 tackles were second among all freshmen in The American, regardless of position, and led all freshmen defensive linemen nationally. His five sacks led all freshmen in The American. Oliver also led Houston and finished second in The American with three forced fumbles, a number that ranked second nationally among freshmen.
« Along with Oliver's 13 starts, Houston returns two other defensive linemen with multiple starts in senior Nick Thurman (seven career starts) and junior Jerard Carter (eight career starts).
« Thurman was second among UH linemen in 2016 with 26 tackles and two sacks, part of his 5.5 tackles for loss. He's totaled 60 tackles and 10.5 tackles for loss in 32 career games played.
« Carter who has 33 tackles in 24 games played, will be joined in competition by junior Zach Vaughan who has six tackles in 22 games played with one start. Sophomore Aymiel Fleming, who saw action in eight games as a true freshman, will also provide depth along with senior Chauntez Jackson.
NO FLY ZONE
« While Houston returns its two starting safeties in Garrett Davis and Khail Williams, the Cougars will look to replace two players with starting cornerback experience in Brandon and Howard Wilson. The two combined for 44 starts and 78 career games played. Jeremy Winchester with 10 career starts and 26 games played at the position will return and look to battle for the spot.
« A senior, Williams staked claim to one safety spot, starting all 13 games in 2016 and now owns 17 career starts at the position. The secondary's leading returning tackler with 69 stops in 2016, Williams may also be used in the nickel back role held by Brandon Wilson in 2016.
« Davis, who owns 12 starts, all in 2016, will look to make a difference in his junior year after totaling 65 tackles including seven for a loss last season.
« Senior Terrell Williams, who started five games last season, and sophomore Collin Wilder also plan to make their mark on the back end of the defense in 2017.
« The cornerback positions are wide open this spring as along with Winchester, converted junior cornerback Isaiah Johnson, junior Joeal Williams, sophomores Javian Smith and Ka'Darian Smith, senior Alexander Myres and redshirt-freshman Patrick Rosette will all attempt to lay claim to the position.
« Johnson makes the jump to defense after two seasons at receiver while Javian Smith saw action for UH in 11 games in 2016. Joeal Williams also saw action in five games while Ka'Darian Smith made the lineup in five games.
« For the second straight season, Houston will need to replace leaders at the linebacker position with the graduation of sack masters Tyus Bowser and Steven Taylor.
« Senior Matthew Adams, who led the team in tackles with 82 stops last year, returns to lead the way. The smashmouth middle linebacker also forced two fumbles and had two sacks in 2016.
« Fellow senior D'Juan Hines returns after starting seven games in 2016, finishing with 44 stops.
« Junior Emeke Egbule stepped in with five starts last season and had one of five Houston defensive touchdowns after scooping and scoring the game-winning touchdown against Tulsa on a 24-yard fumble return.
« Others looking to compete at the position in the spring include seniors Ralph Harvey Jr., Nomluis Fruge, Cameron Doubenmier, Rasheed Tynes and Austin Robinson along with sophomores Leroy Godfrey and Jordan Milburn.
« Much-needed depth has been added with the addition of freshmen David Anenih, Elijah Gooden, Derek Parish and Amaud Willis-Dalton.
« Sophomore punter Dane Roy returns after his first season in America as a 27-year old true freshman in 2016.
« The Bunyip, Australia native and former Australian rules football player for Richmond Central placed 20 of his 59 punts last season inside his opponent's 20-yard line with only four touchbacks. His high-hanging punts helped Houston rank seventh nationally in punt return defense, allowing just 2.6 yards per return while forcing 26 fair catches.
« Roy ranks third among returning punters in The American Conference after averaging 40.6 yards per punt in 2016.
« In his debut against Oklahoma, Roy had four punts for 176 yards, an average of 44.0 yards per punt. He followed with one punt for 50 yards against Lamar before dropping four of his six punts inside Cincinnati's 20-yard line.
« Prior to arriving in Houston, Roy won the longest kick competition at the AFL grand final in Melbourne, Australia, after booting a torpedo 73 meters, which equates to 79 yards. Roy, who stands 6-7, also has a personal-best hang time of 5.4 seconds.
THE RETURNS DEPARTMENT
« Houston will turn to a new face to spark its kick return with the graduation of Brandon Wilson who finished his career ninth on the UH career charts with 1,121 kickoff return yards and second with two kickoff returns for touchdowns in his career.
« Two other players who had kick returns in 2016 return in D'Eriq King and Dillon Birden, although with King moving back to quarterback, others options are likely to be visited throughout the spring.
« King totaled 10 returns for 254 yards including a 99-yard return for a touchdown at Texas State.
« Birden had one return for 20 yards on the season.
« In terms of punt returners, Houston returns all four players who returned a punt in 2016 as Collin Wilder, King, Steven Dunbar and Marquez Stevenson all return in 2017. Wilder led the with nine punt returns for 40 yards while King was second with six returns for 29 yards. Dunbar had two returns for six yards while Stevenson had one for a loss of two yards.
SNAP IT TO ME
« Unfortunately Houston lost its starting long snapper in senior Byron Simpson in late May due to a non-football related medical condition. The Cat Spring, Texas, native started all 13 games at the position in 2016.
« The Cougars will turn to Simpson's backup in 2016, junior Nick Wildberger. The San Antonio, Texas, native saw action in one game, at Houston's win over Texas State.