I was sitting on my parent’s couch watching Manvel High School play Cedar Park in the Texas High School Football playoffs. What brought me to watch this spectacle was the two TCU pledges QB D’Eriq King and OT Austin Myers who were playing for Manvel.
In Fall 2016…
What stole my attention was this safety that Manvel had that seemed to be everywhere at once and was in the middle of every play. I quickly searched Deontay Anderson’s name to see where he was going to be playing at the next level and found he had committed his talents to Ole Miss along with Manvel’s running back D’Vaughn Pennamen to headline Ole Miss’s highest-ranked recruiting class in recent history. Fast forward to 2019 and King never made it to TCU and Anderson has departed from Ole Miss, but their paths have intersected back in Houston.
D’Eriq King’s skillset that Manvel used to put 47 points on Cedar Park in 2016 is the same talent Dana Holgerson will maximize for his Senior campaign in Houston for 2019. King also has two Cars in his garage, though technically one is a Carr. Patrick Carr is the returning leading rusher while Mulbah Car adds depth to the position. King did double up their combined rushing TDs with 14 as the Cars (Carrs) chipped in 7, but King shouldn’t have to carry the load by himself. Texas transfer Kyle Porter will also provide depth in the ground game.
In the aerial attack, Marquez Stephenson returns as the leading receiver and lone 1000-yard receiver in 2018 along with blossoming pass-catcher Keith Corbin for D’Eriq to play catch with. The skill positions are set for Holgo to utilize senior leadership to carry his offense to Norman in Week 1, which will be more of a test for his defense. The offensive line has a ton of experience returning with 4 players with 20+ game experience and a pair of guys with 30+ games of experience. The shortest guy is 6’4” and the youngest fella is a Junior among Seniors. D’Eriq King should feel as safe in the backfield as the president on Air Force One, unless Harrison Ford shows up.
This potential for an offensive juggernaut in the AAC will test OU’s change-agent of a DC Alex Grinch in their first week, as well as set up for an explosive matchup with fellow G5 stud QB Mason Fine when U of H travels 5 hours north to play UNT in Denton. Houston won’t have to travel far to take on Mike Leach’s Wazzu squad at NRG which is sure to be a fireworks display as well. Outside of the non-conference, Houston should be able to score at will in the AAC with a strong test traveling to UCF late in the season. Nevertheless, the table is set for D’Eriq King and company to set the tone for Dana Holgerson’s stretch in Houston.
Running with the “Closer to Home” theme for the Manvel studs, DE Isaiah Chambers transferred from TCU after his freshman campaign for the same reason. A family emergency brought Chambers down south and allowed him to shine in the Cougar pass rush before an injury sidelined him for the year. If the AAC has an award for comeback/breakout player of the year, I’d bet it ends up in Chambers’ hands at the end of the year. Coupled with a solid rotation of linebackers and ends, the front 7 for Houston should be a force in the AAC.
With a secondary like Houston’s that boasts Anderson, Gleson Sprewell, and incoming Texas A&M transfer Jordan Moore, Chambers should be the beneficiary of more than a couple coverage sacks. There are some concerns with corner depth down in Houston after graduating a solid whelp of production in Nick Watkins, Alexander Myres, and Isaiah Johnson. UCLA grad transfer Colin Samuel looks to claim some real estate in the Houston secondary and clear up some uncertainty when it comes to defending the pass. On the other side we could see one of Javian or Ka’Darian Smith, who are unrelated I think. For what it’s worth, I believe the pass rush will alleviate pressure on the secondary by forcing quick throws and limiting time in the pocket.
All in All
Holgerson has his work cut out for him early in the season, with a non-conference schedule that includes visiting Oklahoma, hosting Washington State at NRG, and traveling to UNT for a claim as the top G5 Texas school. Beyond that, I see Houston having no problem traversing the AAC until they travel to Central Florida to face off with a team who’s won 25 of their last 26. The injuries are already mounting as the Knights have lost McKenzie Milton for the year and Darriel Mack Jr. for an extensive period. The Cougars need to pounce on this opportunity of solid senior leadership and experience along with league parity to capture an AAC title.
With the schedule laid out like it is, I see no reason why Houston shouldn’t be in the AAC Championship game in December. This year has the making to be a benchmark year for Dana Holgerson’s campaign that could result in double-digit wins when the dust settles. After all, I’m sure all of these home-grown football products would love to bring that conference title a little closer to home.
Featured Image: Houston Chronicle