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February 10, 2013
One of the points that Houston Cougars head football coach Tony Levine wanted to be sure to make at his signing day press conference last Wednesday was that the announced members of the teams 2013 signing class would not truly have a chance to show if they will reach their potential for at least a couple years.
Give Levine credit, of the 25 signees listed in the Cougars' 2012 signing class, only eight saw playing time. Of those eight, one was junior college signee Xavier Maxwell and the other was freshman receiver Andrew Rodriguez who only appeared briefly before having to shut it down for the season with an injury. He will likely get the year back as well so in essence there were seven out of the 25 signees who saw significant playing time, one of which was a JUCO transfer.
In keeping with that theme, if you go back and look at the high schoolers of the 2010 class to see who might emerge during the Cougars season you find that some have already made their impact and others might have the opportunity to make their impact on the 2013 season.
Players who have already established themselves on the team include junior offensive tackle Rowdy Harper who started immediately after redshirting his first year on campus and has never looked back becoming one of the leaders of a deep offensive line. Punter Richie Leone came in from day one and has ended up being one of the most valuable players in a class that has seen 11 of it's 27 signees either never get to campus or have since left. Senior to be Zach McMillian has seen his ups and downs since coming in and playing as a true freshman. Junior quarterback David Piland's impact on the team is still in the air with a wealth of new quarterbacks on campus in the spring and fall who will look to unseat him as the listed returning starter. Junior Bryce Redman will look to continue his roll as starting center for the Cougars after emerging last season to take the job.
Of the remaining player in the signing class a few that will be worth keeping an eye on in the 2013 spring and fall are defensive end Eric Braswell who emerges some as a redshirt freshman but didn't seem to fit well into the system used most of last season. Later in the year Braswell emerged again as the team started using more three front sets. As the Cougars use more of those in 2013 look for Braswell to have an opportunity to emerge at a position of need.
Another member of the class that is hard to give up on as a possible contributor for the 2013 season is junior wide receiver Aaron Johnson who will have all of spring with a healthy back and focusing in at receiver. Towards then end of last spring Johnson emerged as an appealing weapon at receiver after swathing back to such from his time at quarterback. The talent is there no doubt the question is if he will finally get it all put together this year.
Other players likely to have a shot at cracking the two-deep this year from the class are senior Kent Brooks who has been tough to keep off the field since his freshman season whose run support at safety is exceptional and junior Austin Lunsford who seems to have settled in on the offensive side of the line after experimenting on both sides of the ball.
If you look at the 2011 signing class four of the players still on the roster have already made an impact with the team. Sophomore Kenneth Farrow will continue to see carries at the number two option behind senior Charles SIms. Junior linebacker Derrick Mathews has emerges as the top prep signee from the class and is expected to continue his emergence as the team's top linebacker in 2013. Junior defensive tackle Joey Mbu continued his ascent in 2013 and should have a chance to emerge as a go to force on the field in 2013 as both a lane clogger in the three man fronts as well as a pass rusher in the four man fronts. Junior Daniel Spencer is the final member that has already shown some promise but although he has shown some inconsistencies in his hands in his first two seasons his explosiveness with the ball in his hands is evident and he is likely to see touches in 2013 in several different ways.
Other members of the 2011 class that will look to emerge and make their mark in 2013 include Alex Cooper who is rumored to be making the with over to the tight end position after spending a year each at defensive end and offensive line. The emergence of the Cougars as a team that will look to utilize the tight end more in 2013 should benefit Cooper in finally getting a chance to make an impact. Sophomore quarterback Bram Kohlhausen will look to state his case for the quarterback spot in the spring and he will be watched by many as the search for this year's signal caller will be closely watched beginning in March.
Two linemen that will likely be in the discussion for the one spot that will be looked to fill along the offensive side of the ball are both senior Josh McNeil and sophomore Emeka Okafor. Okafor would seem to have the edge coming in getting the most attention thus far in their careers but with a new offensive line coach, the position battle will be one to keep an eye on.
The last two players from the class to mention are both receivers in senior Dewayne Peace and junior Mark Roberts both of whom saw playing time in 2012 but also both found themselves fighting out of the doghouse at times as well.
However the players from the these two classes end up making their mark they will have pressure from a strong 2012 class and as well as a whole new set of faces from the 2013 class including five players who will already be on hand for spring to compete for playing time.