The Houston Cougars entered the spring with some huge voids to fill on the offensive side of the ball. They have to find a way to replace record setting quarterback Case Keenum which is a chore all in it's own, but they also have to replace proven production at the receiver position.
Gone are playmakers Patrick Edwards and Tyron Carrier, gone is redzone monster Justin Johnson. Between the three of them the trio accounted for 3,939 yards receiving and 37 touchdowns in one of college football's most prolific passing attacks for 2011.
With the three graduating seniors now gone who is ready to step up and be the next great Houston receiver?
Several players have been given opportunities but one of the more consistent players throughout spring has been true sophomore Daniel Spencer, who appears ready to step in and fill one of the voids left behind.
Spencer is no stranger to making plays; the former Rivals three-star athlete amassed 2,568 yards of total offense along with 42 touchdowns during his senior season for Grandview (TX) High School.
In 2011 Spencer played sparingly as a reserve in 13 games for the Cougars and chipped in with 171 yards receiving and two touchdowns on 12 receptions.
The 6-foot, 193-pound wide receiver has been one of the many bright spots for the Cougars this spring and appears poised to provide a spark in 2012. He's made several plays during practice; he's made plays during scrimmages and he was also a key contributor in the Red's 42-28 victory in the spring game.
"We started off a little slow but whenever we got going we really got rolling," Spencer told CougarsDen following the spring game. "I feel like we did pretty good as a team and I feel like I did pretty good myself."
Another new but familiar face on offense will be the new starting quarterback.
Houston head coach Tony Levine announced prior to last week's spring game that redshirt sophomore quarterback David Piland was the starter going forward. After his baptismal by fire freshman season where he was unexpectedly thrust into the starting role after Case Keenum and Cotton Turner were both lost for the season, Piland did about as well as anyone could expect a young freshman to do.
Piland completed 201 of 345 passes for 2,641 yards and 24 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. Last season Piland had the distinct privilege of sitting and learning behind Keenum and now with a full spring to prepare as the starter he feels ready to move forward.
"We've definitely made progress since the first scrimmage," Piland said. "We've all come together as players as well with the coaches. We all have a better understanding of where everyone will be on the field at a certain time."
"We'll focus on the things that we saw in the spring and work on everything that needs to be fixed before fall comes around," he added.
As one of Piland's potential targets, Spencer is confident heading into the fall and is ready to contribute for the Cougars in 2012.
"I feel real good about myself," Spencer said. "I still have a lot to work on, but I feel pretty good about myself."
After spending 2011 as a reserve, Spencer is ready and willing to accept a starting role.
"I feel like I'm a starter," he said. "But I still have to work to get better though."
While the offense will feature some new faces in starting roles, it looks as though Piland and Spencer have already developed some chemistry over the course of the spring and could prove to be a lethal connection come September.