THE AAC REPORT.

AAC preview: With a new coach at the helm, the Houston Cougars should be one of the top teams in the conference

On the heels of another season, The University of Houston is set to begin another year of College Football on Sunday, as the Cougars open their 2019 schedule against the No. 4 ranked team in the country, the Oklahoma Sooners. While some may overlook the significance of the non-conference match, Sunday's kickoff at The Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, OK will mark the beginning of a new era for Houston.

After a disappointing year that saw the team go 8-5, the Cougars made some significant changes to their program in 2019, but none more important than the hiring of Dana Holgorsen. Holgorsen, 48, comes to the University of Houston after severing eight years as the head coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers, where he turned the football program into one of the most respected schools in the Big 12 Conference, with a 61-41 record.

And much like his time in West Virginia, one should expect Holgorsen to transform Houston's football program into one of the top teams in the American Athletic Conference starting this season.

Players to watch

QB D'Eriq King

One of the factors that could make the Cougars a dangerous team this season is the talent Holgorsen has one his team, starting with senior quarterback, D'Eriq King. The 5'11 quarterback from Manvel, Texas had a breakout season in 2018 here he recorded 2982 passing yards and 36 touchdowns, on 345 attempts. It is also worth mentioning that Kings rushed for a career-high 674 yards on 111 carries.

Since signing with Houston in 2016, Kings has always displayed the talents as a top tear quarterback, but 2019 maybe his year to finally led the Cougars to an AAC championship title. He is one of 30 quarterbacks listed in the this year's Manning Award Watch List, as well as ranked 40th overall in ESPN's 2019 Top 50 College Players in 2019. If King can live up to the high preseason expectations, the Cougars can easily become one of the top football teams in all the nation.

WR Marquez Stevenson

After a slow start to his freshman season, Houston's wideout, Marquez Stevenson, had an explosive year in 2018. As a sophomore, Stevenson posted career-highs across the boards with 1019 receiving yards, 75 catches, and nine touchdowns. Last season, he was the only receiver to record over 1,000 yards, and as he heads into his junior season, one should expect Stevenson to solidify himself as one of the top wideouts in the American Athletic Conference.

RB Patrick Carr

Houston's running back, Patrick Carr, is heading into his final year as the starting running back for the Cougars, and one should expect another great season from the Woodlands native. Last year, Carr led all players in rushing with 868 and five touchdowns. With competition for the starting position in the backfield coming from Kyle Porter, a transfer from Texas, Carr will be on high alert not to lose his starting spot in his senior season.

LB Isaiah Chambers

Despite having one of the best defensive players in Ed Oliver, the Cougars had one of the worst defensive teams in all of college football last season. It was the worst statistical seasons in school history, recording 483 points allowed, giving up 6,454 total yards, and 42 rushing touchdowns. However, under coach Holgorsen, it is safe to say that Houston's defense will undergo a major improvement in 2019, and a huge factor in their turn around will be linebacker, Isaiah Chambers.

Chambers' 2018 season ended prematurely due to a knee injury, but now healthy, one should expect Chamber to have a major impact on Houston's defense. Prior to the injury, Chamber got off to a nice start with 4.5 sacks in the first five games.

CB Damarion Williams

Another player that will make a positive impact on Houston's defense is cornerback back, Damarion Williams. Although this is his first season playing D-1 football, Williams addition to the team may be one of the most underrated acquisitions of the offseason. As a member of the NJCAA All-America First Team at Highland Community College, Williams led the nation with seven interceptions and 17 pass breakups.

Although he will be facing a higher level of competition in the AAC, Williams' talent will be enough to keep the Cougars from giving up another 6,454 in total yards.

Key Games

  • The University of Houston at Tulane, Thursday, September 19th.
  • SMU at The University of Houston, Thursday, October 24th.
  • Memphis at The University of Houston, Saturday, November 16th

Predictions

Behind the three-headed monster of King, Stevenson, and Carr, the Houston Cougars will have one of the most explosive offenses in all of college football this season. Unfortunately, Houston's play on the defensive side of the ball will remain their Achilles heel throughout 2019. If new head coach Dana Holgorsen can help the Cougars' defense become an above average defensive team, expect Houston to be a serious contender to take home the American Athletic Conference championship this year.

Staying with the Coogs

5 quick thoughts on Kelvin Sampson's new deal with UH

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UH basketball coach Kelvin Sampson, fresh off a Sweet 16 appearance with the Cougars, agreed to a contract extension to stay with the team. The deal is reportedly six years for $18 million.

Despite rumors of a possible move to Arkansas, the final result was almost a certainty. A look at five reasons why the deal got done:

1) Family first

Sampson's family has become a big part of the program. His daughter works for the school. His son, Kellen, is an assistant coach at the school and will be named head coach in waiting. That does not mean he will be the next coach. His name has come up for head coaching jobs in the past, and he could easily get an opportunity before his father retires. The younger Sampson is very well respected. For now, however, the band is being kept together.

2) Age

At 63, Sampson might not have another rebuild in him. He will be almost 70 when the contract expires. Is there a chance he still leaves at some point? Absolutely. But the reality is a move at this stage does not make a lot of sense. He likes it at UH, he has brand spanking new facilities to play in, and now he is being compensated at a high level.

3) The future

Sampson has proven he can compete for Final Fours at Houston, and he will have a terrific team returning next season. Yes, he loses starting guards Corey Davis Jr. and Galen Robinson, Jr., but there are players waiting in the wings who will continue to develop under Sampson. Armani Brooks returns, and Dejon Jarreau should take on a bigger role. Nate Hinton was a highly regarded recruit who should improve. Incoming guard Caleb Mills comes with a ton of hype. Sampson has already called him the best offensive player he has recruited to Houston. Next year should be another good one.

4) UH is serious

The Cougars are not afraid to spend money. They gave a big deal to Dana Holgorsen to boost the football program, and now Sampson is being paid like an elite coach. They have a new football stadium and the revamped Fertitta Center, plus practice facilities that would make a lot of bigger schools jealous. The school wants to win and Sampson has the support he needs.

5) Different world

Sampson's path to a title might be just as strong at Houston as it is at an SEC school. NCAA hoops is not always dominated by the big conferences, and the ACC is not a bad group. Besides UH, UCF has built both its football and basketball programs into powerhouses. Memphis has a top recruiting class coming in. Previous powers Wichita State and UConn have excellent traditions. Cincinnati is a year-in, year-out tourney team. The Cougars can win in this conference and win big. Meanwhile, Sampson's staying also boosts the quality of basketball in the state. Chris Beard is in the Final Four with Tech. A&M just added a world-class coach in Buzz Williams. Baylor is a perennial tournament team. Jamie Dixon had TCU competitive but appears to be leaving for UCLA. Even with that, the state of Texas now boosts three high-profile coaches and the future looks bright.

Especially for Sampson and UH.

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