COUNTING DOWN

Del Olaleye: The weekly look at college football includes Ed Oliver on a LOT of watch lists

Ed Oliver will be on a lot of watch lists. Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Ed Oliver on all the watch lists

If preseason watch lists are to be believed then Ed Oliver has a shot to be the most decorated defensive player to ever play at the University of Houston. Major college awards won’t be voted on until the end of the season but what Oliver has done in his first two years at Houston put him in a prime to position to have a very successful award season. The Outland, Nagurski, Bednarik, and the Maxwell awards have all listed Oliver as a person to look out for. Houston doesn’t have a game on the schedule this season that will garner the star defensive tackle the type of attention that his first ever game did. There is no Oklahoma for Oliver to dominate in 2018. No top 5 opponent on a national stage to help stake his claim. A great Houston season would certainly help but overwhelming numbers and dominance will be Oliver’s path to a fruitful postseason awards circuit. That path starts Sept. 1 against Rice.

Conference media days are upon us

I don’t particularly care that this week is devoted to conference commissioners and coaches waxing poetic about their conferences and programs. I do care that it is one more landmark in our long trek back to the the start of the college football season. By the end of the week we’ll be about two weeks away from the start of fall practice. I will credit Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby with the line of the week so far. When asked about some Big 12 schools selling alcohol in their stadiums during games, Bowlsby said it might be preferable to having people “power drinking” in the parking lots at halftime. You win, Mr. Bowlsby. You win. That isn’t the only great thing to come out of the Big 12 media days. The SEC has the standard bearer for the our conference is better than your conference slogans with “It just means more.” The Big 12 jumps into the conversation with “Hardest path to the CFP.” Pretty straightforward and somewhat boring. The SEC remains the king when it comes to pretentious conference slogans.

Gary Patterson is against the new transfer rules

The TCU head coach called the recent change that removes the ability of institutions of restrict the movement of college football players stupid. The NCAA now allows players to choose a new institution to transfer to without the player’s current coach or school having much of a say. Schools now have to place a player’s name in a national database within two days of being informed of an intent to transfer. In an interview with Star-Telegram, Patterson cites the ability of players on other teams to recruit a potential transfer as a problem. The Horned Frogs head coach also believes the rule is indicative of modern society, “What we’re teaching our kids to do is quit. I’m not starting. I’m not getting my playing time. Every freshman I’ve ever known wants to transfer because it’s harder than anything else he did in high school.”

I don’t buy a word of what Patterson is saying. The rule makes his job harder and that is his real problem. He winds up snitching on himself when he says this, “As I tell people all the time, at your house you’re going to allow your 17-year-old, 18-year-old to run your household? Let them pay your bills, that’s what you do? No. You don’t do that. So why are we putting our jobs in jeopardy because of an 18-year-old? That’s stupid.” You didn’t birth these players, coach. You’re their football coach. You don’t have custody.

For all the talk about the fall of modern society, Patterson’s outrage comes from a place we all know something about, CYA. As you read more and more of the article it is pretty clear that Patterson’s biggest objection is he’ll have to work harder. He now has less control over the future of the kids who decide to play for him and I’m all for it.



 

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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