Houston QB Case Keenum (photo, thanks Sports-Odds) did not get the national recognition that he deserved last season.
Usually, when QBs throw for over 5000 yards and were responsible for 51 TDs in a season (as Keenum did in 2008), they are showered with accolades from all over the land.
But, for Keenum, many did not think he was the top QB in the city of Houston last year….as Rice QB Chase Clement seemed to get more of the headlines (and the fantasy attention…he was the 2008 Fantasy College Blitz’s Fantasy Player of the Year). Few remember that Keenum was the one named Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year in 2008.
However, 2009 is definitely shaping up to be Keenum’s year…arguably the #1 Fantasy Player in the nation. He has most of his skill position weapons back, a schedule favorable for the Cougar offense, and, Clement has used up his eligibility….
Where do we begin? Naturally, QB Keenum is the star of this offense, and, if he is not the first player taken in your fantasy league draft…he will be the second. When head coach Kevin Sumlin (former Oklahoma OC) arrived last season, he made it a point to not go with the two-QB system used in the past….which meant Keenum no longer shared playing time with the now-departed Blake Joseph. Along with the 5000+ passing yards and 44 TD passes…Keenum rushed for 7 TDs also. Keenum will improve on those totals in 2009.
The big reason Keenum’s numbers will improve is that his skill position talent last season consisted mainly of freshmen and sophomores….they are a year older now. At WR, few teams nationally can match the Cougars talent or production. Led by Tyron Carrier (1026 yards, 9 TD receptions), L.J. Castile (531 yards, 8 TDs), and Patrick Edwards (634 yards, 4 TDs), Houston’s WRs will produce, and, make great draft choices on draft day. (Note: Edwards suffered a gruesome compound leg fracture mid-season 2008, but should be recovered fully for 2009). As if they needed any help, the Cougars WR corps could get a boost from Iowa transfer James Cleveland, who was All Big Ten Freshman team two seasons ago.
In the backfield, the Cougars posses another potential fantasy first-round pick in RB Bryce Beall. As a true freshman last season, Beall rushed for 1247 yards and 13 TDs…while snagging nearly 500 yards receiving and 4 TDs. Even more impressive was that Beall averaged 6.3 yards per rush and 14.6 yards per catch….he is a big-play threat every time he touches the ball. Behind Beall is Andre Kohn, who had 3 rushing TDs and 2 receiving 2 TDs in 2008…and is a draft consideration…especially if Beall should miss action due to injury or Houston blowing out someone early.
The offensive line replaces two starters (both tackles), but should be strong, especially returning sophomore RG Chris Thompson, who was a CUSA All-Frosh team member in 2008. Incoming JUCO RT Roy Watts was one of the top JUCO players in the nation last season.
The kicking game was a little shaky in 2008, but sophomore Jordan Mannisto will start over senior Ben Bell. In this offense, Mannisto will be taken on draft day….as he should be quite busy. On return teams, look for WRs Carrier and Edwards to handle punt and kick returns, respectively
Houston’s defense will not be a fantasy consideration, as they must replace most of the starters from a team that gave up over 30 points per game in 2008. Being in the CUSA West, the Cougars will face the better offenses in the conference, and, they will see many high-scoring games.
Otherwise, I would be a real ass-hat trying to find weaknesses on this solid Cougar team.
PROJECTED SKILL-POSITION DEPTH CHART (Starters in CAPS)
QB: CASE KEENUM, Cotton Turner
RB: BRYCE BEALL, Andre Kohn, Justin Johnson
WR: TYRON CARRIER, L.J. CASTILE, PATRICK EDWARDS, JAMES CLEVELAND, Chaz Rodriguez, Tim Monroe, A.J. Dugat, Kierrie Johnson
PK: JORDAN MANNISTO, Ben Bell
On paper, it looks challenging, with non-conference games at Oklahoma State, Mississippi State, and a home encounter with Texas Tech….but only Miss State is capable of slowing down the Cougar offense. In CUSA games, Houston does travel to Tulsa and UTEP….but the only way they contain the UH attack is by hijacking the team bus on the way to the stadium. The schedule is great for fantasy owners.
HOME GAMES IN CAPS
09/05 NORTHWESTERN STATE
09/12 @Oklahoma State
09/26 TEXAS TECH
10/10 @Mississippi State
10/31 SOUTHERN MISS