New UH coach’s first recruiting class thinned by raids
To describe his first signing class, Major Applewhite jokingly went to the old playbook of coachspeak.
“Like 127 other head coaches, this is the greatest class we’ve ever had,” the University of Houston coach said with a laugh.
Then he turned serious.
“I’m not going to fill it with clichés. Good class. Good players. Great families.”
The H-Town Takeover 2.0 did not offer any of the hoopla from a year ago, instead delivering an 18-member class Wednesday that was raided often and mostly came together in the final weeks.
Applewhite, who was promoted to head coach Dec. 9, made a late push with seven commitments over the final 10 days, led by four-star defensive end Bryan Jones from Baton Rouge (La.) Madison Prep Academy and Cypress Ranch linebacker Amaud Willis-Dalton.
UH went heavy on defense with 11 signees, filling needs at defensive line, linebacker and in the secondary.
Along with the versatility for a few players to switch positions, the class also features lots of speed.
“We want to continue to stay fast,” Applewhite said. “We’re going to be physical and we’re going to be tough. We’re going to coach them to be smart. Those are all things you can do as a coach. But you can’t teach fast.”
Applewhite praised the seven players who made decisions early in the process and remained committed to UH after the departure of former coach Tom Herman to Texas.
“Going back around the last week or two and going into homes and talking to players, especially the ones who have been committed for a long time and telling them thank you,” Applewhite said. “That you appreciate them and their family and appreciate their loyalty to their class. There are a lot of things that can get flashed in front of you at the last second and you can fall for it sometimes.”
Lost 9 to Power Five
UH finished with the 68th class nationally, according to the 247Sports Composite, and fourth in the American Athletic Conference.
With the coaching change, the Cougars eventually lost at least nine commits to Power Five programs, including three to UT.
Moving forward, Applewhite said he plans to institute policy “in order to protect ourselves” that will prevent commitments from taking late visits. Atascocita offensive lineman Sam Cosmi (Texas) and Bellaire safety Donovan Stiner (Florida) switched commitments on the final weekend before signing day.
“One thing right now, if you are committed to Houston, you’re not visiting somewhere else the last weekend,” Applewhite said.
UH once again taped into the Tyler John Tyler pipeline for dual-threat quarterback Bryson Smith. It’s the same school that produced quarterback Greg Ward Jr. and linebacker Tyus Bowser.
“It seems like everybody we’ve gotten from John Tyler has been all-conference for us,” Applewhite said. “So I would expect nothing different from Bryson.”
Mansfield Timberview’s David Anenih was “an under-the-radar” prospect who could eventually slide into the outside linebacker spot vacated by the graduation of Bowser. Rockdale running back Davion Ford, who rushed for more than 3,200 yards and 48 touchdowns in his high school career, is a “home run threat” that can be used in multiple ways, running backs coach Kenith Pope said.
Four spots to give
Boling’s Elijah Gooden excelled at running back in high school but is expected to switch to inside linebacker.
“We’ll have to see where he can help the fastest,” Applewhite said.
The Cougars picked up previously uncommitted signees in Westside defensive end Payton Turner and Cleburne athlete Tre’von Bradley.
Four spots remain available, which Applewhite said are available for any potential transfers or fifth-year players to bridge the gap between next year’s class.
“We’re definitely going to go out and get a corner and go after an offensive lineman,” he said.