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UCLA Football: Previewing the Houston Cougars - Part 2 - Defense and Special Teams

JetSki will try to keep his Heisman campaign going against a poor Houston defense.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
JetSki will try to keep his Heisman campaign going against a poor Houston defense. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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We've already previewed the Houston Cougars coaching staff and offense here. The defense is led by coordinator Jaime Bryant, who is making the switch from the 3-4 scheme. Houston ran last year to the 4-3. As was the case last year, the defense is undersized, and relies on quickness and penetration. The results have not been good this year, and the Cougars are giving up over 6 yards per play and 43 points per game despite starting the season against Texas State and Louisiana Tech.

We'll take a look at the players on the defensive side of the ball as well as the special teams after the jump.

Defensive Line

The Cougar defensive line's switch from a three man front to a four man front has not been pretty. Houston is giving up nearly 250 rushing yards per game. Despite the poor play, Houston has some experience along the line, and it's probably only a matter of time before the line play improves.

Inside, Houston starts Sr. Dominic Miller (6'4 295 lbs.) and Sr. Radermon Scypion (6'3 278 lbs.). Miller started at the nose most of last season after transferring from Blinn CC. Scypion only played in 7 games last year due to injuries, but he moved up the depth chart with a good spring. Behind them, So. Joey Mbu (6'2 310 lbs.) and Fr. Tomme Mark (6'3 265 lbs.) will get into the rotation.

Outside, Jr. Zeke Riser (6'4 255 lbs.) returns and will be bookended with Sr. Lloyd Allen (6'4 240 lbs.). Riser struggled somewhat last year after having a good freshman season, and Allen is another junior college transfer who had a good spring and moved up the depth chart.


The strength of last year's Cougar defense was the linebacking corps, and despite losing all-conference linebackers Sammy Brown and Marcus McGraw, the linebackers may still be the strength of the defense. Overall, it's a small, quick unit that relies on speed over power. While the numbers have not been great this year, this is a unit with good physical ability and lateral quickness.

The leader of the unit is Sr. Phillip Steward (6'2 220 lbs.), who will play on the strongside. Steward is second on the team with 26 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss. He's good in coverage too, as evidenced by last year's 6 interceptions to go along with his 77 tackles.

On the weakside, So. Derrick Matthews (6'0 207 lbs.) starts and is backed up by Jr. George Bamfo (5'11 211 lbs.). Matthews leads the team in tackles with 27, and also has 7 tackles for loss and 2 sacks.

Inside, Sr. Everett Daniels (6'0 223 lbs.) has struggled, tallying only 10 tackles to date. Jr. Austin Wilson (6'0 222 lbs.), but he has yet to record a tackle this season after playing in 11 games last year.


Last season, Houston broke in a completely new secondary. They started two JC transfers at cornerback and had a mix-match group in the secondary.

At corner, one of the JC transfers really shined. Sr. D.J. Hayden (6'0 185 lbs.) tallied 66 tackles and two interceptions. He will start again this year, while the other transfer, Sr. Chevy Bennett (6'1 185 lbs.) will provide depth, and actually started at FS against Louisiana Tech. Opposite Hayden, Jr. Zach McMillian (5'10 172 lbs.) starts. McMillian already has 18 tackles this season, while Hayden isn't far behind with 15. Fr. Trevon Stewart (5'9 183 lbs.) and Jr. Thomas Bates (5'10 177 lbs.)

Jr. Kent Brooks (5'11 214 lbs.) returns as the starting FS after starting last season as a sophomore. His listed back-up is Sr. Jeffrey Lewis (5'9 187 lbs.), but as noted above, Chevy Bennett started at FS last week. Like much of the Houston defense, Brooks is undersized. Don't let his size fool you though, Brooks has a reputation of being a big hitter.

The strong safety spot is manned by another Sr. Chris Chermin (5'11 187 lbs.). Chermin won the job during spring practice despite never previously having more than 3 tackles in a season. He's backed up by RSFr. Earl Foster (6'1 185 lbs.).

Special Teams

Houston returns Sr. kicker Matt Hogan and Jr. punter Richie Leone. Both have performed well, despite the fact that they are not used much. Hogan was 13-17 on field goal attempts last year, and is 4-4 this year. Leone averages 49 yards per punt this season, and has averaged over 41 yards per punt most of his career.

The Cougar return game lost dynamic returnmen Tyron Carrier and Patrick Edwards to graduation. In their place, Fr. Ryan Jackson (5'11 175 lbs.) and Jr. ewayne Peace (5'11 186 lbs.) take their place. They have not been able to do much this year, with Jackson averaging under 20 yards per kick return and Peace at only 6.5 yards per punt return.

That concludes the Houston Cougars preview. Fire away with any additional thoughts and