Houston Cougars defensive back Gervarrius Owens during UH’s game against Texas Tech on Sept. 10 in Lubbock. (Courtesy Houston Athletics)
The Houston Cougars football team’s defensive back group underwent a significant change heading into the 2022 season.
After losing cornerstones Marcus Jones and Damarion Williams, both of whom are now currently on NFL rosters, the Cougars felt confident about Alex Hogan, Art Green, Gervarrius Owens, Hasaan Hypolite and Jayce Rogers, stepping into bigger roles in the secondary. All five players have been the stability of the group, defensive coordinator Doug Belk said on Tuesday.
However, Houston has had struggles in the secondary at times through the first three games of the season, and they have also had bright moments. The inconsistency is what the team is seeking to end, head coach Dana Holgorsen said.
“It’s never easy replacing those guys,” Belk said. “You kind of just develop guys to increase their role when guys like them leave because their skill sets are different.”
Development has been an area of concern when it comes to UH’s defensive backs, Holgorsen said on Monday. The team has not developed the depth that he was aiming to have three games into the season at that position, the head coach said.
For Belk, the defensive backs group is still young and needs to be brought along. Outside of the five stabilizers, the Houston Cougars have tried to bring younger players and those that have not played a lot of reps with Houston along by playing them in spurts. Green said it is a process.
When Green first got to the program, he was behind Jones and “Pepe” Williams. Green’s mindset was to learn as much as he could from both of them, he said. Green saw how they approached the game, how they prepared for games and how detailed they were during games, Green said. He would try to copy everything they did but with his own twist, he added.
Now as a key contributor for Houston, Green said he has the confidence in himself to perform, which is crucial for a player’s success. Green likes the defensive back room Houston currently has. A lot of the players have picked up things faster than he did when he was in their shoes, Green said.
“That’s the biggest thing with young guys, giving them confidence,” Green said.
Owens said the Houston Cougars have a talented secondary, and they just have to put it together and go out and show it.
“We’ve been making plays but we’ve also been giving up little stuff,” Owens said. “Over time, that little stuff starts to add up when not enough plays are being made.”
As Houston enters its Week 4 matchup against Rice, the secondary will be challenged again by quarterback TJ McMahon, who gives the Owls a spark with a strong arm, Belk said.
“We just got to keep coaching them and keep getting opportunities for those guys to get reps,” Belk said. “We have to play better consistently to be able to use those guys and put them in positions to be successful.”
For Green, his message to the defensive backs when they get it in the game is to stay within the plan and not look for the homerun play on every down.
“Don’t try to go out there and be a hero or nothing because the best way to do this is just do your job,” Green said. “The plays will come to you, just keep doing your job and your opportunity will come.”