Ed Oliver is one of the best defensive players in college football and he's still so young. If he can stay healthy, and that's hard to do playing with his motor inside, he's a pretty sure bet for All-American status and other post season awards. He's an athlete in the same vein as a Warren Sapp but with a physicality and mean streak rarely seen in combination. He can hurt you in so many ways. He penetrates with speed and quickness, bull rushes, and even if he doesn't get back to the quarterback he plays somewhat akin to a volleyball middle blocker, batting balls at the line.
What is Oliver's ceiling? We don't know, if he gets much better he'll be one of the great interior lineman in recent memory. Think Ndamukong Sun but, you know, less of a dick. By the way Houston ranked 2nd in yards per rush allowed behind Alabama. That's an elite of elite level of smothering the ground game.
Jerard Carter started nine games at defensive end last season. At 6-3 and 297 pounds, he's got the girth for a 3-4 defensive end. He's from just across I-45 from Oliver's high school stomping grounds, having played at Spring Dekaney. Nick Thurman will get the start at the other defensive end. He's 6-4, 290 pounds. Thurman made five starts as a junior. Zach Vaughn looks like he'll be a rotation player in 2017 after starting once in 2016. At 6-5, 280 Chauntez Jackson is on the all hotel lobby team, but he missed 2016. If he can contribute that's a huge bonus.
The Cougars were stung in June when the NCAA refused to clear 4-star defensive end Bryan Jones. Jones could have plugged in and may have been a starter by seasons end. His potential was immense and he was the jewel of Major Applewhite's first recruiting class.
Houston received some good news when A&M transfer Reggie Chevis announced he was heading to 3rd Ward as a graduate transfer. Chevis is a nice rotation player who never got enough playing time at A&M after moving positions a couple of times. Aymiel Fleming is listed as Oliver's backup coming out of spring ball. There's obviously a big drop off between one of the best defensive linemen in the country and his backup.