The Houston Cougars are making the move to the Big East in 2013 and they’re bringing a new defense with them. David Gibbs has been hired as the new defensive coordinator and will work to put his stamp on the Cougars’ defense for their inaugural run through their new conference. The key to his success in year one will be defensive end Eric Eiland.
Eiland didn’t come to Houston as a defensive end, though that’s where he’ll line up in 2013. He was recruited as a safety and moved down to linebacker during his freshman season in 2012. He appeared in nine games, making 10 tackles with one sack, an interception and a forced fumble. His appeal to Gibbs’ defensive scheme is going to be his versatility.
The plan for the Cougars next fall is to be able to switch between a 3-4 and 4-3 base defense without having to take anyone off the field. That hybrid player looks to be Eiland who has shown the size to hold up against the run and the ability to drop into coverage as a linebacker, but also has the burst to be an effective pass rusher coming off the edge.
At 6-foot-2, 238 pounds with 4.5 speed, Eiland is a unique combination of athletic gifts that make him the perfect fit for the hybrid role. He flashed what he could do last year in the season finale against the Tulane Green Wave, recording his sack, interception and fumble all in the same game. Houston will ask him to be that disruptive force more consistently in his sophomore season and to do it from multiple positions.
There will be some growing pains as Houston moves into the Big East, but the success of Eiland as a outside linebacker/defensive end in David Gibbs’ new defense will go a long way in easing the transition in 2013.