Zach McMillian Ready to Lead Defense in 2013 for Houston Cougars

By Tyler Brett
Brett Davis – USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Cougars are making the move up to the Big East in 2013, and they’re coming off a decidedly disappointing 5-7 effort in 2012. One of the culprits for their struggles a year ago was a porous defense that ranked No. 115 in college football. New defensive coordinator David Gibbs has a plan to turn things around in 2013 and that plan revolves around veteran cornerback Zach McMillian.

McMillian is the elder of a secondary that was hopelessly young last year and returns as their leader in 2013 looking to improve things after posting five interceptions in 2012. He is leading a talented group that gained some valuable experience last year with playmakers like Derrick Mathews and Trevon Stewart. They will get some help from Eric Eiland moving down to defensive line as well to get a better pass rush. In all, the changes will help to lead the Cougars into their new conference next fall.

The issues that took Houston down last year was a lack of confidence, according to McMillian. Young players trying to catch up to the speed of the college game were stuck out there thinking about what they needed to do rather than believing in their athleticism and reacting to what was happening in front of them. With the level of play elevating in 2013, McMillian knows that slow play will get the Cougars buried in a hurry.

One way they’ll overcome that next season is the experience of the returning players. There won’t be the wide-eyed uncertainty that plagued them last year because they now have a year of playing time under their belt. Gibbs is helping out his defense as well as simplifying things down significantly. They will still bring many of the same looks and have most of the same reads, but the wrinkles that caused confusion a year ago have been cut down.

The combination of experience and fewer things to think about will allow Houston to play faster and looser in 2013, freeing up their playmakers to stop thinking so much and just go out to play football. Zach McMillian will lead the way for the Cougars’ secondary, but will his leadership be enough for Houston to make some noise in the Big East next fall?

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