If we are ranking defensive linemen in the city of Houston, the first two are pretty easy — it goes J.J. Watt, then Jadeveon Clowney. Many would say that Texans nose tackle D.J. Reader is next, but the fact of the matter is, if the parameters are "in the city of Houston," then the third best defensive lineman in town might be University of Houston phenom (and Westfield High School alum) Ed Oliver.
Oliver was the crown jewel recruit of the brief Tom Herman Era, a top five player who chose to stay at home outside the Power Five cartel of schools, and be a quasi-magnet for other good to great players to matriculate to the Third Ward to play college football. If his freshman year proved anything, it's the you can rack up award hardware as both a) a freshman and b) a player in the American Athletic Conference.
If you're keeping track at home (and knowing how football-crazy the hardcore U of H fans are, they may very well have an Oliver Tracker on their refrigerator doors), here's how Oliver's freshman year went:
* First Team All-American on seven teams as a true freshman
* Leads all returning defensive linemen nationally with 23 tackles for loss in 2016
* Finished second nationally among all positions in tackles for loss last season while leading all defensive linemen nationally with nine pass breakups.
* American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year
* Scout’s Freshman of the Year
* Winner of the 2016 Bill Willis Award, presented annually to the nation’s top defensive lineman by the Touchdown Club of Columbus
Not a bad season's work for Oliver, and now the entire nation is taking notice as we head into his sophomore year. This is the time of year when watch lists for major awards and preseason All-American teams begin to trickle out, and frankly, if any of the position specific or "best player" lists are missing Oliver's name, then they are doing heir jobs incorrectly.
Here is the list of outlets that have already recognized Oliver this preseason, and we are just reaching the midpoint of July:
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* Outland Trophy Watch List (Top Lineman)
* Bronko Nagurski Watch List (Top Defensive Player)
* Bednark Award Watch List (Top Defensive Player)
* Maxwell Award Watch List (Top Overall Player)
* Preseason First Team All-American by The Sporting News, Athlon, CollegeFootballNews.com (that I’ve seen so far)
* Named No. 1 defensive player in the nation by Sports Illustrated
* Named No. 4 overall player (offense or defense) in the nation by The Sporting News
Maybe the most unique accolade I've seen for Oliver was in the Pro Football Focus Foundation Draft, in which 32 PFF writers conduct a draft as if the NFL were starting all over again from today forward and teams were drafting from the current group of players walking the planet. The first fifteen picks were quarterbacks, and eventually Watt went 19th and Clowney went 21st. With the 30th selection in that draft, just after All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson, Cam Mellor took Ed Oliver.
See? When I say that Oliver is the third best defensive lineman in the city, that's not hyperbole. The kid is a beast, and a great reason to go check out a U of H game this season.
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