As starting cornerback at the University of Arkansas, Chris Houston faced some of the toughest opponents in all of college football. University of Southern California wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett, University of Tennessee wide receiver Robert Meachem and Louisiana State University wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, some of the most marquee receivers at the collegiate level all faced off against Houston - they all saw a dip in production after their encounter.
Fast, strong and confident, Houston has consistently improved throughout his college football career. In 2004, Houston missed three games with an ankle sprain but finished the season with 21 tackles (16 solo).
In 2005, Houston continued to improve, finishing the year with 20 tackles (15 solo), eight pass deflections and a forced fumble. In 2006, this Razorback was in "hog heaven," finishing the season with 45 tackles (38 solo) and two forced fumbles. He also had three interceptions and 13 deflections. These impressive numbers, coupled with the fact that he was often squaring off against some of the toughest competition in the collegiate arena, helped earn Houston honorable mention All-American honors for the 2006 season.
After completing his junior year, Houston decided to take his talents to the next level. At the 2007 NFL Scouting Combine, Houston demonstrated his potential to succeed beyond college. His time in the 40-yard dash was officially clocked at 4.32, and his impressive performances in strength as well as agility drills have caused his stock to soar.
Houston is blindingly fast. His 40-yard dash time was the fastest for all defensive backs at the combine. His speed should also translate well into a role as a return man, another area in which he excelled during his college career.
Though he lacks ideal height, Houston is solidly built (5-foot-11, 185 pounds) and possesses the necessary strength to outmuscle many opposing receivers. This can be evidenced by his amazing 27 repetitions of 2005 pounds on the bench press. By comparison, Auburn offensive guard Ben Grubbs, who projects as a first-round pick, recorded 29 reps, and he stands 6-foot-2, 311 pounds. Houston's 27 reps was an increase of nine from the next closest cornerback.
Houston's experience should also be an asset as he enters the NFL. His tough schedule at Arkansas and solid performances against some of college football's elite receivers are a promising indication of his potential to succeed at the next level.
Despite his blazing speed, Houston occasionally gets beat on the deep ball due to his tendency to misread routes. His hands are somewhat of a concern, since he had several passes in 2006 he deflected but failed to intercept. Though he is strong, the physical tenacity and focus he displays in pass coverage does not translate well into providing run support.
Although Houston shone against some stiff competition, there were moments during the course of the 2006 season during which he failed to rise to the occasion. In a 26-20 win over the University of South Carolina, Houston was unable to effectively cover South Carolina wide receiver Sidney Rice, who finished the game with an impressive seven receptions for 126 yards and one touchdown. Furthermore, an additional three passes were caught against Houston. Also troubling, he was flagged seven times in 2006 for pass interference.
Houston's jaw-dropping speed and solid showing against some of college football's premier wide receivers make him an intriguing prospect in the upcoming 2007 NFL Draft. He is a little undersized compared to some of the other cornerbacks entering the draft, but his ability to accelerate and match most receivers stride-for-stride make it likely he'll be one of the first three or four defensive backs selected on the first day of the draft. Look for Houston to be drafted toward the end of the first round or the beginning of the second.
About Kevin Fitzpatrick
Kevin has been a KFFL contributor since 2007.
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