‘Tis the season to be jolly and if you’re a college football player it’s the season for postseason honors and the time to add additional hardware to the trophy case. For Houston Cougars All American sophomore defensive linemen Ed Oliver, Christmas came a few weeks early when he was recently awarded the Outland Trophy.
Since 1946 the Outland Trophy has been awarded to the top interior lineman in college football by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).
Oliver, a 6-foot-3, 290-pound former Spring Westfield High School product, is the first Houston player to receive the Outland Trophy, as well as the first sophomore to ever win the award. Oliver is the fourth defensive tackle to win the trophy since 2007, following Pitt’s Aaron Donald (2013), Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh (2009) and LSU’s Glenn Dorsey (2007).
“Ed Oliver is one of the rising young stars in college football,” said FWAA President Dave Jones. “On the defensive line he is prolific. He is one of the most aggressive defenders in college football who someday will be in the National Football League.”
Oliver is UH’s third major award winner, following in the footsteps of Andre Ware, the 1989 Heisman Trophy winner, and 1976 Lombardi Trophy winner Wilson Whitley. Oliver has also been named the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and was named a Walter Camp First Team All-American, Houston’s first such honor since Andre Ware earned the honor in 1989.
In 2017, Oliver recorded 5.5 sacks, 14.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, three pass breakups and seven quarterback hurries. Playing the nose spot in a three-man front, Oliver has totaled 69 tackles in 11 games this season, despite missing three quarters of one game and being limited in the next four with a knee injury.
For Cougar head coach Major Applewhite, Oliver’s accolade is no surprise.
“I’m not surprised. He’s the best lineman in college football. It is not even close,” Applewhite said. “Ed is just a tremendous player. He has a lot of great physical skill. He works to hone those skills every day. He is a technician. He has a 3.2 GPA over his first semesters and you don’t have to worry about him off the field.”
If you think Oliver’s own coach is biased, AAC conference rival Memphis head coach Mike Norvell offers his opinion.
“Defensively, it all starts with their defensive tackle, Ed Oliver, who I think is probably the most impactful player in our conference, and one of the most impactful defensive linemen in the country,” Norvell said.
“At any of the schools I’ve coached at, if we were playing this young man, I’d say he’s one of the best defensive linemen, regardless of conference, regardless of where they are; he’s a phenomenal player,” Norvell said.
“And when you take a phenomenal player and you surround him with so many other explosive athletes that can create problems with their defensive scheme, it leads you to some sleepless nights.”