The will he/won’t he regarding Ed Oliver took yet another twist Friday, both literally and figuratively.
A knee injury suffered last month had sidelined Oliver for four straight games, leading some to speculate that the All-American defensive tackle was sidelining himself in order to protect his draft stock. A heated sideline dustup with his head coach last week, for which Oliver later apologized, led some to opine that Oliver would indeed shut it down for good at the collegiate level.
However, a report surfaced last week that Oliver was expected to play in Houston’s game Friday against Memphis that would decide the AAC West title. Oliver did indeed play for the first time in more than a month, although his playing time was truncated as he aggravated the injury in the second quarter and was sidelined for the entire second half of what turned out to be a 52-31 loss to the Tigers.
After the game, Major Applewhite stated that the in-game setback would have Oliver returning in 2-3 weeks, enough time for the lineman to recover and play in the Cougars’ bowl game. And, according to Oliver, he has no plans on shutting it down. Probably. Maybe.
“As far as I know right now, yeah,” Oliver said when asked if he will play in whichever postseason game for which the Cougars qualify. “I want to play every game.”
Obviously, Oliver’s availability will very likely be decided the closer it gets to UH’s bowl game.
Double-teamed most times — and even triple-teamed on occasion — Oliver was held sack-less through the first five games of this season. The last two in which he played, however, he was credited with three — two against East Carolina, one against Navy. It was in that latter game in which he was injured.
In March of this year, Oliver announced that the 2018 season would be his last at the collegiate level as he will leave the Cougars early and make himself available for the 2019 NFL draft, where he is widely projected to be a Top Five selection at worst.
After a consensus Freshman All-American season that saw him land on numerous first-team All-American squads, Oliver was a consensus All-American in a 2017 season that saw him become the first underclassman to win the Outland Trophy in the 70-year history of the award.
In his first two seasons with the Cougars, the 6-3, 290-pound Oliver had totaled 39.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. In addition to the three sacks, Oliver has 13.5 tackles for loss this season; his 1.9 tackles for loss were tied for third nationally prior to his injury.