It’s been a frustrating season for Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver. After being named a consensus all-American as a sophomore in 2017, he announced before this season even began that he planned to depart for the NFL after his junior campaign, only to be felled by a knee injury against Navy on Oct. 20. He hasn’t played since, and during Thursday night’s game against Tulane, ESPN’s cameras caught him getting into a sideline argument with Cougars Coach Major Applewhite over a coat, of all things.
Just before halftime, Applewhite told Oliver to remove a heavy team coat that apparently is reserved for active players. As the team was heading to the locker room, Oliver had words for his coach and had to be restrained by Rod Grace, the team’s director of sports performance.
Oliver did not return for the second half and was not made available to reporters after the game, according to the Houston Chronicle. Applewhite, meanwhile, tried to play down the incident.
“He got emotional, but he’s young and that’s what happens,” he said, per the Associated Press. “And he’s not playing. That’s hard. That’s difficult. I don’t hold anything against anyone. I’m just going to visit with him about it. I love him. I want him to be a part of our team. I want him to be with our team.”
Applewhite added that he had told other nonactive players to take off the coats. The AP says it was around 50 degrees during the game.
“I’m trying to be fair,” he said.
Oliver is projected to be a top 10 pick in next year’s draft, though he slid down from No. 2 to No. 7 on Mel Kiper’s latest Big Board, which came out Wednesday. Considering that he’s already declared his intention to leave for the NFL, one has to think his knee injury is weighing heavily on him: He suffered it on a blatant, non-penalized chop block by Navy’s offensive line during their game on Oct. 20.
It was far from the first time Oliver’s knees had been targeted by opposing offensive linemen. Last season against Temple, he suffered a sprained MCL on a low block.
Houston closes out the regular season at Memphis on Nov. 23 and will play in the AAC title game if it wins that one and SMU loses one of its final two games. Considering everything that’s happened this season, however, no one should be surprised if Oliver continues to sit things out, though Applewhite says the door is open.
“We’re always ready for him to come back,” he said.
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