Houston's Oliver, Applewhite attempt to bury sideline squabble
The Houston Cougars are trying to move forward from a highly publicized sideline shouting match between All-American defensive tackle Ed Oliver and coach Major Applewhite.
Oliver had to be restrained from going after Applewhite right before halftime of Thursday's win over Tulane, apparently enraged when he was told to remove his cold-weather coat. Oliver was inactive due to a knee injury and, per a team rule, only uniformed players are allowed to wear coats on the sideline.
Considered one of the top five prospects and a potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Oliver on Friday released a statement through the school apologizing for his actions.
"Last night is not who I am," said Oliver. "I'm very passionate about the game of football and last night there was a misunderstanding. I was caught in an emotional moment. I have the utmost respect for Coach Applewhite and I appreciate the support of Coach Applewhite and my teammates during this time.
"I love my brothers, my team and my city and I'm looking forward to moving forward with them together. Go Coogs!"
Oliver, who missed his fourth consecutive game due to a knee injury, is the reigning Outland Trophy winner as the nation's best interior lineman.
Applewhite, who attempted to downplay the incident after the game and explained that he just wanted Oliver to follow the team rules, released a statement of his own on Friday.
"Ed is a passionate human being, and that is why he is the best player in the country," said Applewhite. "Last night was not indicative of his character and it was a passionate moment within our program. We can, and we will, both learn from this situation as we move forward together."
Oliver has not played since he suffered a right knee injury against Navy on Oct. 20. He attempted to return against SMU earlier this month but he was scratched when he felt discomfort in the knee during pregame warmups.
The first underclassman to win the Outland Trophy and a consensus All-American last season, Oliver had never missed a game in his three-year career before sitting out against South Florida last month.
After he announced in March that he will leave the Cougars following the 2018 season, Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com ranked Oliver as the No. 1 prospect in the 2019 draft in his latest Big Board ratings.
Rang wrote that Oliver "has arguably been the most consistent difference-maker in college football regardless of position" during his time at Houston.
In his first two seasons with the Cougars, the 6-foot-3, 290-pound Oliver had 39.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. He has 13.5 tackles for loss and three sacks.
Despite sitting out four games, Oliver earlier this week was among eight semifinalists announced for this year's Outland Trophy.