After two dominant seasons, the general consensus in the scouting community was that, barring injury, Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver was destined to be a top five pick in the 2019 NFL draft.
Seconds into halftime of Houston's home game Thursday night against Tulane, Oliver challenged that belief, aggressively confronting his own head coach Major Applewhite before being physically restrained by members of the Cougars' staff.
ESPN's sideline reporter Laura Rutledge said on Thursday night's telecast that Oliver's meltdown was due, at least in part, to his being told by Applewhite that could not wear a team jacket, as these were reserved for active players.
Oliver was inactive for Thursday's game - the fourth consecutive game he's missed due to a right knee injury.
Oliver did not return to the field in the second half. The Cougars did not need him, winning 48-17.
While scouts would certainly prefer that top prospects play in games, (not to mention avoid altercations with their head coaches), Oliver is an exceptional talent, offering a combination of quickness and strength as an interior pass rusher that reminds me of Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the reigning defensive MVP.
A blue chip prospect who signed with Houston and then head coach Tom Herman, Oliver immediately lived up to his hype as a true freshman, earning All-American honors with 65 tackles, including 22 for loss and five sacks. Facing constant double teams as a sophomore, Oliver nonetheless boosted his total stops in 2017, posting 73 tackles, including 16.5 tackles for loss and a career-high 5.5 sacks.
After announcing prior to this - his true junior season - that it would be his last as an amateur, Oliver has maintained his stellar pace, recording 51 tackles, including 13.5 for loss and 3.0 sacks prior to the suffering the injury, earning his position as my top-rated prospect in the country.
That position is certainly in peril given Thursday's actions.
Frankly, Oliver is too rare of a talent to slip far. But in a defensive line class as loaded as this one, teams have options, including Ohio State's Nick Bosa or Alabama's Quinnen Williams, two others among this year's exceptional defensive line class that threatens to take the first round hostage.
But Thursday night's reaction will force scouts to dig deeper into Oliver's character, sparking a story line that NFLDraftScout.com follow all the way to the draft.