Houston's Ed Oliver expected to play vs. Memphis, source says

HOUSTON -- All-American defensive tackle Ed Oliver is expected to play when Houston visits Memphis on Friday, a source close to Oliver told ESPN on Monday.

It will be the first time the reigning Outland Trophy winner will play since suffering a bruised knee on Oct. 20 against Navy. Oliver participated in the Cougars' practice on Monday, but to what degree is unclear. He was not available to speak with the media following practice.

Houston coach Major Applewhite said Monday morning that Oliver is "day-to-day."

"It's just the same situation that we've had the last few weeks in terms of getting healthier every week, but he's still day-to-day," Applewhite said. "There have been practices in the last two to three weeks that he's been able to participate in. I wouldn't think that it would be bizarre if he was able to practice this week. Just gonna monitor and look at it day-to-day."

Applewhite also noted that the decision to play is completely up to Oliver. He has missed the past four games after taking a low hit from a Navy offensive lineman. Houston announced that Oliver would play Nov. 3 against SMU, but Oliver did not feel comfortable on the knee after going through pregame warm-ups and opted not to play.

Oliver, a junior who declared in March that he would forego his senior season and enter the 2019 NFL draft, is widely considered to be a top-10 pick. This season, Oliver has 51 tackles and 13.5 tackles for loss but recently fell from No. 2 overall to No. 7 on Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest Big Board after missing a month of action.

His uncertain status in recent weeks coupled with his elite draft status left some to wonder if he should sit out the remainder of the season to avoid aggravating the injury and protect his draft status.

"I'm sure he's talked about it," Applewhite said. "I'm sure that his family has talked about it or people have talked to them about it. We've sat down; we've had several conversations. I see both sides, man.

"You're playing for a championship and you've got guys you love on your team and you're going after it and you want to win a championship. Then, also, you've also spent all this time with your family, years upon years, of being a [projected] NFL superstar, first-round pick, and everybody is involved in it. Not just you, but your family and everybody, and you've worked your butt off for it, and now you are four months from it. So, I see both sides of it ... whatever you decide to do, I'm behind you 100 percent."

Both Applewhite and Oliver have pledged to move forward following their sideline dispute over a jacket during the Cougars' win against Tulane last Thursday.

During the second quarter of Houston's 48-17 win, Applewhite approached Oliver on the sideline before halftime and removed the lineman's jacket from his shoulder. Later, Oliver could be seen shouting at Applewhite as the team walked toward its locker room at halftime and was restrained by Houston director of sports performance Rod Grace.

Oliver said Friday that he was caught in an emotional moment, while Applewhite said they will learn from the incident.