Everyone around Houston is looking forward to the opener against Oklahoma, another chance to beat a national power, but the coaches know this isn’t the end all be all. At the Texas High School Coaches Association convention in San Antonio Monday, head coach Tom Herman, offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, and defensive coordinator Todd Orlando were all on the same page. This is a new team, this isn’t 2015.
“We continue to talk to our team that it was last years team. That was the 2015 Houston Cougars and for the next eight months they are talking about the Peach Bowl and we are getting ready to play a team that was told they were that close,” Major Applewhite told the media on Monday.” We tell them we need to work on the here and now like today. Lets not worry about this or that but worry on getting better.”
On the offensive side of the ball they return starting quarterback Greg Ward Jr. who threw for 2,828 yards and rushed for 1,108 yards combining to score 38 touchdowns. Ward broke out onto the national scene with his dual threat ability and Applewhite only expects him to get better.
“Greg Ward Jr. is special. The two things that Coach (Tom) Herman and I have talked about with Greg in the offseason are his awareness and mobility in the pocket. Knowing when to move and when not to move and then leadership.” Applewhite said of his quarterback.
Ward Jr. will lose his top target Demarcus Ayers who was drafted No.229 in the NFL Draft to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ayers led the Cougars with 1,222 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Players that can help replace Ayers are Steven Dunbar, Linell Bonner and Oklahoma State transfer Ra’shad Samples.
Last year’s 13-1 season capped off with a 38-24 win against Florida State in the Peach Bowl brought the Cougars to national prominence. Under first year head coach Tom Herman brought a swagger to the Cougars that Houston hasn’t seen in a long time.
Comfort usually sets in after a season and that is exactly what Herman is feeling.
“There is a lot less uncertainty this year, last year was hey, are we doing the right thing every day, going to the right place, eating the right stuff, training the right way, all that stuff, so now it’s a honed in focus that these are the expectations of the program and do not deviate.”
Defensively the Cougars are losing a lot, including William Jackson III and leading tackler Elandon Roberts. Houston does have a five-star prospect Ed Oliver who will need to earn his reps but the coaches are excited about him.
Houston should have a prolific offense once again this season, so scoring points won’t be an issue. The defense could get off to a slow start with all the players leaving and new players taking on different roles, but Tom Herman and staff will right the ship and be back in the same position as they were in 2015.