Going into this season there are a lot of variables drawing attention to the Cougars aside from just the game of football. The coaching staff is confident that they have prepared their student athletes to properly deal with the hype stemming from the TDECU Stadium that has the ability to house 40,000 fans and will hopefully add to Houston’s home field advantage even more so than Robertson Stadium undoubtedly did in the past.
“I think I’ve said this before, but a word I dislike is the word ‘distractions’; while we’ve got great excitement for being in the new stadium, we’ve got a specific schedule in place to where we are going to get over there as many times as we can before the first game to make sure our guys are comfortable with where we are dressing, how we are coming out, where the bus is dropping us off so again that does not become a distraction when we get there for the first game,” Levine said.
Something that is no longer new to the football program this season is the starting quarterback John O’ Korn. The coaching staff can admit that the main reason for so many close games last year may have been attributed to “inexperience” in some of the younger players across the board on both offense and defense. Now these same players are returning with game time experience, specifically O’ Korn who has transformed into a college level quarterback in front of our very eyes.
On O’ Korn’s progress and literal growth, Levine said: “He’s had a tremendous offseason. He faced Vanderbilt in the bowl game at 196 pounds. I said two weeks ago he weighed 220 pounds. He actually texted me a picture three days ago of a scale and it said 222 pounds. I assumed he was standing on the scale; I can’t verify that.”
Offensive coordinator, Travis Bush, addressed the difficulties of facing our own 3rd Ward defense in order to prepare the offense for game time situations. Bush continues to stress that there’s “no substitute for experience”. There is no lack of offensive weapons this season, leaving O’ Korn with plenty of options to get the ball in the end zone.
“The hardest part right now is trying to find a way to get everyone the football and keep them all happy. We feel good about putting the ball in the hands of all four of our starting wideouts. We have two tailbacks who need to touch the ball; we can do so much with them. And John can do some things with the ball. It’s not a bad problem to have, but we are excited to get out there and find ways to get these guys the football,” Bush said.
Returning vets Deontay Greenberry and Daniel Spencer are looking forward to working more with O’ Korn and the feeling is mutual.
“We have so many great weapons, so much experience coming back, and I’m just really excited to see what those guys do with the football,” O’ Korn said.
This type of relationship between players creates an intangible necessity for a successful season that that cannot be coached, and that is team chemistry.
As defensive coordinator, David Gibbs prepares last year’s squad of leaders in turnovers for the 2014 season he points out that fans can be distracted by an impressive turnover ratio and miss the bigger problems that are potentially arising on defense. Gibbs shared that he firmly believes “success breeds confidence” when it comes to the 3rd Ward defense and is optimistic that fans can expect an impressive turnover margin once again, while also fixing some of the mistakes from last season.
“The good news is all those guys that created the turnovers are back, and a lot of the turnovers are created by the players themselves. There are no fancy drills, there are not master plays… we had 100 coaches come through here asking how did you get so many turnovers. The truth is it’s the players,” Gibbs said.
Senior leaders like Rowdy Harper have expressed that they are humbled to be the first team to call TDECU stadium home and leave their mark on UH history.
“As a senior you never want to go out on a bad note and a bad season, so to have as good of a team as we have this year as long as we put it together, it’s really exciting to know that we have the chance to do something big,” Harper said.
The seniors on the 2014 roster have been through a great deal of change during their time as UH student athletes and are deserving of a positive and consistent ending to their college careers.