HOUSTON, Texas - Looking to return the storied Cougar program to national prominence, University of Houston head football coach Art Briles took a significant step towards restoring the glory, as he announced today the UH program has signed 22 student-athletes to National Letters of Intent and one to a Statement of Financial Aid. Included in the Class of 2005 are 26 who call the state of Texas home as well as four who are already enrolled at the University.
Entering his third year as the head coach of the Cougar program, Briles feels he found a nice mix of incoming freshmen and junior-college transfers that will help him return Houston to a postseason bowl game after a one-year hiatus.
"We're really excited about the direction we are heading," Briles said. "We're getting guys that really fit into the mold of players we want to get here at the University of Houston, academically and athletically and also character-wise. We have rounded up a good group of guys that are serious about being a good student as well as serious about being a good football player with some self confidence, some self discipline and with some direction in their lives. "What we have to do is take what we have on campus. We have to mold them, groom them and get them to understand the way college life works as well as the attitude and effort it takes to be a great football player and get them on the field to win for the University of Houston."
This year's class is comprised of 23 high school standouts and four transfers from the junior-college ranks. Still, only one, defensive back Kellan Yancy from Los Angeles Pierce Junior College, hails from outside the Lone Star State, a clear objective from what Briles and his staff endeavor to achieve during the recruiting wars.
"We have a lot of coaches out there (in the state of Texas) working with us in the high school community," Briles added, "but we're always going to heavily recruit Texas. We may go with one or two outside the state, but we live in Texas, we make our living in Texas, so we are going to recruit Texas kids."
Joining Yancy from the Juco ranks is Kenneth Atkins, a linebacker from Bakersfield College by way of Alief Hastings High School in the Greater Houston area. Atkins was a high school teammate of current UH wide receiver Donnie Avery.
The final two junior-college signees are familiar with Briles and his program philosophy. Saddleback College defensive end Scott Lee, who was the lone signee of a Statement of Financial Aid, played for Briles at Stephenville High School, while Da'Vell Lauder, also a defensive end but from Merced College, was a member of Briles' original signing class back in 2003 but went the junior college route after his days at Smiley High School in Houston.
Again, the Cougar coaching staff stretched the borders of the state in securing the future of Houston football, signing athletes from West Texas to the Golden Triangle. Eleven members of this year's group hail from the Greater Houston area, including the Yates High School tandem of defensive back Quinte Williams and defensive lineman Quentin Smith. Joining the Yates duo are Dickinson High School offensive lineman Carl Barnett, defensive back Brandon Brinkley from Bay City High School, offensive lineman Matt Hart from Huffman-Hargrave High School, defensive lineman Andrew Jones from Columbia High School, long snapper Norbie Juist from Strake Jesuit Prepatory, tight end Barry Laird from Baytown Lee High School, kicker/punter Garrett LeFevre of Klein Collins High School, linebacker Chris Mitchell from Westfield High School and wide receiver T.J. Scranton from Hitchcock High School.
From the Metroplex the Cougars added the Allen High School pair of offensive lineman Jerrod Butler and wide receiver Brennan Gleason. From the Dallas/Fort Worth area Houston also signed wide receiver Chris Gilbert from Hillcrest High School, wide receiver Jeff Moturi from Irving MacArthur High School, defensive lineman Anthony Roulette from Garland Forest High School and quarterback Clint Walraven from Alvarado High School.
The Golden Triangle area produced UH signees Broderick Bean, a defensive back from Kirbyville High School, and Justin Washington, an offensive lineman from Port Arthur Memorial High School. As mentioned, four of the signees are already enrolled at UH this spring. Joseph, Walraven and Williams all graduated early from high school, while Yancy transferred in last month from his California junior college.
Two UH newcomers (Chris Gilbert and Barry Laird) are following in the footsteps of their brothers, current Cougars Ryan Gilbert and Justin Laird; however, the two younger brothers will be playing different positions than their siblings currently play.
Houston is scheduled to begin spring practice on Monday, March 21, with the annual spring rite-of-passage culminating in the Red and White Game on Saturday, April 16, at John O'Quinn Field at Robertson Stadium. The Cougars-who return 44 lettermen and 17 starters from last season's squad-will kick off the 2005 campaign by playing host to the University of Oregon on national television on Thursday, September 1, at Reliant Stadium.