The Cougars Are Ready to Play Some Football
The Houston Cougars of 2013 were a bit different than the more recent iterations of the Cougar football team. The offense still scored lots and lots of points behind a flashy quarterback and a quick moving offense. But there was a noted focus on the improved, physical running game. And where once the defense tried to stay out of the way of the offense, last year's Cougars featured an outstanding defensive unit that was one of the country's best.
Stephen Pinchback/Houston Athletics Communications UH's John O'Korn just moments before unleashing a TD pass in last season's game versus Southern
The Cougars finished 8-5 last season, but there were a lot of close losses, a lot of games lost because of mental mistakes, missed blocks, or missed tackles. This year's team returns many of last season's key players on both sides of the ball, and with practice starting up last weekend, the coaches are eager to get work and get the team ready to start the season on August 29 against UTSA.
So as the Cougars get into practice, readying for that first game, here are some early keys for the start of the season.
SETTLED QB SITUATION
John O'Korn started the season backing up incumbent David Piland. But after Piland's career was ended by repeated concussions, O'Korn became the big man on campus, leading all true freshman with 28 touchdown passes (2nd in the ACC to Teddy Bridgewater's 31). He passed for 3117 yards, and hit the 300-plus yard mark in three games. But O'Korn was a freshman, and at times he played as such. He missed reads at times, wasn't always sure of the game situation, and had issues with fumbling when he ran with the ball.
"As a coach, we didn't give him the entire playbook as a true freshman who was the backup entering game one and game two and thrown into the fire starting game three," head coach Tony Levine said Saturday. "Now, we are able to give him our entire playbook."
The coaches brag as much about O'Korn's intelligence as they do his passing ability. He spent time this summer at the Manning Passing Academy (a type of grad school for college QBs), and he bulked up, gaining weight and strength. He's no longer the high school quarterback stepping up to college. He's the college QB looking to lead his team to glory.
"He looks like a college quarterback and acts like a college quarterback," said offensive coordinator Travis Bush on Saturday. "You can see the confidence. You can see him understand more. There are some light bulbs going off in his head; he's understanding the defense more. He feels confident, and he has a different sense about himself right now."