Q: What should expectations be for Dana in Year 3? (Joe Broback on twitter)
A: First of all, before I answer Joe’s question, please follow him on twitter and read his excellent work on UH and Group of 5 football at Underdog Dynasty.
It bears repeating that a number of things out of Holgorsen’s control have bled into this: poor evaluation in the 2016-18 classes by Tom Herman and Major Applewhite, brutal 2019-2020 schedules and a global pandemic that made UH’s fall 2020 season especially difficult.
But most of the above can no longer be used as a crutch in 2021. Holgorsen and his staff now have brought in 3 cycles worth of recruits, the team has had an uninterrupted 2021 spring practice and most importantly will have an ideal 2021 schedule.
Not having the likes of Oklahoma or BYU/Zach Wilson on the non-conference schedule and avoiding UCF and Cincy on the regular season conference schedule is a big positive for the win column. This means, if Holgorsen and staff have a mostly healthy roster in 2021, that the wins need to happen and fast.
Here’s my gut reaction for each game on the 2021 UH football schedule:
Texas Tech (at NRG)- W
@ Rice- W
Grambling St- W
@ Tulsa- W
@ Tulane- L
@ USF- W
@ Temple- W
@ UConn- W
I am not wildly confident about a lot of the above. But, UH doesn’t leave the city of Houston for their opening 3 non-conference games and in all likelihood the toughest conference games (SMU and Memphis) will be played at TDECU Stadium. This is in a lot of ways like the 2018 schedule: tailor-made for wins, but also tailor-made for Cougar fan angst if the team stays healthy and can’t find at least 9 wins against the above.
Q: What’s your starting 22 for the fall? And is Dana’s seat getting warm? (EDub on Twitter)
A: To answer the 2nd question first: yes, but not enough to get him fired after the 2021 season barring an extreme circumstance. When you get paid as much as Holgo and his staff do the expectations are going to be unreasonable, though its going to take a lot of money to pay that buyout and that’s why I don’t expect there to be any movement even if UH falls short of expectations in 2021.
And for the first question: hoo boy, let’s see how wrong I can look in 5-6 months…
QB- Clayton Tune
RB- Mulbah Car
WR- Tank Dell
WR- KeSean Carter
WR- Jeremy Singleton
TE- Christian Trahan
LT- Patrick Paul
LG- Max Banes
C- Kody Russey
RG- Tank Jenkins
RT- Dennis Bardwell
DE- David Anenih
DT- Latrell Bankston
NG- Olivier Charles-Pierre
DE- Tre Williams
LB- Donavan Mutin
LB- Deontay Anderson
CB- Damarion Williams
S- Garrison Vaughn
S- Hasaan Hypolite
SAM- Jovanni Stewart
CB- Marcus Jones
Q: So what are the areas of concern for the 2021 football team? (Chris on twitter)
A: I think my top question is the offensive line. You can’t pin all of the problems of the 2019-20 offenses on the offensive line. But if Clayton Tune isn’t getting a clean pocket to throw out of and the running backs aren’t consistently getting good holes to run through, then its hard to really evaluate what this offense can/can’t do. I think its somewhat akin to having a car with serious engine problems. Sure, you might have some other things that need work on your vehicle, but until the engine is fixed none of the other issues can even be evaluated.
For the record, I believe bringing an established, all conference D1 center Kody Russey was the most important move of the offseason and the collective experience from the rest of the unit is intriguing. I wouldn’t be surprised if the staff adds at least one more O lineman from the transfer portal. Still, offensive line is going to be the Coogs’ biggest question mark coming into the season.
Holgorsen also didn’t mince words earlier in spring practice about his dissatisfaction with the Cougar wide receiver group, and I think there are a lot of questions outside of Tank Dell. KeSean Carter comes in with track speed and a solid body of work at Texas Tech, and I’ll be surprised if he’s not starting the opener vs the Red Raiders. Tre’von Bradley, Bryson Smith and Jeremy Singleton all have a good amount of experience, but none of them have proven they can be a consistent difference maker over an entire season. Jaylen Erwin, a grad transfer from UCLA, is likely someone the staff thinks can make an instant impact.
So, to answer the question: offensive line and receivers, in that order.
Q: Do you agree with UH’s OOC (out of conference) scheduling philosophy? (i.e. no 2 for 1s) Who would you like us to schedule in future years? (Jeff on twitter)
A: Yes and no on the scheduling philosophy.
In principle I like that UH, a program by all accounts on the highest end of the ‘Group of 5’ in terms of facilities and budget, would demand equitable arrangements. And while I would rather UH fans get at least a few big profile games as is feasible on the future schedule, I’d rather not have them come due to an inequitable arrangement. These kinds of 2-for-1 arrangements also can have the effect of making future non-conference schedules more difficult than they need to be.
That being said, I can’t imagine UH athletics isn’t hurting a bit financially after a season where attendance for all sports has been significantly limited. If athletics can give itself a little more financial stability with a future arrangement that requires 2 road games against a big-name opponent, I’m in favor of it. To be clear though, UH should be picky about what hypothetical opponent gets this treatment (i.e. not Kansas or Rutgers).
My biggest hope in terms of the future of what UH does as a scheduling philosophy is dramatically fewer games at NRG Stadium. Is this because I am still irrationally angry UH took a September non-conference game against Washington State and put it in a half empty NRG? Maybe. But, save for the 2016 season opener against Oklahoma there’s no good reason to take away a home game at TDECU Stadium. This program waited its entire existence up to 2014 for a nice, on-campus home stadium and it’s a shame to miss any opportunity to play games there.
Acknowledging that the top of the list is always going to be the various former Texas SWC opponents that now make up a large chunk of the Big 12 and have seemingly lost our number, here is my semi(ish)-realistic wish list:
· Arkansas- It gives the Hogs a chance to play a game in front of the family and friends of the numerous Texas and Houston area players on their roster. I went to Fayetteville for a UH men’s basketball game in 2016 and I liked the town and most of the home fans I came across. It’d be a winnable non-conference game for UH, but also an opponent that has started to figure things out under 2nd year HC Sam Pittman.
· Georgia- Getting any upper tier SEC team on the schedule is a bit of a challenge, but I’d be over the moon to see a UH game in Athens. Also, in the right year this could absolutely be a tailor-made Cougar upset. You’d likely have to play the UH home game at NRG, but this is an opponent I’d be willing to do that for in the coming years.
· Colorado- Sure, the Coogs would have a bit of a disadvantage with the altitude in Boulder, but Folsom Field is one of the most picturesque venues in American sports, sitting in the shadow of the Flatirons. Also, the Buffs are rarely good enough for this to be an automatic loss, so this hypothetical series has both a decent win probability and a cool destination attached to it.
· UNLV- I can be selfish for one of these can’t I? The Runnin’ Rebels have recruited Texas a good amount recently, including 3 Houston area signees (5 total from Texas) in their 2021 class, and would get a chance to promise current/future Lone Star state recruits a game their families won’t have to fly or drive 20+ hours to attend. Plus, it gives Cougar fans an excuse to travel to Vegas, see the Raiders new weirdly futuristic stadium and me a chance to only drive 5-6 minutes and see my alma mater’s football team get an easy victory in my current city of residence.
· UTEP- Purely because I want to see the Coogs hand Dana Dimel a decisive loss.
Q: Your starting 5 for [UH men's basketball]? Also, I want UH men’s ice hockey. (Rene on twitter) &
As of right now with the basketball team looking set besides those 1 or 2 spots of the chart right now, who do you see being the starting 5 for next year? (Bryson on facebook)
A: I figured I would kill 2 birds with one stone and answer these 2 questions together.
Here it goes:
· G- Marcus Sasser
· G- Tramon Mark
· G- Kyler Edwards
· F- Fabian White Jr
· C- Josh Carlton
There is a lot of of unknown there, I think Taze Moore could work his way into the starting 5 and I don’t expect Reggie Chaney will be easily displaced by the incoming Carlton. But, gun to my head this is the starting 5 I’d expect in the fall.
Also, ice hockey would a blast if it became an intercollegiate sport here. It would also likely mean UH would join the the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), a D1 hockey conference that includes a college from Alabama (UA-Huntsville) and 2 colleges from Alaska (UA-Anchorage and UA-Fairbanks).
The thought of a hypothetical UH hockey road trip to Fairbanks, Alaska when its -50-60 in the winter sounds like some combination of the best and worst UH road trip ever.
Q: If we were to get UH men’s ice hockey, what should be the name of the support group for the program (like the ‘50/50 Club’ for basketball and ‘Dugout Club’ for baseball)? (Sean on twitter)
A: The Zamboni 'Zupporters.
That name has everything, and by ‘everything’ I mean the first hockey pun I could think of.
Q: Which [UH men’s basketball] incoming transfer will have the biggest impact? (Moises on twitter)
A: Kyler Edwards.
I don’t believe Edwards would have left Texas Tech or turned down a chance to play under Chris Beard at the cow college in Austin if he didn’t believe he could play a significant role for the Cougars.
What Edwards does well offensively, namely 3-point shooting, is an area of considerable need next season with the departure of Quentin Grimes. Edwards shot a hair under 42% on 3-pointers this season against a tough strength of schedule and went 5-11 from deep in the Red Raiders’ 2 NCAA tournament games. I’m going to avoid the direct Grimes comparisons, but I expect Edwards will be asked to do a number of the things Grimes did this past season.
Q: Is there any possibilities still of schedule change for the football season? Like an upgrade of an opponent? Or is the schedule set in stone barring any COVID situations? Any chance of a Baylor matchup in future years? (JHC on twitter)
A: If I had to guess, no. The schedule we see now is the schedule we’re going to get in the fall of this year. I’ll be curious what the public health situation looks like in terms of % of the US population vaccinated and new COVID-19 cases, but I expect at worst significant decrease in the number of unexpected cancellations and at best, a return to something like college football normalcy.
I also don’t think the football staff is dying to make the non-conference any more difficult. If they were, you probably wouldn’t have seen the late addition to the schedule of a UConn football program that hasn’t more than 3 games since 2015. And in this season, I get it. The fanbase is hungry for wins and like it or not, college football doesn’t incentivize strength of schedule nearly as much as raw win totals. Ideally, we’d get Baylor and at least a couple other juicy non-conference opponents on the future schedule. If I had to guess the future Baylor game(s) that had been bandied about when the Bears were added to the 2020 schedule aren’t going to end up happening.
One of the only positives of the 2020 season was that we saw a fluid schedule that gave us a classic like BYU vs Coastal Carolina, but I doubt short term games like that become anything close to the norm.
Q: Next season if you could have A or B (not both) what would you choose? A. 10 wins in football (bowl can be inclusive). B. College World Series berth in baseball. Aside from preference, which do you think is more likely to happen? (Daniel on facebook)
A: If I am understanding the first part of the question correctly and I could choose either of those options, I would choose option B and see the Coogs in a College World Series. The first sporting events as a child that I actually wanted to attend were Rice baseball games my Dad took me to in the mid-90s, so I have a specific soft spot for college baseball. I’ve had plenty of awesome experiences following Cougar baseball, but seeing the program go to Omaha would top all of that and mean a whole lot more than getting a mid-tier bowl berth for a 10-win football season.
However, if we take out preference, I think it is significantly more likely we see a 10-win Cougar football team than a Cougar baseball program capable of going to Omaha next season. Baseball is going to have to improve dramatically just to be a team capable of making the NCAA Tournament in 2022, much less be one of the last 8 teams standing in the sport’s postseason.
Q: With the continued struggles of the baseball team, are changes on the horizon? Odds the football team makes a run at the conference title this year? (Jordan on facebook)
A: If you’re talking changes in the immediate future, I’d highly doubt it. Todd Whitting played an enormous role in the fundraising that made it possible to upgrade the field, scoreboard and build a standalone baseball team facility. Those kinds of improvements, added to the on-field success of the program from 2014-18, buy you time to get things turned around. And I think Whitting has earned leeway to get this thing figured out.
However, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are significant staff and roster changes after this season is done, and if there isn’t a noticeably improved squad in 2022 I wouldn’t be surprised if a larger change happens.
As for the football team, I believe the odds are pretty good they can make a run at the conference title. Cincy is the far and away deserved favorite in the AAC. But after them, there are lots of questions. UCF has the talent, but they’ll be making significant scheme changes in year 1 under Malzahn. SMU has to figure out life without their face of the program QB Shane Buechele. I don’t buy Memphis under Ryan Silverfield, especially not with significant losses from their 2020 roster. Tulane and Tulsa are interesting dark horses, but neither is a sure thing.
I have my doubts that UH can hang for 60 minutes with Cincy and what they return for 2021. But with this much uncertainty in the league outside of Cincy, I like UH’s chances to end up in the championship game more than the odds makers do.
Q: Who’s more incompetent, the Rockets or Texans? (Rene on twitter).
A: Easy, Texans.
At least the Rockets were a serious contender for the sport’s championship as recently as 2018. This has never been the case for the Texans, not to mention the bizarre Rasputin-like hold former C-grade youth pastor Jack Easterby has on Texans ownership.
Q: What are your guys’ SUPER LEAGUE #opinions? (Anthony on twitter)
A: We’re in favor of it, and I assume people generally liked the idea of the Super League, right? Oh well, no time to check into that any further!
(Also, check out Anthony’s handiwork on the Bulluminati Podcast and with our USF friends at The Daily Stampede).