Feb. 5, 2014
HOUSTON - With a recruiting class heavily concentrated on the Houston area, University of Houston Football head coach Tony Levine announced a signing class of 24 student-athletes on National Signing Day, Wednesday.
The 24 signees consist of 22 student-athletes from Texas, 13 from the greater Houston area, and one each from Louisiana and Oklahoma. The class is comprised of 23 high school student-athletes and one junior college transfer.
"Certainly an exciting and great day for our program. We definitely feel like our program got better today," said Levine. "I'd like to recognize our support staff and our assistant coaches for the job they did. To say this is a 12-month process is really an understatement."
The defensive-heavy class is led by six defensive linemen and six defensive backs. The Cougars also add two linebackers on the defensive side of the ball.
Offensively, five wide receivers lead the group followed by three offensive linemen with one each from the quarterback and running back positions.
"I'd also like to recognize the faculty, professors and staff of the University of Houston. Dr. Renu Khator has done a fantastic job in her time here. Our student body is over 30,000 strong, and she makes it feel like such a family atmosphere on campus when young men and their families come to visit us," added Levine. "The people that know me, know how important family is to me. The way we run our program, the word family is right at the top of our list of priorities. It's an identity that we have nationally."
Physically, a larger class than some Houston fans may be accustomed to, every position group has an average height of at least six feet. The six defensive linemen own an average height of 6-4 with an average weight of 267 while the three offensive linemen have the same average height with an average weight of 291.
Height is also the theme among the wide receivers as the group of five has an average height of 6-3.
Two signees have already joined the Houston Football program - freshman QB Bear Fenimore from Westwood HS in Austin and junior OL Carter Wall, a Richmond, Texas, native who attended Navarro JC.
With signing day complete, Levine and the Houston program turn their attention to spring practice which starts on Monday, March 3.
2014 SEASON TICKETS
Houston fans can currently place deposits for 2014 season tickets, the first in the new Houston Football Stadium, at UHCougars.com. A $50 deposit will allow fans to participate in the Season Ticket Select-A-Seat process in the spring of 2014. The $50 deposit is not a fee and will go towards the cost of season tickets. 2014 Season tickets in the new stadium begin at just $140.
Tony Levine Quotes
“Certainly an exciting and great day for our program. We definitely feel like our program got better today. I’d like to recognize our support staff and our assistant coaches for the job they did. To say this is a 12-month process is really an understatement. The last couple of weeks we’ve been actively recruiting some high school juniors. It’s a process that really never ends. They certainly do a great job in all aspects of this process, from identifying young men to establishing great sincere relationships with them as well.
“I’d also like to recognize the faculty, professors and staff of the University of Houston. Dr. (Renu) Khator has done a fantastic job in her time here. Our student body is over 30,000 strong, and she makes it feel like such a family atmosphere on campus when young men and their families come, and visit us officially for 48 hours over the course of a weekend. The people that know me know how important family is to me. The way we run our program, the word family is right at the top of our list of priorities. It’s an identity that we have nationally.
“When we have recruiting weekends, we have two academic meetings; one on Friday and one early Saturday morning. We always have anywhere from 12-15 or 16 professors volunteer their time, come over, spend time with our recruited student-athletes and their families. They answer questions, and talk about specific majors. Just them coming over here and volunteering their time means so much, not only to our program, but to these young men and their families that are trying to make these impactful lifelong decisions. So again, I want to thank our University of Houston faculty, staff and professors for their sincere efforts and the passion they have for our program, and the University of Houston.
“We’re really excited about this class. Maybe a little bit different than in years past for a couple of reasons. When you look at us, today we signed 24 student-athletes to national letters of intent. Twenty-two of the 24 are from the state of Texas, and 13 of those 22 are from the greater Houston area. Where they live is basically within an hour of Houston. A big advantage is we are able to get in our vehicles, not only for us to be able to drive around to see young men and their families, and get to high schools, but over the course of summer when we have camps, or even during the course of the season when we play games, or even having practice during the week, it’s an advantage for us where because of where we’re located, student athletes can get in their car, and have a family member or coach drive them over here to see campus unofficially.
“One thing we’ve talked about for a couple of years now was the need to look at the component of size. That’s something we’ve continued to address and we’ve done that again in this year’s class. When you look at the 24 young men we’ve signed, 22 of their height starts with the number six. At the receiver position we signed five wide outs. Four are listed at 6-3 and one is 6-1. As you come to learn, and know more about these young men, they’re certainly not lacking speed.
“I stood up here a year ago, and talked candidly about how we didn’t think we were done with last year’s recruiting class. Last year, months after national signing day, we added William Jackson, Markeith Ambles, Marcus Dillard and Lee Hightower. Where I stand today, we may have one or two more spots available that could join this class. Whether that happens in a month or three or four months, I’m not sure. I don’t anticipate being the numbers that it was last year at this time.
“The other thing you notice about this class is of the 24 young men; Carter Wall is the only junior college transfer. He’s an offensive lineman from Navarro. So the other 23 are all out of high school.
“One thing that I think made this year a little unique was the change in recruiting rules that went into effect this past fall which affected contact and dead periods in December and January. Basically for years you would have three weeks in December and January of contact period. You could basically go out and recruit and see young men and their families. They eliminated one week in December and January. You had the first two weeks of December, and the last two weeks of January. That was a great rule for coaches and their families. It gave them more time off the road; making those weeks called dead periods where you can’t be on the road, to spend with their families. It certainly affected the recruited student athletes as well, so that over the holidays and into January they weren’t bombarded as much by recruiters.
“I’m excited about this class, and looking forward to them getting here at the end of May, and starting summer school Tuesday, June 3. I’m really excited about the depth that this class is going to provide to the program. A lot of people outside of our program were not aware that you’re allowed to have 85 student-athletes on full scholarship, and this past season we had 75. We were actually 10 under the allotment that you’re allowed to have, which might have been a little bit of bad news during the season in terms of depth, but what it did was allowed us to sign a full class moving forward. We were able to make up those 10 scholarships in this class, and I anticipate us being at a full 85 at the start of next season.”
On if there is potential for 2014 signees to play as freshmen
“I don’t think it’s fair to rank a recruiting class on national signing day. With the past two recruiting classes, I stood up here on national signing day very confident that they were great classes, as I am today that this is a great class. Now two years later from our 2012 class and a year from our 2013 class, it’s been confirmed to us inside our program that those are great classes. You look at from a couple years ago, Trevon Stewart, I’ll just name a few, Adrian McDonald, Tomme Mark, Steven Taylor, Deontay Greenberry, Ryan Jackson, the list goes on from that class of young men. We looked at the list as a staff the other day; there are two young men from the 2012 signing class that started for us this past season. Then you look at last year’s class; Greg Ward, Tyus Bowser, John O’Korn, Markeith Ambles, Trevor Harris, Tyler McCloskey, William Jackson and the list goes on from last year’s class as well. We know those were outstanding classes. Again, as I stand here today, I have the same confidence that I did the last two years when I stood here about this class. We don’t look at what a young man is ranked in terms of stars; we don’t look at who’s offered him. We talk to countless people in the school, we talk to opposing coaches since they see them on film, they may have friends on that staff that they share things with. You know once we get a great feel for them, if they fit what were looking for in all areas, and then were going to recruit them. Again very confident today as I have been the past two years for the class we signed this morning.”
On signing three from Fort Bend Hightower
“I think it was very important. I don’t know how many commitments we had at that time, but I know it was early last summer and we had them and their families over here together and we extended the scholarship offers at that time and they committed a day or two later. When you look at bringing in 13 young men from the greater Houston area in one class. When you talk about, I’m going on my seventh year total in the program, four as an assistant and I’ve been in the city a long time and I’ve recruited as an assistant and have seen young men like Joey Mbu who was recruited by one school, University of Houston, and he’s going to leave here as a three-year starter and is going to be a senior next year. I’ve seen young men in my six years here that wanted to come here that were not recruited by one school and were recruited the last week of signing, and last week of recruiting, got a random offer thrown at them because a program maybe lost someone else or took a shot at this young man and I know one in particular that is going to be a first-round draft pick in the next couple of months. That was right here in the city and he was not recruited by anyone so that is a big advantage, and I think we made a statement this year if you will. I know feedback our coaches got, and I got as well, from other college coaches and high school coaches in the city of Houston was very complimentary on the job we did this year in the city of Houston. I think that the tradition and type of program that Hightower is, which is a program recognized not only in the state of Texas, but one of the top programs nationally. To get three young men from that program I think was great for our program. I think it speaks for Hightower’s program as well.”
On the importance of recruiting in the state of Texas
“A few years we did a study and 112 high school seniors signed FBS football scholarships, so it’s very heavily recruited. If you ever wanted to have a college coaching convention, you could do it right here in Houston some time from September to January because the vast majority of the programs in the nation fly into Intercontinental or Hobby in December and January and they’re going all over the city of Houston to try and find men to recruit to their programs. So it’s certainly challenging. We’ve got great things to obviously offer. Our education, living in the city, the climate, moving to the American Athletic Conference, a new stadium coming up, new practice fields and the list goes on. When you’re able to talk to a young mam when there is over 1,205 young men that are going to sign a FBS scholarship, we feel that we will be able to find 10-15 who understand the importance of family. When they score a couple of touchdowns in our brand new stadium, or accept a couple of passes after the game is over and we win the game, we want to walk out of our brand new stadium and have their family there and not have to have their family at home watching it on television. Again we feel like we are going to be very successful in doing that.”
On emphasis on certain positions
“We do two things in recruiting, we look at our current roster by position and we come up with our ideal number for each position on scholarship including defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs. Within that we break it down specifically; corner, safety, defensive end, interior guy on defensive line, or rush defensive end and the same thing on offense. Receivers are broken down inside and outside, running backs, quarterbacks and offensive line. So we look at our roster and based off those numbers we make a decision every year like for example, we made the decision for next year’s class on what we will look for in positions when recruiting. We go out and say were going to sign one quarterback, one running back, five receivers and we go down through the list of how many we will take at each position. Based on our numbers on our roster, it determines what were going to sign in each year’s class. When you look at defensive line for instance, and again it’s not secret, we’ve talked about this before that it’s been a challenge to recruit defensive linemen to the University of Houston and I think we did an outstanding job of that this year in athleticism and size. You look at guys that are playing for us and I think Coach Logo did a fantastic job last year and rotated nine young men on the defensive line and none of those nine were seniors but this coming year will be seniors. Jeremiah Farley, Joey Mbu, Eric Braswell. So now here’s the next way guys will have the opportunity to come in and get in the weight room, learn our schemes, techniques and then as Jeremiah, Joey and Eric and some of these other guys like Trevor Harris graduate, we’ve got the depth that we’ve need number wise to be successful.”
On only signing one running back
“That’s where again looking at our roster, Ryan Jackson will be a junior, Kenneth Farrell will be a junior, Javin Webb redshirted this past year, then you got Kaliq Kokuma coming in. You’re going to have Tyler McCloskey, who’s on scholarship, at fullback, and Luke Stice who is as well so we’ve got some numbers there. Again to have four tailbacks on scholarship is where I want to be.”
On Kaliq Kokuma
“He’s fine. Kaliq is fine.”
On the physical size of this year’s signing class
“Well it’s a couple of things. We’ve talked about it for a few years now and have been addressing it in recruiting the past couple of classes knowing we are transitioning to a more physical conference. We saw it this year. There were games we lined up in some of the teams that were in the Big East for a number of years that had tremendous size across the board and I’m not talking about just defensive line and offensive line. They had bigger receivers and bigger defensive backs so that’s something we began addressing a couple of years ago. We will always take some guys like Cameron Malveaux from a couple of years ago who was 6-6 and 211 when he signed with us and I just looked at our weight chart the other day and he is 270 now and still 6-6. So we will take guys like that that we will know will develop, whether it is genetically or if they have the frame. We feel like that is important moving forward and we are not going to neglect speed. Guys that can run but can add some size across the board as well.”
On John O’Korn impacting the 2014 class
“John O’Korn did impact this class in a number of ways. He was a young man a year ago that came on his visits and unofficial visits, started building relationships with guys getting recruited. We’ve got a great group of men in our program. When recruits would come, one of the biggest selling points, well not really selling points because it happens naturally. By rule you’re allowed to have one of your current football student-athletes and a recruit on a visit and we tell the recruits and their families to pick any one of our current football student-athletes over the weekend, whether it’s at a meal or a function or and event, pull them aside and ask them about life here at the University of Houston. Ask them what we are like. I say that I don’t care who you pick. We don’t prep them like “Hey you’re going to get asked this.” Go ask one of our guys how they like it here and how they like to be apart of our program. John hosted on the recruiting weekends. Greg Ward also hosted on the recruiting weekends. We’ve got a great group of kids around to answer questions. Who you see is what they are. I don’t know what the public perception is but I can guess that they see them as people and that’s who they are. They’re great young men, and high of character. I had a father on the recruiting weekend who had his son who received another eight offers and was just firm that they were going to the University of Houston. He pulled me aside, saying “Coach I watched a couple of your games this past season on ESPN and just the way your men carried themselves was a selling point.” He’s not talking about how they tackled or caught passes, but how they carried themselves. He mentioned a couple a young men by name as well. The guys we have currently, and some who have a high profile like Greg Ward and John O’Korn certainly impact the recruiting class every year.”
On if people outside of the program would be surprised at the quality of players signed
“What we’re getting from people outside the program is not surprised, but complimentary. Not only do we have outstanding athletes but great young men. They have character, work ethic and they’re leaders in their schools. We walk into these schools and we spend as much as time as we need to go talk to the librarian, the counselor, the woman at the front desk of the school that takes your driver’s license and gives you a name tag, assistant coaches, the people in the cafeteria and other students. You’re doing research on what type of person they are. I wouldn’t say they’re surprised, but very complementary.”
On the signing of QB Bear Fenimore
“Bear Fenimore enrolled in January and is here already. He’s a number of things. I’ll start with this; he’s a football junky. He absolutely loves the game. He’s very instinctive. He’s a leader. He’s only been here a in our program a short time. He’s been here a month and he’s being surrounded by our current guys who are obviously older than him. He should be finishing out his senior year of high school. He’s very accurate when he throws the football. I can’t say enough about his knowledge when it comes to the game itself. We start spring practice in three weeks, and it will be fun for him. We don’t want him to feel overwhelmed. All of the sudden he went from playing in high school a couple of months ago, and should be getting ready to go to the prom here in a few months, but instead he’s going to be taking a snap with Trevor Harris and Tyus Bowser coming off both edges. So, we’re really excited about him. We did a lot of research on Bear. He’s a young man that, as all these guys are, really wanted to be here. I can’t say enough great things. It was certainly a big benefit based on the position. At first he committed and then he said he was going to graduate in December. It was a big benefit for him to be here and go through spring practice with us.”
On if there is a weakness from last year that this class can help make stronger
“Statistically, the guys that are returning from last year to this season, the numbers are staggering in terms of how much production we have returning next season. What this class does provide is now we’ll be at 85 scholarships so it provides immediate depth in terms of numbers. In my time here we’ve averaged playing 10 true freshmen every year, and it will be interesting with everybody returning to see which of these young men come in mentally and physically ready to play as a true freshman, and who comes in and redshirts next season.”
On how much more confident he is with the direction of this program now that he has a few of his own recruiting classes
“We feel great about the direction and future of the program. One, when you look at this class, and only taking one junior college transfer, and the rest being young men coming out of high school, that is to me how you develop the program for the long term. So, while we look back at this last season, and you saw sophomores and freshmen scoring touchdowns and you look up here next fall, and all of a sudden the guys that we’ve been talking about the last two years are going to juniors and seniors. So, now you’ve got this class of 23 coming from high school, where if they’re ready to play we’ll play them, and if not it’s a great opportunity to develop our program to be consistent for the long term. You have an opportunity to get some guys in here. It’s amazing when you look at the young men that come in and play as true freshmen, that didn’t have a chance to go through your program with a year under their belt; it’s amazing the improvement they make from year one to year two. The proof of that is Deontay Greenberry. What he did this past season compared to his freshman year. The more guys you’re able to redshirt, the better your program is going to be in the long term. We’re excited to see some young men that were true freshman this past year and redshirted.”
On how the new facilities helped recruiting
“They helped tremendously. It was unique in that we have the new practice fields, the new stadium coming up and the new conference this past year, and the new TV deal so that we were on an ESPN family every week. It was almost the perfect storm and then certainly winning eight games and playing in a January bowl game really capped all that off. It was a great combination of things new around here. The black jerseys we wore on Halloween, and the day after Thanksgiving were a big deal for young men. It just generated more buzz. There’s a lot to be said when you have all of that combined with the season we have, that really helped solidify this class.”
On the addition of the new coaches
“We’ve got three new coaches to our program. All on the offensive side of the ball. Coach Gordy Shaw is a veteran offensive line coach. He’s been at a number of different places. He was actually the offensive line coach at the University of Minnesota when I played there. He was there for 15 or 16 years. He was there with Coach Jim Wacker, and then stayed on with Coach Glen Mason through his tenure as well. He’s a great person, and a great teacher, and somebody who is very loyal. When you look at his body of work and see he’s coached draft picks, and national award winners, but the thing that stands out more than anything is when you talk to guys that have played for him, how he cares about the young men is the first thing they talk to you about. He’s a great addition to our staff.
“Tony Jeffery is our new outside receiver coach. Coach Jeffery is from Houston originally. He’s a unique story that you sometimes see in recruiting. He was a very talented high school quarterback at the University of Texas. They recruited him there as a receiver and played wide out for them and special teams. He coached there as a quality control assistant for three or four years, and then from there he went to UTSA where he coached the all of the receivers for the past four years. He’s an excellent teacher and a rising star in this profession.
“The third coach who is new is Coach Dan Hammerschmidt. He’s our new running backs coach. Coach Hammerschmidt has been around. He’s got a great coaching style. He’s got a dry sense of humor but when you get on the field he’s very intense. For most of the time in his career he’s been on the offensive side of the football. Most recently the last two years he was with the Texans as an offensive assistant. He brings a wealth of knowledge offensively. Great x’s and o’s guy, a great person, and a tireless recruiter.”