HOUSTON- With a recruiting class that included 13 Texans, Houston announced 26 signees Wednesday, the first day of the college football letter of intent signing period. In addition to six states being covered, nine different position groups added players.
The class, which is comprised of 20 high school athletes, five junior college transfers and one four-year transfer, is one that leaves Houston head coach Tony Levineelated.
"This is a class that we are excited about as it meets our needs in all areas. We expect each of the 26 we signed to be significant contributors during their career at Houston," said Levine. "I am extremely pleased with the way we were able to finish and close out our class at the end of the recruiting window."
The state of Texas produced the most signees with 13 followed by Louisiana and California with five signees each. Houston signed one player each from the states of Florida, Kansas and New York.
The greatest emphasis in Levine's second class was at defensive back, offensive line and quarterback. Each position produced four signings while UH brought in three wide receivers, three defensive lineman and three linebackers. The Cougars also signed two running backs, two tight ends and one kicker.
"We covered every position group as we continue to build talented depth and improve our roster from top-to-bottom. Competition breeds excellence and we expect to have a number of competitions for playing time across our roster in 2013," said Levine.
Five new players are already on the Houston campus and attending classes. Junior college transfers Trevor Harris (DE) and DB Turon Walker joined early high school graduates D'Juan Hines (QB) and Caleb Tucker (LB) along with a transfer from Morgan State Elandon Roberts (LB).
With signing day complete, Houston now turns its attention to spring practice, which begins on Monday, March 4.
"Thank you all for being here. This is an exciting day for our program. Before I get started, there are a few housekeeping things I would like to go over briefly. We've had some additions to our coaching staff. We added David Gibbs as our defensive coordinator. Doug Meacham is our new offensive coordinator and will coach our quarterbacks. Travis Bush has a new title of co-offensive coordinator and he will be our assistant head coach as well as in charge of running backs. Ken McClintock will move back to Director of Player Personnel. We added Vernon Hargreavesyesterday as linebackers coach.
We will have specific dates and times for our spring practice out very soon, but we will start practice four weeks from Monday on March 4. We will have two practices that Monday the 4th and Wednesday the 6th. We will break for spring break the following week and come back for four straight weeks with Monday, Wednesday and Friday practices. Our spring game is Friday, April 12. All our practices will be completely open to the public.
Turning toward recruiting, we are really excited about the events of this morning and the faxes we received. It's been a year since I stood up here, and it was really a four-week sprint for the 2012 class. This has been a 12-month marathon for this class. We've addressed a lot of needs within our program based on positions. One of the things we tried to do was get more size. We had an issue on the team of being physical and the size of our positions across the board, not just up front. We addressed that with this class and really placed an emphasis on that. We are not going to neglect speed that will always be something we recruit at the University of Houston. We believe that big and fast is better than small and fast and we have a lot more of than in this year's class.
We will always recruit in Texas; that will always be our primary area. When we go out recruiting, we look for a number of things. We look for great students, great athletes, young men with great character and as important as anything, we want young men and their families who want to be here, get their degree here and consider making this their home. We found several who fit that category.
When you look at how this class breaks down, 13 are from the state of Texas, five are from Louisiana, and I think that Louisiana is a state that I believe is under recruited. I look back to getting Trevon Stewartto come here and lead the nation in tackles for freshman and become a freshman All-American, that was a great get for us. To be able to drive into that state and be able to take the three, four or five kids every year that again want to be here is an excellent resource for us.
We have five from California. We are a little heavier this year on junior college transfers than in the past. Felt in some positions we had an immediate need that a 21- or 22-year-old who has played two years of college football can have more of an immediate impact.
We have one from Florida, one from Kansas, who is another junior college transfer, and finally one from New York who is a junior college transfer as well. We've signed five guys mid-year who are already in school and have been here almost a month: defensive end Trevor Harris, who is the junior college transfer from New York and grew up outside of Orlando, Fla. D'Juan Hines who is a quarterback from Dekaney here in Houston. Elandon Roberts from Port Arthur High School who spent last season at Morgan State where he was one of the top freshman linebackers in the nation. Caleb Tucker who is a true freshman and a linebacker from Monroe, La. and Turon Walker, a junior college corner from California.
I really like how the numbers broke down; four defensive backs, four offensive lineman, the average of the four linemen is 6-6 and 329 pounds in three high school young men and a junior college transfer in Damien Parris. Four quarterbacks; D'Juan Hines, who I already mentioned, Greg Ward, who is a tremendous athlete and a winner. You look at us signing four quarterbacks and that may stand out. I'm not sure any other school in the nation did that. That's for a number of reasons. When you look at our team last year and consider numbers at each position, the quantity of scholarships quarterbacks for us was low. We had three quarterbacks on scholarship last season, a sophomore, a redshirt freshman and a true freshman, Crawford Joneswas a walk-on who I put on scholarship prior to the beginning of last season and was a fifth-year senior. We had two scholarship quarterbacks in the last few years leave our program who would have been here which would have put our numbers about right in terms of quantity, not quality. That was an important need for us. When you look across the country, the teams that tend to be winning programs start with the play at quarterback.
All four of these quarterbacks have tremendous leadership skills and ability. We're excited about all four of them. Billy Cosh is the junior college transfer. He started his career at Kansas State, left and went to Butler Community College. They were undefeated until the national championship game this season. He'll be here in June as well as John O'Korn, a high school recruit from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. who yesterday was named the Florida High School Offensive Player of the Year. We're excited about those four coming to our program as well.
In addition, we have three receivers, three defensive linemen, three linebackers, two of which are on campus already, two running backs, two tight ends in Chauntez Jackson and Deandre Skinner and Ty Cummings who has the best leg of any kicker in the country.
Top to bottom we are really excited about this class. It addressed all of our needs. We played nine true freshmen last season, two of the nine were walk-ons that played as true freshmen. We redshirted about 20 freshmen last season.
When you speculate how good a recruiting class it could be, you can't fairly answer until two or three years down the road. You look back at our recruiting class in 2010 and some recruiting experts had it as one of the best in Conference USA on paper and look three years later and over half that class isn't here any longer.
You need to let the class play out. Look back at last year's class, while nine true freshmen played and we redshirted 20, we as coaches having spent the last 12 months with that class. We know how good a class that is at this point and I think over the next year or two you'll really get to see last year's class play out. We'll know the same about this class down the road. I look forward to seeing how today's class plays out, not just this season but for years to come and continues our foundations as we move to the Big East.
We're excited and we'll take a couple of hours off tomorrow morning before we get ready for spring practice and the 2014 recruiting class as well."
On where the QB position stands right now
"We'll go into the spring with a blank depth chart like we did last year. Every position on the football team will be open to grab a starting position and a backup role. We'll see how it plays out through the spring. I would anticipate putting out a two-deep after the spring and regardless of the position, quarterback included, that lineup could change leading up to the beginning of the season."
On how quickly the new recruits will play
"The junior college recruits are an immediate need. They are coming in here some with two years to play and no redshirt year. They're more physically more mature than a 17 or 18-year old at this point. They have to come in more ready to play physically; they have to pick it up at a quick pace to play. With high school kids, it's really hard to say. As an example, we brought in Larry McDuffey from North Shore last year who with his pads on weighed about 145 pounds but ran a 10.5 100 meters. He picked it up extremely mentally, was able to sustain it physically and started for us half the season and was a first team All-Conference freshman. It's hard to speculate on the freshman and really the entire class. You hope the junior college guys come here and our physically ready, pick it up mentally and are ready to play for us this season."
On who the best player is in this signing class
"I go back to two things. One, I'm not going to single anybody out and two, I don't know. Two or three years from now let's see how this class plays itself out. At the University of Houston, we had the best quarterback in the history of college football. Again, Art Briles recruited him (Case Keenum) and I don't know if he knew at that time when he recruited him that we would throw for that many yards and that many touchdowns however many years ago that was. Ask me that in four years and I will know who the best recruit from this signing class is."
On whether national recruiting was a point of emphasis
"It wasn't necessarily a point of emphasis. A number of things played into the process. We wanted to get some immediate help, which is why the junior college number is higher. Jamie Christian came to us last year from Arizona State; he's from California originally and has always recruited the state. He's got great connections there. I believe recruiting is two things. It's evaluating the prospects and then once you decide who you want to recruit it's building those relationships. Coach Christian has done a fantastic job as our entire staff has done. The perception of our program nationally is phenomenal. When a kid from California to John O'Korn in Florida to Trevor Harris in Brooklyn, N.Y., hears that the University of Houston is interested in them, they are immediately humbled, flattered and they're excited. Next thing you konw, you find a connection, build a relationship and they want to come to school and get their degree here."
On the importance of this recruiting class
"Regardless of our record, every class is important. There's not going to be a class that is more important than another. I met Terry Donahue last year and at the end I asked him for his best piece of advice and he said `I'm going to tell you what John Wooden once told me at UCLA. I've seen a lot of bad coaches win with great players but I've never seen a great coach win with bad players.' You have to recruit and there's a lot to be said for that. Players are much more important than the plays. Players make plays. Recruiting is always extremely important to us. We're already moving on to the 2014 class."
On Demarcus Ayers and Tyus Bowser
"Demarcus Ayers is a young man we've been recruiting for a long time and Tyus Bowser as well. I joked with him and his parents, he was hard to get a hold of which may have actually helped us. He was so busy with football and as soon as football ended, he went right into basketball so he was a tough young man to get a hold of. Similar in my mind to a year ago like Ryan Jackson down in Angleton; no one could get a hold of him. We weren't able to get a hold of him, but we weren't far away so we were able to secure his commitment. Those were areas of need for us. Demarcus is primarily a high school quarterback, but knows that he's coming here to play receiver. He played in the Team USA All-Star game and was the Most Valuable Player in a couple of games at receiver, so it's something we've seen him do. We had him in camp; we've recruited him all along. Getting his commitment, whether late or early, we'll definitely take him. He's a great young man and is excited to be here. With Tyus, it's the same thing. Tyus is a defensive end, had 24 sacks last year. He's going to play football and basketball. He's 6-3 and 225. He'll have a chance to here to gain some weight for his frame and really be a dominant force. We had some young men that were recruited that were committed for 10-11 months. Tyus committed to us last night and Demarcus on Monday. It ends up being, in theory, all the same. They all signed today and I think those relationships are extremely important throughout the process."
On implementing tight ends to the Houston offense
"I think you can still be up tempo, no huddle and have a guy in there when you need a yard. You can have a tight end or fullback in there per say and not have four wideouts with a single tailback. That will definitely be something we look to implement offensively."
On recruiting running backs
"Two was our number for running back. It worked out beautifully in this class. That was the number we wanted."
On recruiting against large football programs
"We went against some other big programs and we identified some kids early like John O'Korn, the quarterback. He committed early and had a number of high profile programs, like us, come in and try to get him to visit late. We held on because of the relationship. I mentioned this a year ago when I got the job; we're not going to back down from any programs. We don't negatively recruit at all. We just sell Houston. If a young man is interested in our program and interested in hearing about what we have to offer and what our selling points are, I think you can see the results. We've gone up against some traditionally great programs, lost some, and won our share as well."
On signing within the Houston area
"I do factor in Houston. That's our backyard. It starts there with us. Houston, to me, is the most recruited city in the nation. When I look at the last 12 months, different people have different opinions, I thought with true recruiting and building relationships we lost three guys. I thought there were three guys in this process that committed to Houston, were all excited, had great relationships and we truly lost three guys. Coincidentally all three were from the city of Houston. It's not that we're not recruiting Houston. We've signed three from there this year. I just think it's how it maybe played out this year. It's not that we're not trying to recruit Houston. This spring, we'll be out Monday, April 15. Those five days before TAKS testing, we're going to hit every school that week. We're not going anywhere but Houston. Every school with a seven-seven zip code will have a Houston coach in it those first five days of recruiting. We're going to be back in our office the next week during the TAKS testing and make our early decisions on the city of Houston recruiting wise in 2014. It's a priority for us. We did recruit Houston. Had we not lost those three, we'd be sitting here saying there were six guys from Houston. I'm excited about this class and I'm certainly excited about the student-athletes and prospects in the city."
On candidates for kickoff returns
"I think you'll see a number of young men get an opportunity. That will also be an area we'd like to come out of spring practice with before they get here, kind of knowing who those guys could be. We're going to put more of an emphasis on our return game this spring as well. Hopefully, have that a little more solidified before they get here. Like Ryan Jackson, they will all get a look when they get here in August."
On John Leday
"He had a minor injury his junior year. The way recruiting is going right now, if you don't have a great junior season, you can fly under the radar. I think there's some programs in the state of Texas that have done a great job identifying guys that have great senior seasons and I think we did that with John Leday. I think he's a guy that flew under the radar. He's got a tremendous up side. He's a six-foot receiver, he's long, he can run and he had over a thousand yards receiving this year. We're excited about him."
On if the team will have more tight end packages this year
"If whatever the defense is giving us allows for a tight end to be successful, we'll throw some tight ends in there. At Oklahoma State we jumped in and out of some tight end formations. In the past we had guys like Brandon Pettigrew who was a first rounder. I'm interested in the tight end position and using those guys to create an extra gap to run the football through; especially in short yardage or goal line. It's a good set. If it's working we can do a little bit more of it as we go."
On recruiting the two tight end signees
"It's kind of a dying breed. When you watch tape now everybody's tight ends are split out. When you see a true tight end he's more of like a glorified offensive lineman. It's a difficult position to find. When you recruit that position you're looking for an athletic guy that can stretch the field but also a guy that can set the edge and block. It's a hard combination to find."
On what the offense will look like this year
"There will be some similarities to what they've done in the past and what we did at Oklahoma State. Obviously we have to assess to what we have personnel wise and adapt, but philosophically it's going to be a lot of the same with a few tweaks here and there. Everybody's been at different places and different schools. They've picked up different ways of teaching something that maybe is the same, but they've taught it a little different. We'll have an emphasis on assessing our personnel, and trying to figure out who we are, what our mistakes are and what we can and can't do. We're just trying to develop the offense based around that, and in terms of what my philosophies are."