Houston Football Kicks off Spring Practices

    Tony Levine
    Tony Levine
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    March 3, 2014

    HOUSTON - The University of Houston Football program kicked off its 2014 spring season on Monday with a two-hour session at the team's practice facility. 

    Houston returns 45 letterwinners from the 2013 season that saw the Cougars finish 8-5 with a trip to the BBVA Compass Bowl. Twenty-eight players with starting experience return as do leaders in every major stat category outside of punting and field goals.

    Houston returns to practice this Wednesday afternoon before taking the following week off for spring break. The Cougars will open six practices to the public, culminating with the 2014 Spring Game at 6 p.m., Friday, April 11 at Carl Lewis Field. A full practice schedule can be found here.

    2014 FOOTBALL 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 April. 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.

    Levine Press Conference: (Part One) | (Part 2)

    Head coach Tony Levine met with the media prior to Monday's practice:

    Opening Statement
    “Looking forward to getting practice underway this afternoon. We have meetings at 2:45 p.m. and then practice No. 1 will begin at 4:30 p.m. or so. We’ll have a short walk-through ahead of time and be on the field about two hours. This spring, the schedule will look very similar to what last spring’s schedule did which was a first for us in our program in terms of having spring break falling in between the first practice and the 15th opportunity. So we’ll have practice today and Wednesday, next week is spring break, that will be off for our staff and student athletes and we’ll come back after spring break and, by rule, be able to put pads on when we have practice three. The first four practices are going to be very similar to what we’ve done around here in the past in terms of a lot of technique, fundamentals, individual drill work, and then a lot of teaching; A lot of what our student-athletes would say review in terms of instillation. But like we talked as a staff, we’re not going to take anything for granted and we’re not going to make any assumptions. We are going to start from day one and reinstall everything even though we’ve got a vast majority of last year’s team returning. So the first four practices will look like that, the fifth practice will be a scrimmage and then after that fifth practice opportunity, we’re going to change the practices up in terms of what goes on within those two hours. They’ll be much more situational; Some things with down and distance, some things with time remaining in the game, etc. that we feel like we can and need to improve on for the upcoming season. Excited for where the program’s at right now. Our student-athletes have done a tremendous job in the classroom and have been working extremely hard with Coach Odom and Coach Anderson, our strength and conditioning staff, leading up to today.”

    On keeping the same game plan from last season
    “It will be more now than what we did in the month of December offensively. What we’re big on is not doing too much on offense, defense or special teams. What we’ve talked about in all three phases is anything we add this spring on offense, defense or the kicking game; we need to find that equal amount to take away. We need to be careful that, while a vast majority of our student-athletes return from this last season, we don’t all of a sudden assume they know so much and we don’t put too much on their plates. We’re going to very careful in terms of what we add schematically. And if we do, we’re going to reduce in those same areas.”

    On changing schemes due to change in offensive coordinators
    “We are going to work on the tempo, offensively. You’ll see that we’ll have the ability to slow it down if we need to and certainly you’ll see a dramatic change when we increase our tempo from what you saw last season. But, there are a couple things I don’t want to give any of our competitors an advantage if I get too specific in changes we’ll that they did not see in our bowl game.”

    On stability going into this season
    “I’ll always think change is good. It goes back to a meeting with Coach Gibbs and Coach Bush a couple weeks ago saying, ‘starting with practice six, this is what the schedule is going to look like’. Its going to be unlike anything we’ve ever done in the past in terms of when we’re doing things, kind of splitting up our individual periods. We’ll start of with individual for 10 minutes then going to situational for 10 minutes then we’re going back to individual. Just to change it up and really emphasize the understanding of the game. When you look back at last season, in two of the games we lost, we got the ball back in two-minute offense. In three of the games we lost, we got the ball back in what’s called four-minute offense. While it’s certainly encouraging that we’ve got a lot of continuity from last year’s team to this year, it allows us to do some more things, which, in theory, becomes change. But at the same time we are going to redo some things as well. That may be schematically, in practice or things we do in the weight room. We’re excited to have everyone back and feel like we can take a step in the right direction.”

    On the cornerback position
    “We’re going to have great competition, regardless of position. When you look at cornerback and lose multi-year starters in Zach McMillian and Thomas Bates, we’ve got a lot of young men back that played significantly for us this past season and you add into the mix Lee Hightower, transfer from Boise State, and Tyler White, transfer from Utah who had to sit out this past year due to the transfer rule. There will be a lot of competition there and I’m excited to see Tyler and Lee compete as well.”

    On senior wide receiver Markeith Ambles
    “When you talk about Markeith, he comes here very heralded, if you will. People forget or didn’t know he didn’t get here until after we played a game or two. He didn’t get here until the beginning of September, so he’s trying to work his way into shape. He’s trying to learn a brand new system and that takes time. Fairly, when a young man comes in you’ve got tremendously high expectations for him and he’s not producing from the moment he steps foot on campus, who’s fault is it? It’s not his fault, it’s not our fault. There are expectations and it takes time. We saw what he’s capable of in the bowl game. He’s a very special and talented young man.”

    On quarterback position expectations
    “We’ve got some depth there when you talk about the guys returning, playing quality minutes for us. I expect Billy Cosh to improve as well. He just got here last summer, coming off a knee injury. He is certainly feeling a lot more comfortable in our program right now and then Bear Fenimore was the freshman we signed and enrolled in January, so he’ll be out there throwing the ball around this afternoon as well. So it will be a lot of familiar faces. We’ve had a couple of team meetings here in the last two months or so and for me to be able to stand up here and see a lot of familiar faces, especially in the quarterback position.”

    On working with quarterback John O’Korn during the spring
    “He was just an 18-year-old freshman a year ago, so he has to understand the situations as good if not better than anyone in terms of where the ball is in down and distance, what the score is, two-minute four-minute, coming out, backed up. We have a lot of things we are going to throw at them. When you’re a quarterback, regardless of offense, you have to be like a coach on the field. That’s something with the valuable experience John gained from playing for us last fall that he has to take that next step and I’m confident he certainly will. With a freshman playing the quarterback position, as a coach you start off with, does he know the plays? does he know the formations? Does he understand the defenses, the coverages?... Now we have to take that next step with John in terms of situations. You can break it down to a number of things, but there are situations that arise that are critical in terms of specific outcomes and we have to get better at those specific situations this spring.”

    On junior lineman Carter Wall
    “Carter Wall is coming off a bit of an injury and if he practices this spring it will probably be sometime in April. He is very unique. He has played guard, center and tackle on both sides so he’s played all five positions. We’ll see how things play out with our offensive line this spring. Coach Gordy Shaw has to get a feel for the young men we’ve got. After the first couple weeks of spring, Coach Shaw and our staff will have a better idea of where to put Carter.”

    On any improvement expected in positions
    “We need to see improvement in all positions. We talked about this with our student-athletes. If we just do the same thing we did last year, a year from now we’ll have won eight games. So our goals and expectations are to compete for and win a conference championship every year and we’ve got to improve. If the linebackers really improve and everyone else just kind of stays the same, then our football program has not improved. It’s kind of unique that across the board other than punter, we’ve got guys with tremendous game experience returning for us and all of those young men individually need to improve this spring and on their own during the summer.”

    On the proposed 10-second rule in college football
    “It’s a proposal that came up a few weeks ago. I know there’s been a lot of public outcry from a number of programs, a number of coaches. I saw Rich Rodriguez put out a very clever video this morning addressing the rule proposal as well. I am anxious to see what the vote is. A lot of people, its not so much the substitution as it is... if an offense subs, the defense is allowed to sub. The referee will stand over the ball and allow them to sub. So if the offense does not sub, by rule, they do not have to wait for the defense to sub. It will be interesting. A lot of people speculate where it’s coming from and I haven’t seen any data that backs up the injury claims, but it will be interesting to see what that vote looks like here in the next couple days.”

    On the American Athletic Conference keeping up with the financial initiatives due to the NCAA government structure changes to allow larger conference to make decisions without approval
    “I’m very confident our conference will keep up. You look at the programs we’ve had, you look at the success and the national exposure we’ve had. Whether the NCAA gives the ability to conferences to monitor programs and make those types of decisions will be interesting as well.”

    On the Houston Football Stadium adding to the University of Houston’s stature
    “Adding the stadium, without question, will be a player nationally. The board of regents just approved a multi-million dollar basketball practice facility. We’ve got brand new practice fields for our football program in the back. Certainly facilities have a lot to do with it when you talk about individual programs and I think our program and our university is making that statement with the building of the new stadium and the board of regents approving the basketball facility.”

    On Student-Athletes bringing up the unions
    “In our program, it has not been a topic to this point.”

    On junior Eric Eiland moving to defensive end / defensive back
    “Eric Eiland is going to play some safety for us. He has actually lost some weight. He is very fast and certainly very athletic. He is down to 212 pounds. He’s going to play some safety for us this spring. He’s a guy that came here as a safety, gained some weight, moved to linebacker, then to the defensive end, the rush position. Unfortunately on the 10th play, for him personally, he suffered a muscle strain and missed six games. He missed basically two months of practice. Naturally for him, that’s his best position.”

    On sophomore Tyus Bowser with the basketball program
    “Tyus has been traveling with the basketball team. I watched their Temple game the other night and there he was up in Philadelphia. So, he is going to continue with our men’s basketball program until the conclusion of their season and then he’ll join spring practice.”


     

     

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