--First-year coach Tony Levine made one very intriguing addition to his staff that should help transition from the Case Keenum era. Former NFL punter, and last year's offensive coordinator at FCS Stephen F. Austin Mike Nesbitt, led the Lumberjacks offense last year to become one of the nation's most prolific units despite having to replace a two-time All-American and 2010 Walter Payton Award winner (the FCS Heisman equivalent) Jeremy Moses.
And, of course, Nesbitt did so in a pass-first offense like the one he's now tasked with running in Houston. So not only does he know the Xs and Os of the pass-first offense that has become the calling card of the Cougars, but he has experience guiding an offense learning to live again without its All-American quarterback.
"Mike is exactly what I was looking for and he really wants to be at the University of Houston," Levine said.
--The University of Houston Board of Regents on March 27 approved the location for the program's new football stadium -- right where its current one sits. That means Robertson Stadium is scheduled for demolition in December so construction of the new stadium can begin.
The new stadium is expected to be completed by the start of the 2014 season. As of late March, no final decisions had been made on where the Cougars will play home games in the 2013 season, but Reliant Stadium seemed to be the inevitable choice.
Of course the main question is who runs the offense after the graduation of QB Case Keenum. But his leadership and the calm and confidence he seemed to bring to the program was every bit as valuable. As spring drills began in March, there was still no clear-cut answer as to who would feel the leadership void left by Keenum. And with a first-year head coach, leadership will be a big question mark for this program until the season begins and fans can see how the team reacts to so much change after the dream season of 2011.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
RB Charles Sims -- As a sophomore, Sims first forced his way into an equal workload with senior RBs Michael Hayes and Bryce Beall then earned the distinction of the team's best option in the backfield. Sims ended the season with nine starts, 821 rushing yards, a 7.5 yards-per-carry average, 575 receiving yards, nine rushing touchdowns and four receiving touchdowns. With so much talent graduating from the Houston offense, Sims is clearly the best player the Cougars have coming back for the 2012 season.
QB David Piland -- Piland was thrust into the starting role in 2010 after Case Keenum and backup QB Cotton Turner went down with season-ending injuries. He put up impressive numbers, even if the wins weren't there to back them up. Piland redshirted in 2011, a great opportunity to sit back and watch and learn from Keenum, one of the college game's best ever. Piland is the frontrunner to start for the next three years for the Cougars.
LB Derrick Mathews -- As a freshman, all Mathews did was start all 14 games for Houston in the 2011 season, including the Ticket City Bowl win over Penn State. With senior LB star Marcus McGraw graduating, this becomes Mathews' defense in a hurry. Mathews had 106 tackles (55 solo, 51 assisted) this year, including 10.0 tackles for loss, three interceptions and two forced fumbles. The Cougars need a better defense. If that happens, it will be built around Mathews.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"I think part of winning football games is that it starts up front, so I'm excited that we have the four starters back on the offensive line and the seven seniors on the defensive line." -- Houston coach Tony Levine in the Houston Chronicle.
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