Recap: Houston Football Media Day
The unofficial start to the football season kicked off Wednesday when players and coaches gathered in the University of Houston Athletics/Alumni Center for the 2016 Houston Football Media Day.
Head coach Tom Herman took to the podium first to address a congregation of media which has significantly more members than past years.
“I am just excited to get started,” Herman said. “I am really excited to start forming our identity, developing our young players, developing our older players into better players, developing leaders and at the end of the day developing a team that can sustain a 14 or 15-game season.”
More work to do
Herman repeatedly stressed the importance of forgetting about last season in order to ensure the team’s focus is on the upcoming season. Football wants to maintain a culture of going “1-0” every day in everything they do.
“We have not done anything yet, we as the 2016 team,” Herman said. “Can we learn from the examples of some the great individual sacrifices, hard work and dedication? Absolutely. And we will call on those examples, but other than learning from those examples, that season is not going to help us do anything this year.”
The team is scheduled to open their season against the No. 3 University of Oklahoma Sooners on Sept. 3 at NRG Stadium.
Despite being called one of the most important games in UH history, Herman does not let the hype change his team’s approach to the game. Herman compared the matchup against OU to last season’s opener against Tennessee Technological University.
“If we happen to beat Oklahoma, great, but the last time I checked our conference commissioner isn’t going to walk down on the field and hand us the American Conference trophy,” Herman said.
Ready for the opener
After Herman, offensive coordinator Major Applewhite made his way to the front of the Carl Lewis Auditorium to address members of the media.
Applewhite is impressed with the growth he has seen from starting quarterback Greg Ward Jr. from last season to this season. Ward, now a senior, has become synonymous with Cougar football in various media outlets across the nation.
“The more he’s been around (the media) asking him questions and putting him on the spot, whether it be local, regional or national, it’s helped him kind of get out of his shell a little bit and grow up as a leader,” Applewhite said. “Seeing him take strides that way this summer and how he responded to his teammates in our offseason workouts, he’s done a really good job, and now it’s time to put it to the test in fall camp.”
The second-year offensive coordinator is excited to see how his offense will perform on the field in 2016 despite losing key members to the 2016 NFL draft.
Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando stepped up to the podium to address questions surrounding the defense.
Some of the most notable storylines entering fall camp surround how the Cougar defense will replace the members who were lost to graduation and the NFL Draft. The Cougars’ secondary was among the best in the nation in forcing turnovers last season and played a huge part in the team’s 2015 success.
Orlando is impressed with how his players have handled the defensive roster turnover.
“One thing that’s really cool about this group is they don’t look at it as, ‘We lost some experienced guys, some really good players,’” Orlando said. “They look at it as, ‘Don’t let my teammates down.’ There is a lot of pressure that they put on themselves because of the genuine love of everybody else on that unit that they don’t want to let them down.”
Orlando is confident that his unit will be trained and ready to go by the Sept. 3 opener.
A leading attitude
After nearly an-hour-and-a-half of coaches answering questions about their respective units, it was time for the players to speak. Ward moved to the front of the room and was quickly surrounded by a horde of reporters.
Surrounded by interviewers, the soft-spoken quarterback began to field their questions.
“I’ve always been a humble guy — just staying positive and each and every day just coming to work and leading this team,” Ward said. “I’ve played a lot of games. The young guys look up to me, so I have to be that example and go out there and practice and work hard.”
Ward, who has spent time as a wide receiver in his time at UH, does not seem to be phased by the limelight he has suddenly been thrust into. Whether he is in front of a national TV audience or reporters at Media Day, the senior team captain maintains a focused persona that demands respect.
Now considered as a possible Heisman Trophy candidate, Ward is anxious to build upon last year’s historic season.
“God blessed me with another year, and I’m just going to go out there and give it my all,” Ward said.