Cougars finish camp, shift focus to season
The Cougars concluded their 2016 Fall Training Camp this week, and each player brought home a certificate marked with the phrase: “The Hardest Training Camp in ALL OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL.”
Since the start of August, the Cougars have practiced in an intense fall camp to prepare themselves for the upcoming college football season. Scorching Texas heat and a week of relentless rain have tested the will and endurance of the Cougars tenfold.
The Cougars entered fall camp looking to keep the momentum after a historic football season. Head coach Tom Herman has said adamantly that the achievements garnered in 2015 are irrelevant in the upcoming season.
It is not difficult for football programs to catch a “championship hangover” after a season like the Cougars had in 2015. The effect is common for a team that has only had sporadic success. Hoping to avoid this, the coaching staff installed several characteristics into the fall camp to keep the team motivated.
Newcomers had their helmets marked with a blue stripe down the middle, and they could only be removed when their play deemed it necessary. This is a system common in many training camps across the nation.
To no surprise, one of the firsts to have his stripe removed was freshman Ed Oliver. Aside from Duke Catalon, Oliver, the first five-star recruit in UH history, entered the training camp with the most eyes on him.
Oliver’s early stripe removal could be a telling sign of great things to come.
Accompanying Oliver in the first set of stripe removals was another freshman, Collin Wilder. Like Oliver, Wilder is a Houston native who sent waves through the recruiting circuit when he committed to UH over several other Power Five schools.
The duo’s early and exceptional displays of talent were a great igniter for the entire camp.
Unlike newcomers, returning players feel the weight of following up a successful season with another. Expectations are a team burden, but the leaders often tote most of the load.
Seniors Cameron Malveaux, Tyler McCloskey, Greg Ward Jr. and Brandon Wilson were named team captains in the first week of camp. Each of these players will be essential to the entire team’s success as they are responsible for pushing the culture in year two of the new regime.
After being called on to play offense last season, Wilson has retired from playing running back and has been focused on leading a young secondary. With the Cougars’ loss of three starting defensive backs, Wilson’s leadership will be paramount to the continued success of the defense.
Many of the players vying for starting jobs are sophomores with little experience.
Entering fall camp, Ward looked to continue to polish his dual-threat capabilities and further cement his status as a key leader in the locker room. With new offensive weapons, Ward can translate his offensive artistry into this season. Behind Ward, a revamped running game and a few breakout receivers, the Cougars have the formula for another top offense.
Fall training camp cannot simulate the unpredictable nature of a regular season game, but it can be used as a litmus test for toughness and effort. The coaching staff has to be satisfied with the efforts that players have put forth throughout the entirety of camp.
The Cougars now turn their attention to the regular season as they look to begin tackling the expectations placed upon them.