Change remains constant for Cougar football
When it comes to college sports change is the only constant as rosters turn over every four years and coaches rarely stay in one place long enough to build a legacy.
Following a 9-4 season culminating in a 34-10 loss in the Las Vegas Bowl the Cougars face an offseason where change is coming from top to bottom.
Changes started before the season was over as former head coach Tom Herman left to take the same position at the University of Texas. Then-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite was named the new Cougars head coach shortly after.
As the starting quarterback for the Longhorns, Applewhite led them to four straight bowl gamesbefore joining the staff as a graduate assistant in 2003. He spent most of his career at UT before being fired in 2013 and was then hired by UH under Herman.
Following a bowl performance in which his defense gave up 34 points and held the seventh-ranked rushing offense in the nation to 127 yards, defensive coordinator Todd Orlando confirmed he was leaving for the same position at UT, becoming the highest-paid coordinator in the school’s history, one of eight former Cougars to join Herman in Austin.
In addition to the coaching changes, the Cougars have to replace 16 seniors, including 10 starters and all four captains.
Since he was named the starter in 2014, senior quarterback Greg Ward Jr. has been a human highlight reel while entrenching himself in the record books. The Tyler native ends his time as a Cougar with a 27-6 record as a starter, second in school history for all-time winning percentage. Ward also finished first in school history in career rushing yards (2,375) and touchdowns (39) by a quarterback, while tying Bryce Beall for most rushing touchdowns, regardless of position.
Elsewhere on offense the Cougars are losing No. 2 receiver Chance Allen and tight end Tyler McCloskey, finishing 2016 with 56 receptions for 815 yards and 6 touchdowns and 23 receptions for 233 yards and 4 touchdowns, respectively.
On the other side of the ball, the Cougars are losing five starters, including both cornerbacks and the co-team leaders in sacks. Despite missing five games with an orbital fracture outside linebacker Tyus Bowser finished tied for the team lead with 8.5 sacks and 47 tackle, while inside linebacker Steven Taylor added 8.5 sacks and was second with 74 tackles.
In the secondary, redshirt sophomore cornerback Howard Wilson declared himself eligible for the NFL draft, forgoing his final two seasons with the Cougars, after finishing with a team-high 5 interceptions and 10 passes defended.
Versatile cornerback Brandon Wilson finishes his Cougars career starting 29 total games in all three phases with 2 interceptions, 139 tackles while rushing for 194 yards and two touchdowns. As a return man, Wilson provided one of the top plays in school history with his 100-yard kick-six against No. 3 Oklahoma at NRG Stadium.
As the Cougars head into the 2017 season with no power-five conference invite and their fourth head coach since 2011, they are a reminder that change is the only constant.