Cougars host media day, players share excitement about big 12
Tuesday, the Houston Cougars held their first media day of the year. The event featured the debut of the team’s newly modified uniforms, which now feature a “XII” patch on the chest — a reference to the University’s entrance into the Big 12 Conference July 1.
A recurring sentiment amongst the players at Tuesday’s event was their high hopes for the future as an official member of the Power 5.
“I’m very excited to go against better receivers than in the AAC,” said senior defensive back Alex Hogan. “But there were some very good receivers in the AAC. It’s exciting to see me and my teammates grow to be Big 12 players.”
Hogan is one of several UH players who have prior experience in the Big 12. Hogan, who played two seasons at Texas Tech, is joined by junior quarterback Donovan Smith, another Texas Tech veteran. Together, they bring a combined five seasons of experience to the Cougars’ roster.
“I think it’s definitely good that I experienced (playing in the Big 12),” Smith said. “It’s just about telling some of the guys what I learned from being there.”
Junior offensive lineman Patrick Paul characterized the team’s excitement with restraint.
“We’ve definitely turned up the intensity,” Paul said. “But we’ve always prepared with max intensity … I think we have internally, but as a program, it’s the same.”
Sophomore wide receiver Matthew Golden said the team is looking forward to the tougher competition they expect to face in the Big 12. For Golden, it all comes down to the players maintaining the high standards the team has set for themselves.
Golden is one piece of a UH offense with a plethora of questions entering 2023. Quarterback Clayton Tune — a mainstay of the UH offense for five years — and his go-to receiver Nathaniel Dell departed for the NFL this summer, landing with the Arizona Cardinals and Houston Texans, respectively. Running back Alton McCaskill, previously expected to return as tailback, made headlines when he transferred to Colorado in May.
Smith, Golden, sophomore quarterback Lucas Coley and sophomore wide receiver Samuel Brown make up just a few of the names looking to take the next step in the Houston offense this fall. Smith and Coley are in the midst of a competition for the QB1 position come UH’s season opener on September 1 against UTSA.
“You have to be tight with the quarterbacks,” Golden said. “So I have a good relationship with both of them. At the end of the day, it’s about whoever is going to take the spot. They’re both competing for the spot.”
Samuel Brown also explained the importance of developing chemistry between the quarterbacks and receivers early.
“You can see Donny and Lucas with the receivers on a regular day,” Brown said. “We’re just bonding without football.”
Despite the questions and uncertainty, focus is the word that permeates the atmosphere surrounding Houston football – just days away from its inauguration into the ranks of the Big 12.
“It’s real exciting,” Smith said. “Any team will get excited when they see certain teams on their schedule. But we’re focused on UTSA, the season opener.”