Sumlin to build program on three simple rules
When UH Athletics Director Dave Maggard announced in December that Kevin Sumlin would be the new head football coach, Sumlin inherited a program still reeling from the sudden departure of former head coach Art Briles.
In its five years under Briles, the Cougars reached four bowl games and won the Conference USA Championship in 2006.
Although Sumlin said when he was hired he wanted to "continue down that path and play for a conference championship every season," he’s going to do it on his own terms.
"I don’t know what was going on beforehand. We’re just thinking about getting better. Right now, we’re….concerned about us," he said. "Our goal is the same every year. To win the West is the first goal we’ll have, and after that, we’ll see what happens. That’s what we start with."
Although Sumlin said he has instituted new offensive, defensive and special team schemes at UH, his plan for making the team successful is simple.
"We’ve got three main fundamental things that we try to do – play hard, play smart and be physical. Those three things are what we build our program on," Sumlin said.
He will also look to the team’s seniors – players who were here when Houston won the C-USA Championship – to help him mold the young talent into a winning team.
"We’re getting tremendous senior leadership, which I think is what we need," he said.
"Those guys have got to be leaders on this team. They’re doing a great job of passing our message to the rest of the team and leading by example."
Senior leadership was a staple in the Cougars’ high offensive production last year, led by wide receiver Donnie Avery and running back Anthony Alridge.
Avery, who was selected by the Saint Louis Rams in the second round of the NFL draft, finished his career at UH with 3,289 receiving yards, third in UH history. He also caught 19 touchdowns in 50 games at UH.
Alridge compiled 2,595 rushing yards in 39 games at UH, sixth-best in school history. He rushed for 22 touchdowns and caught another nine before signing with the NFL’s Denver Broncos.
"I don’t think you’re going to have one player replace (Avery) or one player replace (Alridge) this year," Sumlin said. "As a group we could do that, but I don’t think we need to put that much pressure on those guys. As a group, we have enough talent to be pretty good."
Some of the players Sumlin will replace Avery and Alridge with may not have been here to see them play. As a first-year head coach, Sumlin is looking to new recruits as well as the team’s veterans for starters.
"We’ve recruited a bunch of guys, and some of these guys are going to get a chance to play early on, and they need to," Sumlin said. "They have a chance to come in and help us. I’ve always said the best players get to play. Doesn’t matter if they’ve been here five years or five days. I think competition’s good for everybody. It’s helping our whole team."