Cougars enter 2010 with vacancies to fill

With the end of the 2009 UH football season came the fallout from the high and low points of the Cougars’ rollercoaster ride.

Following UH’s loss to Air Force in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, head coach Kevin Sumlin relieved defensive coordinator John Skladany of his duties after the Cougars’ defense faltered over the second half of the season. In the final seven games, UH allowed 37 or more points on five occasions and finished the season 11th out of 120 teams in total defense (451.3 yards per game) and 95th in points allowed (30.1 per game).

Skladany has since taken a job as linebackers coach and special teams assistant at Conference USA rival Central Florida, where he also served as defensive coordinator in 2007 and helped the Knights win their only C-USA title. Before joining the UH staff, Skladany also served as defensive coordinator for 10 years at Iowa State and has been involved in coaching defenses since beginning his career as a graduate assistant at Ohio in 1976.

Sumlin and athletics director Mack Rhoades have yet to officially name a possible replacement, but several names have emerged recently, including former Marshall head coach Mark Snyder, former Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill and Pittsburgh Steelers defensive backs coach Ray Horton.

UH also lost its offensive coordinator, but it was not due to a lack of production on the field. Dana Holgorsen accepted the Oklahoma State offensive coordinator position after two seasons in charge of the Cougars’ record-setting unit. The move to the Big 12 should also bring a hefty pay raise for Holgorsen, who is expected to make double his previous $187,200 annual salary.

In his two seasons at the helm, Holgorsen’s unit routinely ranked among the nation’s best in almost every offensive category, and this season quarterback Case Keenum finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy balloting after posting his second consecutive 5,000-yard season.

Keenum returns for senior season

After testing the NFL-draft waters by submitting to an evaluation by the league’s advisory committee, quarterback Case Keenum has decided to return to UH for his senior season. En route to leading the Cougars to a 10-4 record and appearances in the C-USA Championship Game and Armed Forces Bowl, Keenum threw for 5,671 yards and completed 70.3 percent of his passes. He returns needing 4,123 to surpass Timmy Chang’s NCAA career passing yards record of 17,072, set at Hawaii from 2000-2004.

“I feel this is a very special group of guys, and we have a lot of chemistry and history together and played a lot of games over the years,” Keenum said in a statement issued through UH. “When you have a team like this, it’s your family, and you want to stay together as long as you can.”

Keenum will be honored at halftime of Wednesday’s men’s basketball game against Central Florida at 7 p.m. at Hofheinz Pavilion as the winner of the 2009 Quarterback Award, presented by the College Football Performance Awards. In addition to being considered for the Heisman Trophy, Keenum was a finalist for the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award, the Manning Award and the Walter Camp Football Foundation Player of the Year. He won the Sammy Baugh Trophy as the nation’s top college passer.

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