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Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Football

Cougars don’t skip a beat under Levine


Interim head coach Tony Levine and the Cougars coaching staff opened today's practice up to the fans and participated with the Cougars' players in a free autograph session afterward. | Brianna Leigh Morrison/The Daily Cougar

The man with the longest business card in college football is also finding out what it’s like to be one of the sport’s busiest.

After functioning as assistant head coach, special teams coordinator, inside receivers and tight ends coach for the past four seasons, Tony Levine is adjusting well to his new role as interim head coach, even with its added responsibilities.

“In the middle of the week, I tried to steal an hour and watch some Penn State stuff, and I actually closed my door and turned the lights off just so if somebody walked by they wouldn’t think I was in there,” he said. “And still probably every five minutes somebody knocked trying to set a meal schedule or a specific food that we wanted to feed them for lunch in Dallas in two weeks or where do we put the TicketCity logo on the sweatsuit we’re giving our players.

“There were just so many questions that I finally turned the light back on, opened my door back up and shut the video off. It’s been a great experience though and it’s been probably the busiest week of my profession. But I’ve enjoyed it and we’re all on the same page and we all have one goal in mind.”

With the Cougars’ core of coordinators and assistants still intact, the transition to Levine from Kevin Sumlin has been seamless.

“I think the transition has been smooth,” Levine said. “I don’t think there’s been a drop off. I think the focus of our kids is good right now. I think they’re excited to be back on the field and really everyday that we’re getting closer to January 2, you can sense the excitement in them.”

After the Cougars’ 49-28 loss to Southern Miss in the Conference USA Championship and the drama surrounding Sumlin’s departure, the players have enjoyed getting back out on the practice field and putting that behind them.

“We’re all ready to get the bad taste out of our mouth,” senior quarterback Case Keenum said. “It’s where we’re at right now and it’s nice to be able to get out on the field and practice and get ready for the next game and move on.”

In addition to their responsibilities preparing for the TicketCity Bowl, Levine and the Cougars’ staff have also been busy with recruiting.

Eleven commits and prospects were on hand at the Cougars’ open practice and autograph session today at Carl Lewis International Track and Field Complex including Trevon Stewart, Marrick Charles and Lorenzo Phillips.

Levine said that despite the Cougars’ current coaching situation, the feedback from commits has been positive.

“Again, a lot of these recruits have been committed to us for almost 12 months,” Levine said. “They’ve understood that this is about the University of Houston.

“Is there some uncertainty right now? Absolutely. Again, this is our first major recruiting weekend; we have 11 young men here this weekend and they’re excited about everything that this University has to offer.”

Levine would not speculate on what the future holds for him as the leader of the Cougars.

“I know the immediate future is I’m going to walk inside this building and be a part of this autograph session with our team,” he said. “Beyond that, I know for certain that the rest of our staff and myself will coach this team through January 2 and beat Penn State.”

“This is a terrific opportunity for me. This is a terrific job. You look back and I think people maybe forget that 10 years ago today this program was 0-11, and our staff has been here four years. To stand right here towards the end of a season 12-1 and a top-25 ranking, it’s special. But our focus from the top down is about these kids and this upcoming game.”

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