Lineup begins to take shape

Nearing Friday’s spring game and the conclusion of their 15 practices, head coach Tony Levine revealed to the media on Tuesday who his starting quarterback is and talked about other positions still up for grabs.

“David (Piland) really from the first couple practices showed us that he’s the starting quarterback for this football program,” Levine said. “By the way he’s played and handled our offense, he’s clearly our starter.”

Piland last saw extensive playing time as a true freshman in 2010, throwing for 2,641 yards and 24 touchdowns while being named a Freshman All-American after quarterbacks Case Keenum and Cotton Turner went down with injuries.

“The David of 2010 to the David Piland of now is a big difference,” senior receiver Ronnie Williams said. “He’s grown, gotten a chance to redshirt and he’s ready to take the reins and be this new leader for us — so we’re excited for him.”

Williams has been competing in practice at one of the most hotly contested position battles for the Cougars. The University of Houston will welcome four new starters at receiver, a big question mark for Levine and his staff entering the spring.

“Daniel Spencer and Dewayne Peace have had an excellent spring up to this point,” Levine said. “Williams has done a nice job at the other inside receiver position — what we call ‘X’ — which is what Patrick Edwards played last season.”

Defensively, the Cougars have been fine-tuning their transition from the 3-4 to the 4-3, a change that Levine is pleased with through 12 practices.

“All you have to do is see the speed they are playing at,” Levine said. “They are flying around the football field meaning they have confidence in what they’re doing and can just react and don’t necessarily have to think as much.”

On special teams, veterans, kicker Matt Hogan and punter Richie Leone, return to lead a unit that with all due respect to the offensive line, could be one of the Cougar’s biggest strengths. Although, the Cougars’ search for primary starters in the return game will continue into the fall.

“There’s probably eight guys that have worked at punt returner,” Levine said. “The emphasis is more on catching punts and I think we’ve done that this spring as well as we have in the four of five springs that I’ve been here.”

The new-look Cougars last action of the spring will be 7 p.m. Friday night at Robertson Stadium where Houston will host its annual spring game and attempt to fit some more pieces into the puzzle.

“You look back before spring started in the middle of March and we issued a depth chart with a lot of blank lines on it,” Levine said. “I’m excited to say a lot of those are coming together.”

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