Nesbitt takes command of air-raid offense
Despite all the changes in the Houston Cougars’ offense this season — new quarterback, offensive coordinator, receiving corps, even uniforms — don’t be surprised if it still looks familiar.
“Somebody who’s been out of town since last December and comes to watch us play Sept. 1, they wouldn’t necessarily know there’s been a change,” said first-year head coach Tony Levine. “What we’ve been doing here is what we (look for while recruiting), so I wanted to find somebody in that shared philosophy.”
Under new Offensive Coordinator Mike Nesbitt, who subscribes to the same fast-paced, air-raid philosophy of his predecessors, the Cougars are expected to appear similar to last season.
“I think we’re going to have the same strengths we had last year,” said junior running back Charles Sims. “We’re basically running the same offense, just with a lot of different signals.”
That’s where the parallels end, though. Under center, redshirt sophomore quarterback David Piland will take the reigns, two years following his appearance during season-ending injuries to Case Keenum and Cotton Turner.
“I think we’ve got a unique situation in our program in that when you lose your quarterback to graduation, the guy replacing him really has no game experience,” Levine said. “We’ve got a young man who has eight games of starting experience under his belt and is unique in the situation as well — that we were able to redshirt him this past year.”
The normally pass-happy Cougars, who threw the ball 682 times and averaged 450 yards passing per game a season ago, will see significant contributions from a largely new-receiving corps.
“I’m not sure what it costs to buy a game program when you enter Robertson Stadium, but I recommend that fans in September at least pay the couple dollars and pick up one on the way in,” Levine said. “We’re going to have a bunch of guys catching footballs and scoring touchdowns for us, and you might need to match their jersey numbers with their name and picture in the program.”
The mix of inexperienced players, an offensive line of four returning starters and Sims — who can break one at any moment — has the pre-season predictors playing the guessing game on where the Cougars will finish.
“We’re really not concerned with what people think we’re going to do this season,” Levine said. “Some people have us doing real well, and a lot of people have us rebuilding and struggling this season. We’ll look back in December and find out how our regular season went and hopefully look back in January and have a successful bowl game.”