Levine’s mentality spreads to team

Tony Levine leads the Cougars out of the gate before defeating UNT 44-21 at Robertson Stadium on Saturday. | Rebekah Stearns/The Daily Cougar

Tony Levine leads the Cougars out of the gate before defeating UNT 44-21 at Robertson Stadium on Saturday. | Rebekah Stearns/The Daily Cougar

From day one, head football coach Tony Levine has been willing to make changes to all levels of the team to benefit the program.

Levine said he will do what he believes will lead the Cougars to winning.

“The one thing I have is a plan. I’ve heard over the years that coaches have agendas and favor certain people,” Levine said in the postgame press conference. “If I have an agenda, it is to win football games. If I feel like making a change to the coaching staff that will help us, then so be it.”

The changes may be paying off. After defeating Rice University 35-14 and the University of North Texas 44-21 on Saturday, UH has two consecutive victories.

Before facing Rice, Levine suggested defensive backs coach Zac Spavital move to the field from the coaching booth and that defensive line coach Carlton Hall move to the booth.

Levine said both moves have helped the team succeed.

The mentality of a football meritocracy is not new for Levine. When releasing his Spring 2012 depth chart, it was blank. Every position was to be decided.

Levine has kept the same mindset throughout the young season.

After a poor offensive performance in the Cougars’ first contest, offensive coordinator Mike Nesbitt resigned.

UH scored 13 points and failed to find rhythm. Redshirt sophomore quarterback David Piland threw for 211 yards — his lowest total of the season so far — and completed 38.6 percent of his passes. Junior running back Charles Sims, who has rushed for 158 and 216 yards against Rice and UNT respectively, had 14 touches for 88 all-purpose yards and was not a factor against Texas State University.

Levine said he wanted to emphasize Piland’s rhythm and Sims’ touches early.

In four games, under new offensive coordinator Travis Bush, Piland has averaged 378 yards passing per game.

Sims has had a similar rise in production. In Sims’ three games played since Nesbitt resigned, he has 594 all-purpose yards on 85 touches — an average of 28 touches and 198 all-purpose yards per contest.

The defensive depth chart is an example of the roster changes UH has implemented. The team’s two starting safeties are different from when the season began. UH moved freshman defensive back Trevon Stewart to safety — a position he had not played before. Stewart led the team in tackles against Rice with 11.

Levine said thinking outside of the box, in terms of the depth chart, is essential.

“I think you’ve got to be creative and project what will help the team best and where they’re best suited to play,” Levine said. “If you can take a young man and move him to a position where he’s best suited to play that helps the team, you’re going to have success and win football games.”

The results were positive. UH won the battle without committing a turnover. Piland said the team’s turnaround comes down to preparation, a theme that Levine instills.

“It’s how we prepared for the game. We worked hard on not turning the ball over,” Piland said. “There were a lot of things that we worked on during the week to eliminate wrinkles. Preparing that hard definitely paid off.”

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