Haul of players, expectations arrive

Larry McDuffey contributed immediately in his freshman season, earning a spot on the C-USA All Freshman team. | File Photo/ The Daily Cougar

Larry McDuffey contributed immediately in his freshman season, earning a spot on the C-USA All Freshman team. | File Photo/ The Daily Cougar

Tyus Bower, a 6-3 defensive end from John Tyler High School, was hard to find for recruiters.

Bower jumped directly into basketball after football season concluded and was tough to contact, head coach Tony Levine said. The Cougars made a late push this week and it paid off when the team was able to sign him.

“It’s crazy because when Coach (Doug) Meacham brought (Bower’s) tape in — anytime someone brings a late tape in there’s always a catch,” said defensive coordinator David Gibbs. “But the guy, he’s a freak: He had 24 sacks, and he was the quarterback on offense so he never came off the field.”

The Cougars focused on players like Bowers who can withstand the increased physical play in preparation for their move to the Big East. The average size of the four UH offensive line signees is 6 feet 6 inches tall and 329 pounds.

“One of the things we tried to do is to get more size. I think we had an issue on our team of being physical — and size on positions across the board,” Levine said. “I think we addressed the issue with this class.”

The Cougars also focused on junior college transfers to fill need positions, Levine said.

Headlining that group is Butler Community College transfer quarterback Billy Cosh, who will compete for a starting job with John O’Korn, from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Florida, and the incumbent, junior quarterback David Piland.

Piland struggled to find consistency last season and was benched in favor of former quarterback Crawford Jones for the final two games of the season. The position is open to whoever grabs it in the spring, Levine said.

The Cougars are also working to improve their redzone offense with this signing class. They signed two tight ends, Chauntez Jackson and Deondre Skinner, to add a new element to the offense.

Meacham, the new offensive coordinator, said a tight end will add diversity to the offense.

“It gives you an extra gap in the run game — it spread the front out a bit,” Meacham said. “You don’t have to scratch your head on every third down and short and in the redzone. If you have a tight end, you can cover people up and push the ball into the endzone.”

On special teams, the Cougars put more focus on the return game, signing Donald Gage who could make an immediate impact on returns and kicker Ty Cummings.

“(Gage) can make something out of nothing,” receivers coach Brandon Middleton told the Houston Chronicle.

The class was ranked 50 by and 60 in the nation by, but for Levine, recruiting is about building a successful class and relationships. The Cougars signed five students from California because Middleton has connections in the state after spending time at Arizona State.

But the class will be judged by what they accomplish in the next four seasons.

“Everybody is going to say that on signing day that they’ve addressed their needs and got great recruits,” Gibbs said.

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