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Media day kicks off Cougars’ preseason

Major Applewhite will enter his second year as head coach of the Cougars after a disappointing 7-5 season. File Photos / The Cougar

At the Cougars’ football media day Thursday, the coaches said they were excited about building on the success of last year and the competition around the team.

Head coach Major Applewhite and the other coaches stressed that the main focus for August will be improvement.

“That’s why the whole theme in terms of fall camp is development. It’s about developing as a team, and at some point we turn our sights on our first opponent, but right now it’s about everyone getting back and being excited about putting the ball down,” Applewhite said.

When it comes to building camaraderie and a sense of teamwork, defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said the team has already started.

“A lot of that starts in the summertime. That is the period where the younger guys get acclimated with the older guys and the other way around. It’s a great time to make that bond,” D’Onofrio said.

According to Applewhite, one of the Cougars’ strengths is the experience of the offensive and defensive lines. The defensive line has three juniors and two seniors while the offensive line has five juniors and two seniors, including Will Noble, who is on the watch list for the Rimington Trophy.

“We’ve done some things in the offseason to bring in fifth-year seniors in the secondary, at wide receiver and running back to help positions that are good already and make them even better. Guys that can produce right off the bat,” Applewhite said.

While there is a pecking order, Applewhite said the depth chart will sort itself out during the preseason, and players need to focus on what they can control.

“You get in there, get reps, make those reps count, and then we’ll start moving the depth chart. Execute your plays, and then the depth chart will develop itself over time,” Applewhite said. “Just worry about learning the system and executing those plays.”

The roster additions have put more pressure on players to play their best or risk being replaced.

“[The players] know now that with the depth that we have, if they slip up, they’re probably not going to play. We were probably in a situation at times last season that we didn’t have that,” D’Onofrio said.

Among the offseason acquisitions is new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, who left Florida Atlantic to join his alma mater. With Briles at offensive coordinatar at FAU, the team had the ninth most total yards in the nation compared to the Cougars who were No. 40.

Briles spent the offseason alongside the other coaches, implementing his system of offense with the team and said he thinks the team is almost finished fully implementing it.

“The main thing is just the mechanics of how everything works. The way that the offense is, it’s much different than what they’ve run here in the past,” Briles said.

Houston starts its season 11 a.m. on Sept. 1 against Rice at Rice Stadium.

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