UH football: Takeaways from first day of camp
As the calendar turns to August it can mean only one thing — football season is here.
UH football kicked off its fall camp on Thursday as the Cougars prepare for their season opener on Sept. 3, an away game in San Antonio to take on UTSA.
Here are some key takeaways from what head coach Dana Holgorsen told the media prior to the start of day one of fall camp:
Preseason hype means nothing
With many key players returning from UH’s historic 12-win 2021 season that was capped off by a Birmingham Bowl victory over Auburn, there is a lot of hype surrounding the Cougars entering the 2022 season.
UH was picked as the favorite to win the American Athletic Conference in the preseason media poll and will likely be ranked in the AP Top 25 come Week 1.
“That’s good, positive press for the University of Houston and our football program and recruits pay attention to it,” Holgorsen said. “It’s what we want. It’s what the expectations are here.”
While Holgorsen acknowledged that receiving the preseason hype the Cougars have coming into the 2022 season is another step in the right direction for the program, he also understands that it means nothing until his team goes out onto the field and proves it.
Not getting caught up in all the hype was a key point in Holgorsen’s message to the team on the first day of fall camp.
“Our first team meeting was this morning and I told them we’re 0-0 and everything that happened last year doesn’t count,” Holgorsen said. “All the expectations and all the preseason accolades, all that stuff doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t. It’s about what happens in practice one through practice 25 and being in the best position as a football team to be able to play that first game against UTSA.”
Holgorsen said the Cougars roster currently sits at around 113 players entering fall camp. Other than offensive lineman Joshua Atkins, defensive lineman Garfield Lawrence and running back Alton McCaskill, the Cougars are fully healthy entering fall camp, per Holgorsen.
Holgorsen reiterated that McCaskill, who had a breakout freshman season setting multiple UH records before suffering an ACL tear in the spring, will likely not return at any point during the 2022 season.
Klein Cain standout Matthew Golden has worked himself into the starting Z receiver entering camp but Holgorsen mentioned that USC transfer Joseph Majack is right on Golden’s tail for the starting spot. Holgorsen said both Golden and Manjack will see the field in 2022 regardless of who the starter ends up being come Sept. 3.
While there is still competition for starting jobs among many of the other positions on both sides of the ball entering camp, Holgorsen said right tackle and cornerback depth are areas of emphasis this camp.
Seniors Ike Ogbogu and Bubba Baxa were recently placed on scholarship, according to Holgorsen.
Ogbogu, who took over for an injured Clayton Tune and shined against Grambling State in 2021 throwing for 196 yards and two touchdowns, enters camp as the Cougars’ No. 2 quarterback.
Baxa, who has been UH’s kickoff specialist the past two seasons, is currently in a battle to fill the placekicking role that former Cougar Dalton Witherspoon held the past four seasons.
Football Operations Center update
After Holgorsen kickstarted the campaign to build the UH football program its own, standalone football operations facility with a $1 million donation, financial support has begun to pour in.
UH received an anonymous $10 million donation to go towards the construction of the facility in late July as well as just announced a $1 million gift on behalf of board of regents vice chair Jack Moore and his wife, Debbie.
“I’ve been told that we have enough money to get the thing started,” Holgorsen said. “I had my first meeting with the architects last week. So that’s step one.”