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UH football begins training camp ahead of Big 12 season

Dana Holgorsen spoke to the media before the beginning of practice. | Mario Puente/

The Cougars took another big step towards its first Big 12 season Wednesday morning as the football team took the field for its first day of training camp.

“It’s clearly a new era for UH athletics and UH football,” said head coach Dana Holgorsen. “We’re excited for the next four weeks of preparation.”

UH will spend the next month getting ready for a massive step up in competition, with the first game coming on Sept. 2 at home against UTSA. Two weeks later, national champion runners-up TCU Horned Frogs come to town to give the Cougars their introduction into the Power 5.

However, before UH can step up to the challenge of the Big 12, the Cougars will need to solve the problem of team formation. Nearly half of the team consists of newcomers after the Cougars saw a bevy of players such as quarterback Clayton Tune and running back Alton McCaskill graduate, get drafted or transfer since the end of last season.

With so many new faces — many with Big 12 experience, such as running back Tony Mathis Jr. from West Virginia and defensive lineman David Ugwuegbu from Oklahoma — Holgorsen and the coaching staff are focused on creating a competitive environment at each position.

“You’re going to be adding dudes with Power 5 experience that are going to be competing with guys that have started for us,” Holgorsen said. “My challenge is to make it competitive and make it challenging and continue to control it.”

The most high-profile competition coming into training camp lands in the quarterback room. Juniors Lucas Coley and Texas Tech transfer Donovan Smith have been battling for the starting spot since spring, with Holgorsen giving the edge to Smith at Big 12 Media Day.

Holgorsen said that sentiment hasn’t changed, but Coley responded well over the rest of the month.

“(Smith) is the leader in clubhouse based on 21 games of experience,” Holgorsen said. “I’m proud of Lucas because he had a great July. I’m pretty comfortable with where we’re at right now.”

On the other hand, position groups such as the wide receivers and offensive line boast a solid core of returners to rely on in the coming season.

Sophomore wideout Matthew Golden is poised for a breakout year alongside fellow veteran receivers Joseph Manjack IV and Samuel Brown. In the trenches, fifth-year stalwarts Patrick Paul and Jack Freeman anchor an offensive line with five returning players.

Because of these returners, as well as some of the experienced transfers, Holgorsen does not believe the offense will be hamstrung by the reshuffling at quarterback and tailback.

“There are zero limitations in my mind,” Holgorsen said. “We’ve got the pieces. We’ve just got to coach them up.”

Perhaps the biggest thing, however, for this year’s team is not how it gels or how its new faces acclimate, but instead how it stacks up talent and size-wise in the Big 12. According to Holgorsen, the Cougars have made significant progress in that area.

“There’s a lot of new bodies, but there’s a lot of good-looking bodies,” Holgorsen said. ” I do think we’ve improved the look of our team to where it’s going to resemble a Big 12 team.”

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