Dana Holgorsen: Most Qualified Coach in UH History

Holgorsen before a men’s basketball game in January.

Holgorsen before a men’s basketball game in January. Photo by Mario Puente


 
Legitimate.
 
That’s the word I keep coming back to when I think about Dana Holgorsen. Dana has brought legitimacy back to the UH football program – a component that had been missing for the last couple of years. But maybe legitimacy doesn’t go far enough.
 
Dana Holgorsen is the most qualified incoming head coach in the history of Cougar football and it’s not even close. Previously, Jack Pardee was the most qualified coach to take the UH job, with a 44-46 record in the NFL. Combining his previous work at UH with his 8 years at WVU, Dana has proven himself at this level and understands what is needed to build a program here.
 
But Dana’s competence is even more striking when compared to his most recent predecessor. In virtually every instance, Dana has out-worked, out-matched, out-hired, out-recruited, out-marketed, and out-done the previous regime.
 
And he hasn’t coached a game.
 
The school learned from its mistake of hiring unqualified coaches (re-learned actually) and went out and signed a legitimate star. A guy known for developing the talent around him – both on the coaching staff and the field.
 

Developing Coaches

As a backup QB, Kliff Kingsbury bounced around to eight pro teams in 5 years. After retiring, he wanted to get into coaching and paired up with new UH OC Dana Holgorsen.
 
Kliff saw his career sky-rocket like few before him: two years as a quality control coach and two years as OC at UH, a year as OC at A&M and then six years at his alma mater before ending up in the NFL. That path would have been impossible without the two years he spent learning from Dana on Cullen.
 
Another success story is Jake Spavital. Spav would likely be here today as OC had he not taken the Texas State head job in November. Jake went from a GA under Dana at UH to Oklahoma State, then QB coach and OC at WVU before A&M and Cal and back to WVU. Spavital began and ended his assistant coaching career under Holgorsen.
 
“Dana molded me into being the offensive coordinator,” Spavital told the Tulsa World in 2014.
 
Tyron Carrier’s coaching success can also be partly attributed to Dana’s guidance. Holgorsen has brought Carrier along and helped unleash the guy that is slaying on the recruiting trail. Last year, Carrier was named Football Scoop’s Receivers Coach of the Year while working for Holgorsen at WVU.
 
Carrier is now becoming a top-notch teacher: uncommitted WR Keelan Marion said in our interview that Carrier taught him quite a bit in the few minutes they were one-on-one at a recent day camp.
 

“He taught me how to cross over and to keep my arms moving around the cones (in drills) and through routes. And how to swing my elbow to break out my routes…He taught me how to stop drifting in my routes and come flat.” – Keelan Marion

I expect Carrier to have a substantial impact on our receivers in 2019.
 

Developing Record Holders at UH

Before that, Carrier was sensational in his two seasons playing for Dana Holgorsen at Houston. He was the second-ever UH receiver with back-to-back 1000 yard seasons (Elmo Wright) and in 2009, returned four kickoffs for touchdowns (he shares the NCAA record for career kickoff returns for TDs at 7).
 
Tyron caught at least two passes in 53-straight games at UH, another NCAA record, and is seventh in the NCAA history in all-purpose yards. He was a member 2009 WR corps that is one of five in NCAA history with 3 players that gained 1,000 yards receiving.
 
More than the records, though, is how Carrier developed under Holgorsen into a QB’s ideal receiver. Carrier was a guy that worked to get open, was technically correct in route running, and most importantly, was usually in the spot where the ball had been thrown to. It’s the exact recipe Carrier teaches today.
 
Case Keenum went from a two-star recruit under Art Briles to a Cougar legend. Case gives much of the credit to Dana and his successor, Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury. Keenum had 14 TDs as a part-time starter as a freshman to 44 and 44 in two seasons with Dana.
 
Two of Keenum’s three 5,000 yard seasons (NCAA record) happened under Dana’s watch as did 88 of his NCAA-record 155 TDs. In fact, Keenum appears in the NCAA record book 48 times but should be there 49. Many of those records can be attributed to the growth and development that occured under Holgorsen.
 

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This season, I expect all of King, Stevenson, Corbin, Lark, and Carr to make great strides under this staff. I expect Carr to have a breakout senior season and the receivers will grow under Carrier.
 
Something that I’ve longed for, and will be back under this staff, is wide-receiver blocking. Applewhite’s crew never got the wideouts to buy into blocking for their teammates, a crucial aspect of the game that extends drives and, ultimately, will get them all more touches.
 
Here’s an example from the Arizona game last September:
 

 
Yes, I’m genuinely excited about WR blocking. If these guys buy into it we’ll see a more explosive offense than we did a year ago.
 
Tomorrow, GoCoogs will look at how we will judge whether the 2019 season is a success or not. And it has almost nothing to do with wins and losses.

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