“Competence is such an exotic bird in these woods that I appreciate it whenever I see it.”
Cougar football has had competent leadership for just two of the last 7 years. We’ve certainly been missing it for the last two seasons but now, with the hiring of Dana Holgerson, UH can expect sustained competence in both football and basketball for the first time in 30 years.
In every single way, Holgorsen is an upgrade over Major Applewhite. From attracting quality assistants to on-field coaching to developing players to gravitas to legitimacy on the recruiting trail, Dana Holgorsen is going to have an immediate and sustained impact.
From day one, this fan base never embraced Major. The hiring process was laughable and Major was the favored guy even before Herman left. But he lacked the network of coaches necessary to be successful, he couldn’t entice good coaches to come here (one season of Kendal Briles being the notable exception), and he couldn’t negotiate more money for his staff. He was weak and ineffectual.
Before accepting the UH job, Dana negotiated for a massive football budget increase – a million dollars more for staff than he had at WVU and double what Major had last season. Funding for the program was his biggest issue at WVU.
Here, he gets the money needed to bring in an upgraded group of assistant coaches – potentially the best group of coaches in school history. Major’s limited network forced him to hire several graduate assistants as on-field coaches (decisions that justified the small staff budget). Major’s lack of gravitas resulted in Mark D’Onofrio getting over on him for a three-year contract (impressive for an out-of-work coach).
Dana Holgorsen comes to UH with more experience as a college head coach than any in school history. After 8 years as a head coach, there’s little chance Dana gets worked over like Major did. Every staff has its weak link but the 2019 staff will be on a different level than what we’ve had.
His first move, as has been widely reported, is to entice Tyron Carrier to come back to Houston. The UH legend has been the WR coach at WVU for the last three years. Carrier is highly thought of and is fielding job offers from numerous P5 programs, including Texas. It’s smart for him to look around but in the end, I believe Tyron will accept a spot on this staff and a hefty pay raise from the $151,000 he made at WVU.
I’m comforted by the fact that Dana is a very good on-field coach. After Thursday’s press conference, Dana told reporters that he’ll call the offensive plays in 2019. Usually, I’d rather a head coach delegate that responsibility but there are few play-callers in Dana’s league. I’m all-in on Dana calling plays and being hands-on with the offense. I never felt that way about Major.
When Holgorsen was OC at UH in 2008 and 2009, the Cougars saw an offensive explosion. Art Briles has often been called an offensive genius but Dana took it to another level. Both of Holgorsen’s offenses scored over a TD more than Art’s best seasons and both years are among the best six offenses in school history.
PPG Average by season
53.54 – 1989
49.28 – 2011
46.45 – 1990
43.9 – 2018
42.2 – 2009
40.6 – 2008
Like the players from that era, Dana’s teams will develop and get better as the season goes on. I’m excited about teaming Holgorsen’s mind and creativity with King, Stevenson, Corbin, Lark, and Carr. Each will become better players under Holgorsen and I expect Carr to have a breakout senior season.
Dana is the coach responsible for helping Case Keenum develop into a monster. After Case and Blake Joseph combined to throw 23 TDs in 2007, Keenum burst onto the national stage with nearly 11,000 yards and 88 touchdowns in 2 years with Dana as his OC. Holgorsen was the guy that saw the potential in, and developed, Keenum, Patrick Edwards, Tyron Carrier, Bryce Beall, Charles Sims, James Cleveland, and others.
I believe Dana will excel in bringing Case and the rest of those guys close to the program, another area Major struggled in. Holgorsen is gregarious and people want to be around him and, while he is a good guy and handled himself well, Major was never really personable. On the personality scale, Dana is near the top of FBS while Major struggled to even register.
Perhaps most importantly, Dana will bring recruiting competence back to Houston. He will obviously recruit better than Major despite the dubious claim that Major was well-connected to Texas HS coaches. Major could never leverage the best facilities in the G5 nor one of the best recruiting territories.
With all of that said, Dana faces an entirely different task in 2019 than Major ever had. The teams UH played in the regular season in 2018 finished with just 61 wins (5.1 per) while the schedule Dana inherits finished 2018 with 87 wins (7.25). In September alone, Dana will face teams with 37 wins last year – compare that to Major’s September 2018. He faced teams that finished with 14 wins.
The OOC slate of Rice, Arizona, and Tech (12 wins) is upgraded to OU, Wazzu, and UNT (32 wins). This is an entirely different animal than UH faced last year. Be prepared for the hacks that will beat the drum if Dana’s first-year record looks similar to Major’s.
With Dana Holgorsen at the helm, I’m looking for progress. I’m looking for a team that is significantly better in game 12 than they were in game 1. I’m looking for a strength and conditioning program that prepares our guys for the long run. I’m looking for a program that is run like a P5 program. And I’m looking for an alpha head coach with high expectations.
Finally, we have a football coach that can bring legitimacy and stability to Cullen Blvd.
All Photos By Mario Puente