Blue Ribbon Preview: Houston

Originally Published: July 6, 2012
Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook

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ABOUT

Many of the important faces that produced a historic 2011 season for Houston are no longer on campus.

Former head coach Kevin Sumlin left to take over at Texas A&M. Record-setting quarterback Case Keenum is now in the NFL. The top three receivers are gone. Two of the top three rushers and tacklers will not return.

Tony Levine begins his first full season as Houston's head coach after working four years under Sumlin. He spent the last two as assistant head coach and special teams coordinator. Announced as head coach on Dec. 21, Levine won his head-coaching debut when the Cougars beat No. 22 Penn State in the Ticket City Bowl to cap a 13-1 season.

"I think any time you can win 13 games you've had an outstanding season," said first-year defensive coordinator Jamie Bryant, who coached linebackers last season. "Not many teams can say that every year."

No C-USA team can.

Houston posted the best record in league history -- bettering Tulane's 12-0 mark in 1998 -- after being ranked as high as sixth nationally. The Cougars tied LSU for the most victories in the FBS, set the program's single-season wins record and ranked 14th in the final coaches' poll.

First-year offensive coordinator Mike Nesbitt points out that Houston is more than a one-year wonder. The Cougars are in the top 25 nationally over the last six seasons with 54 total wins.

Houston returns 16 starters -- five on offense, seven on defense and four on special teams -- from last season. The Cougars also welcome back 47 letter winners, the fourth most in the league.

Levine's first full season begins Sept. 1 at home against Texas State.

"Our guys bought in right away and gravitated to Tony," said Nesbitt, one of six new coaches on the staff. "They got after it in the spring. There's been a high standard here, and these kids want to live up to those expectations and keep it going."

THE STAFF

Head Coach:Tony Levine (Minnesota '96)
Record at school: 1-0 (First year)
Career record: 1-0 (First year)

Assistants:
• Mike Nesbitt (New Mexico '96) OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR/QUARTERBACKS
• Jamie Bryant (Ohio Wesleyan '93) DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR
• Travis Bush (Texas State '00) RUNNING BACKS
• Jamie Christian (Central Washington '99) INSIDE RECEIVERS/SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR
• Carlton Hall (Vanderbilt '98) DEFENSIVE LINE
• Lee Hays (Texas A&M-Kingsville '96) OFFENSIVE LINE
• Ricky Logo (NC State '92) DEFENSIVE LINE
• Brandon Middleton (Houston '04) OUTSIDE RECEIVERS
• Zac Spavital (Murray State '04) SECONDARY/RECRUITING COORDINATOR