We continue our series of camp previews for select non-AQ schools.
Opening camp: Houston
Schedule: Practice starts today.
Sidelined: LB Matt Nicholson (knee) will be limited. DL Zeke Riser (knee) is out for the season.
What’s new: Two new coordinators -- Jason Phillips and Kliff Kingsbury will serve as co-offensive coordinators in place of the departed Dana Holgorsen. Brian Stewart takes over on defense, which is switching to the 3-4.
Key battle: Left guard. Senior Isaiah Thompson has switched from the defensive line, where he started every game at nose tackle last year. Thompson has played both guard and tackle in the spring and should be able to fill in somewhere along the re-shuffled line. It appears right guard Chris Thompson is the only player returning to the spot he played last season.
New on the scene: LB Sammy Brown. A junior college transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Brown is expected to fill one of the outside linebacker spots in the new defensive alignment. Brown was in school in time for spring practice and showed off his athleticism and ability to drop into coverage and rush the passer.
Breaking out: Another junior college transfer on defense should make a big impact in defensive end Matangi Tonga out of the College of San Mateo. Houston had one of the worst rush defenses in the country last season so his presence should help, especially with Riser out for the year.
Don’t forget about: WR James Cleveland. He led the team with 1,214 yards and 14 TDs last season -- playing with a torn labrum. Cleveland had offseason surgery and missed spring practice but should be good to go for the fall.
All eyes on: Case Keenum. Already garnering Heisman hype, Keenum is on pace to break the NCAA’s career record for passing yards. He is 4,167 yards behind Timmy Chang. Keenum already has been selected Conference USA Preseason Player of the Year and is on several watch lists. Can he top the 5,671 yards and 44 TDs he threw last season?
Quoting: “Our guys know what the expectations are. We've expected to compete for the conference championship from the first day I got here. Hopefully, that conversation will continue every year. We're not running from that. Our guys have been in big games and realize that. We're not going to approach it much differently than we have since we first got here.” -- Coach Kevin Sumlin