New Coogs in charge
Houston hires a new offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator in the same day.
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It's been a tumultuous year for the Houston Cougars, who never seemed to get their feet back under them after the departure of head coach Kevin Sumlin for Texas A&M. New coach Tony Levine -- in his first season as a head coach -- performed admirably but could never get the Coogs trending upward enough, as UH finished 5-7, missing a bowl for just the third time in the last decade.
But it's hard to put it all on the head coach, especially when there was so many issues with the coordinators. Case in point: Levine fired offensive coordinator Mike Nesbitt after the first game of 2012, an embarrassing loss to FBS newcomer Texas State. Then, after the season, defensive coordinator Jamie Bryant announced that he would not return to UH after his one and only season as the Coogs' defensive boss, after UH finished 118th in total defense (allowing 483 yards per game) and 110th in scoring defense (36 points allowed per game).
Perhaps, though, Tuesday brought some much-needed continuity and stability to the Cougars program.
In an extremely busy day, Houston announced that it has hired Oklahoma State assistant Doug Meacham as offensive coordinator and former Houston Texans secondary coach David Gibbs as defensive coordinator. The Cougars also announced that running backs coach Travis Bush has been promoted to co-offensive coordinator alongside Meacham.
It's a lot of moving parts, so let's take them one at a time.
Doug Meacham is a well-respected offensive mind, and for good reason: he's been with Oklahoma State since 2005, helping the Cowboys establish one of the most prolific offenses in the country. A former Oklahoma State offensive lineman, Meacham has coached inside receivers for the past few years, but did spend 2008 and 2009 serving as OSU's passing game coordinator. In those years, OSU finished 38th (242.2 yards per game) and 99th (179.5 yards per game) in passing offense, though to be fair, the QB for those teams was Zac Robinson, not future NFL-er Brandon Weeden. Before coming back to OSU, Meacham coordinated high-flying offenses at Samford, Henderson State, Jacksonville State and Georgia Military College.
David Gibbs has been a bit of a journeyman in football circles -- this is his seventh different job with his fifth different organization since 2001. Most recently, he was the secondary coach for the Houston Texans from 2009-10, and the results were mixed at best: per Football Outsiders' DVOA ratings, Gibbs coached the Texans to the NFL's 18th-best pass defense in 2009, and the worst pass defense in 2010. What the Cougars are banking on, though, is that a return to college will result in a huge uptick. That's because Gibbs largely hangs his hat on the 2005 season he spent as Auburn's defensive coordinator, where he guided the Tigers to the No. 6 defense in the nation with a whopping 12 players accumulating at least half a sack (and five players nabbing at least 3.5 sacks). Before that, Gibbs really cut his teeth as Minnesota's defensive coordinator from 1997-2000, where he was outstanding before he was plucked by the Denver Broncos to coach defensive backs. In short: while Gibbs' NFL career hasn't been great, his college career has been sparkling.
So now, Houston has an almost entirely new staff from the one that began last season, and both Meacham and Gibbs have work to do. Meacham is tasked with fixing an offense that dropped from 1st to 15th in total offense, and 1st to 38th in scoring offense, last season (the Coogs gained 120 fewer yards and scored 16.9 fewer points per game in 2012 compared to 2011). For Gibbs, the task is much taller: Houston's defense was in disrepair all season, allowing a whopping 46.9 points per game in their seven losses and almost 500 yards of total offense per game to teams that finished with a winning record.
Houston coach Tony Levine now has a staff in place that he believes will fix -- or, at least, begin to fix -- all of those issues. And with a new conference (the Big East, effective in July) and a new stadium (due to open in 2014) on the horizon, the change is only just beginning.
Greg Tepper is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.