Calling All Coogs – Come have lunch with LA Charger and Coog legend Adrian McDonald Friday!

via Los Angeles Chargers

University of Houston legendary defensive back Adrian McDonald, who last played for the Coogs in 2015 in the Peach Bowl upset over Florida State and is the Coogs’ all time leader in interceptions, is going to be on campus this coming Friday and wants to hang out! Now that he’s a UH alumnus and a member of the Los Angeles Chargers, Adrian is putting on a lunch event with Kimberly Hatter of Purposefull Brands, who is one of Mayor Sylvester Turner’s top assistants, as part of their effort to give back to the Houston community.

Adrian wants *all Coogs* to meet with him this Friday for lunch! That means: Current students, graduates, professors, administrators, even people who are just Coog fans but never went to school here. Come on down! He told me he loves UH and wants to give back to the community and the school that gave him everything. Adrian will be at Calhoun’s Rooftop on campus this coming Friday, February 3rd from Noon until 2pm. Swing on by and rep for the Coogs! Some other NFL players might be stopping by as well.

PS: Do you have your Jack Boyz Apparel yet? Get it here!

Adrian (far left) with the Jack Boyz! via Houston football

Applewhite makes his best hire yet: Dak Prescott’s mentor Brian Johnson heads to Houston

Dak Prescott (left) and Brian Johnson. via HailState.com

New Houston Cougars head coach Major Applewhite made probably his strongest assistant coaching hire to date, naming Mississippi State quarterback’s coach Brian Johnson to the offensive coordinator position at Houston.

A Strong Coaching Tree

This is an interesting hire on several fronts: The primary reason is Johnson is from the same coaching tree as Tom Herman, meaning he’ll likely keep the Coog offense very similar to what we’ve had the past two seasons. Originally recruited out of Baytown, Texas by Urban Meyer back in 2004 to play quarterback for Utah, Johnson would take over the Utes starting quarterback from Alex Smith. The Utes went undefeated in 2004 and Smith was tutored by Meyer into the NFL’s #1 draft pick for 2005. Meyer and his quarterbacks coach Dan Mullen left for the University of Florida after the season.

Meyer and Mullen would bring their Spread-Option offense to Gainesville where they’d win a national championship in 2006 with Chris Leak under center and future Heisman winner Tim Tebow seeing time off the bench at fullback. Tebow would later quarterback the Gators to another national title in 2008 and Dan Mullen would later take the head coaching job at Mississippi State in 2009. At State, Mullen would coach Dak Prescott into one of the best quarterbacks in college football and Dak has been one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks this season, filling in for the injured Tony Romo for the Dallas Cowboys.

Urban Meyer would eventually leave Gainesville and take the head coaching job at Ohio State in 2012. Meyer hired a then-unknown Iowa State offensive coordinator by the name of Tom Herman to serve in the same role with the Buckeyes and Herman would eventually coach Braxton Miller, JT Barrett, and Cardale Jones to the 2014 national title. Herman would take over the University of Houston head coaching position and hire current UH head coach Major Applewhite to coordinate his offense.

After Meyer left Salt Lake City for Florida following the 2004 season, Kyle Whittingham was promoted to the head coach role at Utah. Whittingham would coach Brian Johnson to be one of the best quarterbacks in Utes history and Johnson would pass for 7,838 yards and 57 touchdowns in his four seasons under center. Johnson also led Utah to another undefeated season in 2008 and an upset over #4 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. At the young age of 23 in 2010, Johnson was named quarterbacks coach at his alma mater under Whittingham. In 2012 Johnson was named offensive coordinator of the Utes just two weeks shy of his 25th birthday becoming the youngest coordinator in the FBS. In 2014 Johnson reunited with his former coach Dan Mullen in Starkville to take over the Bulldogs’ quarterbacks coaching position where he’d mentor Dak Prescott and Nick Fitzgerald, the latter led the SEC in total offense and rushing yards for quarterbacks this season. Johnson had been demoted from OC back down to QB coach at Utah but the Utes have had a lot of instability over the years at their OC role, so it’s likely not too much of a red flag. Several Utes and Bulldog fans online seem to hold Johnson in high regard.

Evolution of an Offense

From Yeoman’s Veer, to the Run and Shoot under Pardee and Jenkins, to the Air Raid under Art Briles and Kevin Sumlin, the Houston Cougars have long been known for having a potent, high-scoring offense. Tony Levine started the evolution of the Cougars’ next generation offense but couldn’t quite get things to gel in spite of the personnel he recruited. Levine burned through three coordinators in three seasons which likely led to some terrible losses and his eventual dismissal. Tom Herman was able to take the raw potential of the Houston squad, install his Smashmouth Spread offensive scheme, and crank the Coogs up a notch to 13 wins his first season and a win over Florida State in the Peach Bowl.

Applewhite hiring Johnson to take control over the Houston offense is further proof the Air Raid is long gone on Cullen Boulevard. Gone with it are 60-59 shootouts and a comical lack of defense. For all of the hype and records shattered during the Keenum era, Sumlin never won a conference title because his teams always folded as soon as they got smacked in the mouth. The Air Raid served its purpose putting butts in the stands and getting the Coogs some attention, but Herman proved it was time to evolve and win some championships. Former Houston offensive coordinator during the Keenum era, Kliff Kingsbury, is running the Air Raid offense as the head coach up in Lubbock and the Red Raiders had the #1 offense in the country last season. In spite of having a potent offense that passes for 5,556 yards, the Red Raiders had literally the worst defense in college football, ranked #128 in all FBS. All of those gaudy offensive stats are useless when you go 5-7.

When Tom Herman moved to Houston he brought Meyer’s Smashmouth Spread that had evolved out of the Spread-Option at Ohio State and installed it on Cullen. By having a quarterback under center in Greg Ward Jr. who can beat you with both his arm as well as his legs, as well as bruising running backs like Kenneth Farrow and Duke Catalon, the Coogs became a much more well-rounded offensive unit. Even though the overall numbers were tapered down from the Air Raid and Run and Shoot eras, the Smashmouth allowed the Cougars to win big time games late in the season when opposing defenses are playing at their best. The Coogs won a conference title and a NY6 bowl game under Herman and Applewhite in 2015 and also had stunning upsets over Oklahoma and Louisville in 2016. Also, with the Smashmouth not moving the chains as fast as an offense does with the Air Raid and Run and Shoot, the Coogs defense was able to get enough rest on the sideline during games and become one of the biggest reasons for UH’s success under Herman… as opposed to being a huge liability like it was during previous decades.

Continuity

If you liked what Tom Herman did in his two years on Cullen then be excited for the Applewhite Era. Applewhite, being an offensive coach himself, could’ve easily scrapped the offensive system Herman brought in. Instead, Applewhite brought in Brian Johnson from the same Urban Meyer coaching tree to keep the offense rocking and rolling. Lane Kiffin and Les Miles would have likely changed up the Coogs’ offensive style if they would’ve gotten the head coaching position, so the Applewhite/Johnson combo seems to be a smart way to maximize the potential of the current roster and keep the momentum rolling. Johnson, like Applewhite in 2006, was at one point the youngest coordinator in college football and also brings Power 5 experience from two programs: Applewhite at Alabama and Texas, Johnson at Utah and Mississippi State. We’ve come a long way from picking our coordinators based off of Wikipedia articles and who are one year removed from Division II.

It’ll be interesting to see if one of the dual-threat quarterbacks on the Houston roster, like D’Eriq King or Kyle Postma, ends up winning the starting job or if one of the pro-style guys like Kyle Allen or Bowman Sells can thrive in the run-heavy offense. Applewhite and Johnson will have their work cut out for them in finding a new starting quarterback as well as recruiting more depth at offensive line and running back.

I’m excited for this hire and I can’t wait to see how the rest of the coaching staff fills out. August kickoff can’t come soon enough!

Read more about the different spread offense styles here.

Houston Football 2017: In a Major Way

via Houston Athletics

Talk about a rough start. The Coogs were manhandled by the San Diego State Aztecs last Saturday at the Las Vegas Bowl 34-10 and it wasn’t even close. Most of the Coogs coaching staff had already joined Tom Herman in Austin before the game and most of the remaining assistants had already announced they would join Herman after the bowl game. Several graduate assistant coaches had to fill in as position coaches for the game. I’m not surprised the Cougars face-planted as hard as they did: The Aztecs have long been a solid program and the Coogs lacked offensive line and runnings backs depth. The Coogs were also still shell-shocked that Herman left. Much like Lil’ Wayne and Baby, the Coogs learned a valuable life lesson: If a grown man who isn’t blood family gives you a kiss, he’s either going to stab you in the back or marking you for death. Trust no one.

I was a bit surprised initially at the Applewhite hire to be blunt. Khator’s public comments after the hiring that 8-4 is grounds for dismissal makes the Applewhite hire look all the more strange at first glance. If Khator and her partner in bellicosity Tilman Fertitta aren’t satisfied with 8-4 then why wouldn’t they hire someone like Lane Kiffin? Khator and Fertitta have been talking a big game but then apparently were not willing to hire the biggest name candidate and were rumored to demand large buyouts from candidates in hopes of avoiding another Herman “two and done” situation on Cullen. The Herman era went so well for the Coogs and for some reason they’re working hard to avoid duplicating that success. Several top candidates reportedly balked at Houston’s demands during the interview process.

Here’s the stone-cold truth: The University of Houston is not a destination job. I’m sorry if that hurts your fragile self-esteem but it’s true. In fact, few universities are destination jobs (maybe 15-20 tops), and even those who are would be hard pressed to keep their coach if the NFL comes calling with a fat enough contract. Most universities deal with this by hiring the best possible coaching prospect with the hopes that they win as many games as possible before leaving. When a school is afraid of hiring the best coach because they might leverage the program for a better gig they end up losing to Texas State who was playing in their first FBS football game and to UTSA when opening their brand new stadium.

I’m not saying that Lane wasn’t without controversy, but sometimes that’s the price of success when you’re in the Group of Five. The biggest criticism people have of Lane Kiffin? He’s a jerk or at least looks like one. You know who else had baggage when UH hired them? Kelvin Sampson who’s turning around our once comatose basketball program. Now it’s possible that Lane isn’t that good of a coach, that he’s coasted off of his father’s reputation, riding off of Pete Carroll’s coattails to secure an NFL coaching job a decade before he was ready, then suckered Tennessee, USC, and Alabama all into giving him jobs. Maybe that’s all true. But tell me exactly what has Major Applewhite done in his coaching career? I could also equally make the argument that Applewhite has been coasting off his reputation as a good college quarterback fifteen years ago and hasn’t done anything to deserve his coaching reputation since then. I mean, Longhorn fans weren’t exactly upset about losing him as a coordinator when he and Mack Brown were let go three years ago. Herman threw Applewhite a lifeline and the chance of a lifetime to salvage his reputation by joining the Htowntakeover hypetrain on Cullen Blvd. And don’t tell me Les Miles would’ve been a better hire: Miles reportedly bombed his interview with the UH administration and thought he could coast and get hired on his name alone. The University of Houston doesn’t have the luxury to be in cruise control and rest on our laurels. We need people who are hungry, scrappy, have a chip on their shoulder, and are ready to punch above their weight class. Miles is the inverse of what we need in Houston: He recruits well but teams always seem to underachieve. Sounds like Miles would’ve been Levine 2.0.

In spite of my initial surprise at the hire and my skepticism, let me look at it from the reverse angle

When the Coogs’ offense was rocking and rolling Herman got all of the credit. When the team looked overmatched and the offense sputtered everyone spared Herman the criticism and blamed Applewhite. Perhaps some of the criticism is justified but it seems unfair to have not blamed Herman when the Coogs struggled and given Applewhite credit for turning Greg Ward Jr. from pure, raw athleticism into one of the best quarterbacks in Houston history and good enough to upstage the eventual Heisman Trophy winner. You can’t have it both ways. I’m interested to see if the majority opinion on Applewhite’s offensive coordinating abilities is completely wrong. There’s a part of me that wonders if Applewhite is actually a very good quarterbacks coach and will be able to turn Kyle Allen, Kyle Postma, D’Eriq King, or Bowman Sells into the next great Coogs quarterback.

Regardless of how well Applewhite did as a coordinator the position of head coach is an entirely different beast. Many excellent coordinators fail miserably in the top seat: From Norv Turner to Mark Helfrich, the coaching profession is littered with the corpses of top coordinators who couldn’t cut it as the head man in charge. The reverse can also be true: Applewhite may, in fact, thrive as the head coach at UH by hiring excellent assistants, recruiting well, and being the quiet, methodical CEO coach the Coogs need. He’s apprenticed under Mack Brown, Nick Saban, and Tom Herman who’ve won a combined six national titles and 475 games between them. There are certainly candidates with far worse resumes out there and our best coaches all had extensive Power Five experience prior to taking over. Briles, Sumlin, Herman, and now Applewhite all spent extensive time as assistants in the major conferences, which seems to help as we have goals of playing at that level and eventually joining a major conference. Applewhite is also extremely well respected in the Texas coaching community which is huge. High school coaches will spend a lot of time helping their kids choose a college and having someone who’s respected and visible in the community will be very helpful in recruiting.

It’s possible that Applewhite was simply the best candidate and blew the hiring committee away with his knowledge of the game, command of the room, and leadership potential. It’s also possible this is a Peter Principle situation (that Applewhite is being promoted to his level of his incompetence) and everything comes crashing down, but I’m optimistic for our new coach. We’ve had the loud, self-promoting carnival barker in the top seat which was necessary to gain the attention and respect of the college football universe. Now that we have everyone’s attention we simply need to shut-up and win, lest we wear out our welcome. Applewhite doesn’t need a grill, he’s already got the respect of the coaching community and the college football world. All he needs now is the wins.

Read more: “Why Houston made the right choice by hiring Major Applewhite”

Director Chip Rives discusses his documentary on Phi Slama Jama

via Bstrawradio
via Bstrawradio

ESPN’s new 30 for 30 documentary on the Phi Slama Jama era at the University of Houston’s men’s basketball program aired last month and director Chip Rives sat down with The Weekly Brew podcast to discuss the film. Listen to the interview below, starting at the 16 minute, 23-second mark:

and via iTunes here.

State of the Program: Thoughts on the Herman era and the future of UH football

via Stephen Pinchback/ Houston Athletics
via Stephen Pinchback/ Houston Athletics

“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.” -Tancredi, The Leopard

When Tony Levine was relieved of duties after three underwhelming seasons and replaced by Tom Herman, the only thing I wanted from the new coach was a conference championship victory and nothing more. Herman exceeded those expectations and I’m not upset that he’s left for Austin because he’s left the program better off than when he arrived.

In spite of all of the records shattered during the Case Keenum and Kevin Sumlin era from 2008-11, the Cougars football program had last won a conference title in 2006 under Art Briles before Herman came to town. The Coogs fell short of victory in 2009 and 2011, so my only expectations for Tom Herman were to bring another conference title to Cullen Blvd. Herman built out a very solid staff and was able to help develop Greg Ward Jr.’s raw talent into being one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Herman and company had a few close calls in 2015 but were able to win the American title and upset Florida State in the Peach Bowl. It was Houston’s first conference title in nine seasons and biggest bowl victory in a generation. Since he already exceeded expectations in year one, anything after that I considered an added bonus.

It’s a testament to how excellent 2015 was for the Coogs that 2016 felt like a bit of letdown, but I don’t think there’s a single Coog fan out there who would trade our victories against Oklahoma and Louisville for wins over Navy, SMU, and Memphis. Putting the beatdown on Oklahoma in front of a national tv audience to kickoff the season in a sold out NRG Stadium and the absolute whoppin’ of the Heisman frontrunner Lamar Jackson and Louisville were an incredible validation of the Houston program and proof of how far we’ve come in just a few short seasons. Every recruit and fan across the country has been put on notice to what this program’s potential is.

We all thought that maybe there was a slight chance that Herman was different than all of the others coaches, that he truly wanted to be here for the long haul, but I don’t think anyone is really surprised he left. Coaches want to win a national championship and there’s about 20-25 college football programs that have the ability to compete at a consistent level to win a national title, and the University of Texas is one of those programs. That being said, Herman has helped show how close UH was to potentially crashing the college football playoffs. A few less mistakes against Navy and Memphis, and not having a meltdown against SMU, and the Coogs would’ve secured a playoff spot for 2016. Yes, it would’ve been incredibly hard to do, but a UH or a Boise is still more likely to make the playoffs than a Kansas, Kentucky, or a Purdue. For example: Maybe Purdue could get good enough with the right coach to upset an Ohio State, but to think they could pull off wins over Michigan, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Michigan State all in the same season and win a Big Ten title is far less likely than Houston or Boise running the table and making a cinderella run into the playoffs. Not all Power 5 programs are equal and be proud that Houston, as a G5, is considered by many people to be a better job than about half of the P5. That’s why Dana Holgorsen, Mike Leach, and Sonny Dykes are all rumored to be considering UH. It’s easier to recruit to Houston than to Morgantown or to the Palouse.

There’s going to be a lot of people who urge the Houston administration to find a coach who’s going to be here for the long haul, whatever that means. Those thoughts are well-intentioned but severely misguided. Tony Levine may have wanted to stay at UH for the long-haul and we all saw how well those three seasons went under his leadership. I’ll take fifty Tom Herman’s coming to town and winning conference championships and then leaving UH after two seasons than another Levine era with losses to Texas State and UTSA. All we need to do is win big time football games. A mediocre coach who wants to be here for the long-term is far more damaging for our program than a great coach who wants to win big and leverage us into a better position.

There’s nothing to be upset at UT about. Let their fans talk trash and talk down to UH all they want. It’s a huge validation for our program and our university that the big, rich University of Texas has to come down to lil’ ole U of H to take our head coach. It means they aren’t doing much innovating and growing of homegrown talent over at the 40 acres. The University of Houston is a home of innovation and if UT feels they need some of that UH swagger to improve their subpar football program than more power to them. Herman didn’t leave Houston because there’s something wrong with us, but because we gave him the chance to prove himself, win big, and to make himself a household name in college football. We should be flattered the rest of the state is recognizing our talents because it means we’re better at developing coaches then they are.

I’m still somewhat surprised UT pounced on Herman so quickly without taking the time to do due diligence in interviewing other major candidates, but Herman’s agent certainly got earned his commission by starting a bidding frenzy for his services. Herman is almost exactly the same candidate that Charlie Strong was in 2014: Herman went 22-4 at UH and Strong went 23-3 in his last two years at Louisville. The best coaches in the business (Saban, Harbaugh, and Meyer) all had previous Power 5 experience before their current positions, so I’m a bit surprised UT didn’t throw $6+ million a year at Chris Petersen, Mike MacIntyre, Larry Fedora, or even a Dabo Swinney or David Shaw. All of them are very successful Power 5 coaches who’ve done very well at their non-traditional P5 programs and would do even better with the resources in Austin. But apparently UT is so desperate and the hype around Herman has reached the stratosphere and the UT administration needs to keep their rabid boosters in-line as much as hire the most qualified coach, so they chose the flash-in-the-pan over someone less sexier but with a better resume. Herman has been a head coach all of two seasons and both of those were in the G5. Yes, Charlie Strong just lost to Kansas but Herman couldn’t figure out how not to get blown out by the lowly SMU Mustangs. Oh well, Austin will either show that Herman is the second coming of Meyer or he’ll crumble under the reality of the soap opera of Machiavellian backstabbing and political intrigue and wish he never left the relatively serene confines of the Third Ward. Coog fans should hope he does well for the simple fact that his successes, like those of Briles and Sumlin before him, shows every other coach in college football that Houston is a place where you can win. Better to be a place where the next Tom Herman knows he can come in and win big then for coaches to think this is a dead-end job.

Herman had all of the hype but he didn’t build this program on his own. Herman built upon the foundation laid by, not just the aforementioned Briles and Sumlin before him, but also the legacies of Bill Yeoman, Jack Pardee, and John Jenkins who made the University of Houston known for good, innovative football. Herman was merely a continuation of our legacy of successes. A program can be Power 5 but it doesn’t mean that they have the leadership in place to compete at a high level, which is another reason why Houston is a better job than most people realize and better than half of the major conference programs. President and Chancellor Khator, Chairman Fertitta, and AD Yurachek have all been instrumental as well for laying the foundation here at UH. With all three of them still in power I’m not worried about our future. A new coach can easily come in here and pick up where Herman left off and continue to build on his successes.

And yes, it sucks that the Big 12 turned down UH then one of their school’s took our head coach, but if the Coogs can keep winning and keep selling out TDECU then I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re given a P5 invite during the next round of realignment. I wonder if Texas secretly blocked UH from the Big 12 because they feared what Herman could do if Houston had power conference resources? It would be ironic if the Big 12 is left out of the playoffs this season for the second time in three years, and then they decide to give UH membership after all because Herman is no longer on Cullen and thus UH isn’t perceived as a threat. With the soap operas that are both UT and in the Big 12, nothing would surprise me any more.

Houston Cougars football coach candidate list

via USA TODAY Sports
via USA TODAY Sports

Tom Herman is gone to Austin and the Houston Cougars are now on the market for a new head coach. I’ll have more thoughts recapping the Herman era in the coming days, for now, here’s a list of potential replacements to take over the Coogs’ head coaching position. Some of these names have been rumored in the media, some will be pure speculation on my part, and the list is by no means comprehensive but I’ll try to keep it updated as much as possible… so keep checking back. Also, the list is in no particular order.

Updates – Added three more potential candidates at the bottom. Also, a few people expressed surprise there are some current P5 coaches listed. These coaches are all rumored to be in the mix for the UH opening by respectable journalists. All are coaching at lower-tiered P5 programs and may be sick of not being able to be the big dog in the conference. The Houston opening is better than about half of the Power Five. This is not a discussion about money, but in case you care: Of the still employed coaches, only the recently added Dan Mullen made more money last year than Tom Herman.

Mike Leach – Head Coach of Washington State – Leach is 55 but has been a head coach since 2000. Leach is one of the most innovative offensive minds in college football being the prime inventor, with Hal Mumme, of the spread/air raid offense. Leach has deep Texas roots coaching at Texas Tech from 2000-09 and going 84-43. Leach has been at Washington State since 2012 and has turned around one of the worst FBS programs in the country to be 8-4 this year and 9-4 last season. The Cougars from the northwest were a loss to Washington away from going to the Pac 12 title game this season. The Pirate has never won a division title but would be a strong hire for the Coogs if he got bored of the Palouse. Leach would certainly be one of the most entertaining hires Houston could make and would crank things up to eleven on offense.

Dana Holgorsen – Head Coach of West Virginia – Holgorsen is only 45 years old and is part of the Mike Leach coaching tree. He was also Houston’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2008-09. Holgorsen mentored a young Case Keenum before moving on to the same position at Oklahoma State and on to become West Virginia’s head coach in 2011. Holgorsen hasn’t won too much at West Virginia but has guided the Mountaineers to an impressive 2016 season. He’d bring a high octane offense and would be likely to keep the Coogs on pace for more 10+ win seasons. Holgorsen is reportedly fond of the city of Houston and it would be interesting to see what he could do with the talent in the H.

Les Miles – Former LSU head coach – No seriously, Miles is a bit old at 63 but had been a head coach since 2001. Miles went 28-21 at Oklahoma State before getting hired to coach at LSU in 2005. Miles went 114-34 at LSU in 11 1/4 seasons before wearing out his welcome. Miles guided LSU to two SEC titles and two national title game appearances, winning the 2007 BCS national title. Miles has guided his teams to a bowl game every season since 2002. In spite of his age, if Miles can hire a better offensive coordinator than Cam Cameron, he may be able to keep the Coogs recent successes going. UH could do a lot worse than going to a bowl every season and Miles is a great recruiter and motivator. He’d need a solid X & O’s assistant coach under him, though.

Art Briles – Disgraced and Humiliated – Don’t you put that evil on me Ricky Bobby! Briles was the head coach at UH from 2003-07 going 34-28 in the process and turned around the once dormant Houston program, winning the 2006 conference title. Briles did an even better coaching job turning the Baylor Bears into one of the best programs in college football, going 65-37 from 2008-2015 and winning two conference titles in the process. The Bears were as dreadful (maybe even worse) as Kansas is right now before Briles arrived. From a pure football perspective, Briles is the best coach available. That being said, Briles was fired in the midst of the worst scandal since Penn State and hasn’t shown any true remorse for his lack of institutional control of the football program. Briles never apologized until stories started leaking out that he wanted to coach again. Expect many thinly-veiled PR fluff stories in the next few weeks how “changed” he is and “regretful” he is about what happened at Baylor. If UH has any morals they should show we have some gotdamn self-respect and stay the hell away from Art Briles. Expect a flood of season ticket cancellations if Briles is hired.

Todd Orlando – Houston Defensive Coordinator – Orlando has done a great job as Houston’s defensive coordinator these past two seasons. He also served as dc at Utah State, FIU, and UConn before Houston. He’d be a solid and safe hire and, in the few times I’ve seen him speak, seems like he has head coach written all over him. Orlando might not get the same level of headlines that Herman got, but he’d be able to keep the Coog train rolling. And don’t be scared about hiring from within…. as long as we don’t promote the special teams coach.

Major Applewhite – Houston Offensive Coordinator – The 38-year-old has done a respectable job as Houston’s OC, even though depth issues along the o-line have hurt the Coogs’ offense this year. Applewhite was previously co-OC at Texas from 2011-13 and was OC at Alabama and Rice in previous years. Applewhite was one of the rising coaching prospects in the industry until he had “an inappropriate relationship with a student at the 2009 Fiesta Bowl” which is a way of saying he cheated on his wife with a UT athletic trainer. Applewhite might do a decent job as head coach, but he does come with a bit of baggage, albeit far less than Briles: One mistake seven years ago is slightly different than multiple years of distasteful behavior.

Joe Moglia – Coastal Carolina head coach – Wildcard! Moglia was Chairman and CEO of TD Ameritrade where he made millions on Wall Street. Moglia then turned in his P&L statements for a headset and got hired as a head coach of the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. Using the same skills he used to use to motivate as a CEO, Moglia has gone 50-15 as the head man in Conway, South Carolina. Now, why would the Coogs be interested in the 67-year-old coach of an FCS program? Moglia was originally hired by current Houston athletic director Hunter Yurachek. If Moglia was a decade younger he’d likely get more consideration for Houston top job, but he may at least be able to convince his old boss for at least a courtesy interview.

Sonny Dykes – Cal head coach – A Mike Leach disciple, he’ll probably push hard for the UH job, but he’s never won anything. Dykes went 22-15 at Louisiana Tech and has gone 18-30 at Berkeley. Reportedly contacted about Houston’s opening back in 2012, he’d be a desperate hire for the Coogs in 2016.

Lane Kiffin – Alabama offensive coordinator – The controversial and polarizing Kiffin is still only 41 years old. Currently serving as Alabama’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Kiffin went 28-15 as the head coach at USC and a respectable 7-6 in one season at Tennessee. Kiffin also coached 20 games with the Oakland Raiders nearly a decade ago. Kiffin would keep the media interested in Cullen Boulevard and would bring some innovative offenses and strong recruiting. He’s more likely to end up as LSU’s offensive coordinator, but may soon be a head coach again.

Brent Venables – Clemson DC and LB coach – The 45-year-old Venables has been a top defensive coordinator and linebackers coach since 1999(!). He currently coaches at Clemson and was at Oklahoma from 1999-2011. Venables is one of the major reasons why the Tigers have been dominant the past few seasons. Clemson coordinator Chad Morris has done an excellent job at SMU the past two seasons and it’s only a matter of time before Venables gets hired to take over a program as HC. He’d be another Herman-like hire: A big time P5 coordinator getting his first HC gig.

Sonny Cumbie – TCU co-OC and QB coach – The 35-year-old Cumbie was a quarterback under Mike Leach from 2000-04 and is a fast rising star in the coaching ranks. Cumbie was co-OC at Tech in 2013 and has been co-OC and quarterbacks coach at TCU since 2014. Would be a decent hire, but more of a gamble on a very young coaching prospect who doesn’t have a ton of experience as a coordinator. Expect him to be a head coach somewhere soon, most likely a G5 program.

Doug Meacham – TCU co-OC / iWR – The 51-year-old Meacham has been TCU’s co-offensive coordinator since 2014 and was Houston’s coordinator in 2013. He previously cut his teeth as an assistant at Oklahoma State from 2005-2012. This would be an average hire: Not great, but not awful.

Joe Moorhead – Penn State OC & QB coach – Moorhead has done a respectable job as Penn State’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach but has only been in Happy Valley for one season. Before that, Moorhead went 38-13 as FCS Fordham’s head coach. He’s mostly an east coast guy so he’d probably be more in-line for a job for a program out on that side of the country.

Dino Babers – Syracuse head coach – The Art Briles prodigy would be an interesting hire for Houston since Babers spent 2008-11 as an assistant in Waco. Babers went 19-7 at Eastern Illinois coaching Jimmy Garoppolo in the process. He then went 18-9 at Bowling Green before taking over the Syracuse job a year ago. He’s only gone 4-7 with the Orange this season but the team was in the dumps when he got there and managed a solid upset of #17 Virginia Tech this season. He’d have to think Syracuse is hopeless to leave so quick for a G5 program.

Lincoln Riley – Oklahoma OC/QB coach – If you can’t beat the Third Ward D, might as well join them? Riley is only 33 years old and might not have the experience the Coogs would need to take over the program. He’s been at Oklahoma for two seasons, was at East Carolina from 2010-14. Would be more a hire based on potential than anything.

Philip Montgomery – Tulsa head coach – Montgomery was Houston’s coordinator under Art Briles from 2005-07 and was an assistant at UH for two seasons before that. Montgomery followed Briles to Waco and was Baylor’s coordinator from 2008-14, coaching RG3 to the Heisman, before taking over the head coaching job at Tulsa. Not sure why he’d make a lateral move to Houston but expect his name to be rumored to be in the mix. I could see him taking over at Baylor before moving back to Houston. He’s done a decent job turning around the Golden Hurricanes, though, winning nine games this season and nearly beating the Coogs.

Tim Drevno – Michigan OC/OL – Drevno has done an excellent job as Jim Harbaugh’s offensive coordinator the past two years up in Ann Arbor. Drevno was also an assistant under Harbaugh with the 49ers from 2011-13, at Stanford from 2007-10, and at San Diego from 2003-06. He’ll likely be a head coach somewhere in the next few seasons.

Greg Schiano – Ohio State DC & AHC – The last Ohio State coordinator the Coogs hired did a pretty decent job on Cullen, why not duplicate that success? Schiano has only been at Ohio State for one season but previously turned around the atrocious Rutgers Scarlet Knights from 2001-11, making them relevant enough to eventually become a Big Ten team. Schiano was only 68-67 up in New Jersey but Rutgers was considered one of the worst programs in the history of college football. Schiano oddly left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was an 11-21 disaster, but will likely get another head coaching job soon in college football. Before Rutgers, Schiano was DC at Miami for two seasons under Butch Davis and took over Rutgers the year Miami dominated college football and won the national title. He’s only 50 years old and will still have some good years left in him.

Gene Chizik – North Carolina DC – Coach Chizik went 5-19 at Iowa State before somehow landing the Auburn head coaching job, where he went 33-19. Chizik won the 2010 national title thanks to Cam Newton and was fired just two years later after going 3-9. Not sure if he is even a good head coach, but the 54-year-old might be a decent hire for a lower level G5 program.

Randy Shannon – Florida co-DC & LB – The 50-year-old Shannon has spent nearly his entire career in the state of Florida, serving as an assistant for the Miami Hurricanes from 1991-97 and as defensive coordinator from 2001-06 before taking over as head coach of The U from 2007-10. His Hurricane teams struggled on offense and he was fired after going 28-22. Shannon resurfaced at TCU as linebackers coach, then at Arkansas for two seasons in the same position, and is now back in the state of Florida running defense for the Gators. Might not be a good fit for Houston due to his weak ties in the state of Texas, but will likely get another shot at being a head coach one day.

Charlie Strong – Former Texas HC – Strong was just fired as the Texas head coach to make room for Tom Herman. There are some people who may link him to the Houston job, but I doubt the boosters would make the move to hire him. Regardless of how poorly he was treated in Austin, I see coach Strong taking a year off and enjoying that fat $11+ million buyout before taking another job.

Dan Mullen – Mississippi State head coach – Coach Mullen was the original Tom Herman and served as Urban Meyer’s offensive coordinator at Florida, most notably turning Tim Tebow into a legend. Mullen also served under or with Meyer as an assistant at Utah, Bowling Green, and Notre Dame. Mullen hasn’t won a whole lot with the Bulldogs, though he mentored Dak Prescott into an NFL starting quarterback and has gone 59-42 since arriving in Starkville in 2009. Perhaps he’s sick of being a lower-level SEC program and wants a new challenge? Either way, he’d be a respectable hire for the Coogs.

Jason Phillips – Kansas WR coach – The UH alumnus and former co-offensive coordinator from 2008-11, Phillips was passed over for the Coogs’ top job in 2012 for Tony Levine. For some reason, Phillips didn’t join the Sumlin staff in College Station and ended up at SMU before landing in Kansas as a position coach. Some UH fans might mention him as a candidate but I doubt it’ll happen. We can do a bit better.

 

How Tom Herman is destabilizing football in the state of Texas to Houston’s benefit


The Houston Cougars put the beatdown on the #3 ranked Louisville Cardinals last Thursday and now the “Herman to X” rumor mill is back in full swing and about to get completely wild. Coog fans need to sit back, grab a Brew of H, and watch the chess grandmaster Herman work.

Charlie Strong just lost to Kansas and likely cemented his fate. Kevin Sumlin may soon see the door as well. Kingsbury is possibly out, Waco has an opening, and LSU may or may not decide to retain Coach O. All of these schools are full of completely crazy, arrogant, rich boosters who’ve never been told no in their lives and have nothing better to than to undermine the stability of their football programs and put pressure on their athletic directors to hire Tom Herman. Nevermind that Willie Taggart would be just as good of a hire and is a Jim Harbaugh disciple, every booster has a hard-on for Herman.

The most despicable treatment of a coach is what’s been happening in Austin since 2014. After hiring the first African-American coach in their school’s history, brash and insolent UT booster Red McCombs said Charlie Strong would make a Great position coach, maybe a coordinator” . This is the same McCombs who bought the Minnesota Vikings in 1998, fired an African-American coach who had gone to the playoffs eight times in ten seasons and replaced him with a white position coach who managed one playoff appearance in five seasons with Randy Moss and Dante Culpepper in their primes. Charlie Strong had just come off two national championships as a coordinator under Urban Meyer at Florida and then guided Louisville to 37 wins in four years, with only 3 losses in his final two seasons, and coached Teddy Bridgewater to get drafted in the NFL. Apparently that wasn’t good enough for the Horns but Herman, with a similar resume, is. The haughty boosters like McCombs have been leaking stories to the media for the past three seasons and they’ve been shamelessly pining for Tom Herman, completely undermining their current team and coach in the process. No wonder they just got beat by Kansas. Will UT continue to recruit well in the future in spite of the instability? Of course. But if you think the families of many young African-American recruits aren’t watching Strong get sandbagged and thinking twice about sending their kids to school in one of the most segregated cities in the state then you probably don’t think Colonel Reb hurt Ole Miss in recruiting for decades. If Herman wants to step into that mess then good luck.

The rumors are now that UT’s contemptuous boosters are pressuring the school to hire Herman before A&M makes the move first. A&M is likely feeling some of the same pressure from their boosters, and I don’t doubt Tech, Baylor, and LSU are all in the same boat. A lot of Houston fans think that all of this talk has been a distraction for the Coogs, but it sure wasn’t against Louisville. If Herman is smart he’s staying mum to get a fat raise from UH, but also to give UT and A&M the false hope that he’s interested in leaving Houston. When Texas fires Strong, and should Sumlin, Orgeron, and Kingsbury be out the door as well, anyone less than Herman taking over their programs will be seen as a major letdown… save for Nick Saban getting bored of Tuscaloosa and heading west. Herman being quiet on his plans seems to be destabilizing those other programs and now is the perfect time for the Coogs to really pounce and takeover the state. Never telegraph your punch. Keep quiet and keep your cards close to the vest.

Of course, there’s a chance Herman is like every other coach who wants to coach at a blue blood program, but there’s also a huge possibility Herman really does want to build a wall around the city of Houston and try to turn the Coogs into the new 1980’s Miami Hurricanes. With TCU being seemingly the only stable P5 program in the region other than the Oklahoma schools, now is the perfect time for Herman to stay at Houston and push the Coogs program to the next level. Ed Oliver, Colin Wilder, and D’Eriq King are all true freshmen and will be even better as sophomores next fall. King, Kyle Allen, Kyle Postma, and Bowman Sells are all back on Cullen Blvd. next fall and will be battling to be the next legendary Cougar quarterback once Greg Ward Jr. graduates. The Coog program doesn’t need rebuilding like those other schools that have openings. Just imagine Herman with another year of recruiting under his belt and what the true freshman of 2017 will do on the field. I’ll say it again: Ed Oliver is not an outlier, he’s the beginning of a flood of four and five stars to UH.

One of the benefits of coaching at Houston is, as UH Hall of Fame coach Bill Yeoman always said, “You can swing a dead cat by its tail in Houston and hit 10 Division I football players.” Herman and his staff have the benefit of being the hip, up-and-coming football program in the region and every top recruit in the Houston area and in the Gulf Coast region is keeping their eye on the Coogs. Herman and staff can do all of their recruiting within 100 square miles of Houston and still be home for dinner, as Herman has mentioned several times. Herman has also mentioned how he’s moved his family a lot already over the years and, being that Tom and his wife Michelle have three young children, he would hate to uproot his family to a new town and put his kids in a new school. There also really isn’t another program in the region that has the stability of UH. Why would a high school player want to go to Waco, Austin, College Station, or Baton Rouge right now with all of the lack of stability in their coaching staffs? Stay home, play in front of your friends and family, and win some big-time football games even as a G5. The other huge benefit is Houston is in the prime position to be the top transfer destination to all of the kids from Houston who want to transfer back closer to home. If a kid from Katy heads to Oregon and gets homesick, why not come back and play at UH and be close to mom and dad?

If Tom Herman is that good of a coach then there will be plenty of blue-blood openings for him in the future should he be so inclined. There will always be impatient ADs and boosters. The Coogs are in the perfect position to ride the hot hand of a new quarterback in 2017 and for Oliver and the Third Ward D to shutdown opponents like they did Louisville last week. The Coogs could run the table in 2017 and sneak into the playoffs. If they do, Herman will be considered an absolute legend in college football, especially if they can pull off an upset or two. If he goes to Austin and goes 6-6 once or twice while taking the time to rebuild the program, fans will be calling for his head. Why deal with that? Everyone expects Herman to leave which is why I’m not convinced he will. To really be a legend you have to go against the grain, to march to a different beat, to see things no one else sees. If everyone agrees with you, you’re not a visionary you’re just a follower. Nick Saban can win a lot of national titles at Alabama but it would’ve been more impressive if he would’ve taken a program with less history and made them a power, like a Kentucky or Iowa State. Most people have to think you’re crazy to be a visionary and the thought of Tom Herman building the Coogs into the new Miami is crazy to most people which is why it may just happen. Either way, I’m just thankful our program is good enough for people to think our coach is even worthy of poaching. Happy Thanksgiving!

Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown episode on Houston airs tonight at 8pm

Anthony Bourdain and Slim Thug at MacGregor Park

It’s finally almost here! Anthony Bourdain has traveled the world for his show on food and culture, Parts Unknown, and the latest episode is on the unique city of Houston. The episode will air tonight (Sunday, Oct. 30th) at 8pm CST on CNN.

SLAB city mane: How we ride down in the H-Town

From the preview, it looks like Bourdain really took the time to understand Houston and what makes the city unique:

University of Screwston: Visiting the DJ Screw and Pen & Pixel collections at the University of Houston


Recently I decided to make the pilgrimage to the MD Anderson Library at the University of Houston to see the DJ Screw and Pen & Pixel Graphics collections within the Special Collections wing of the library. Houston has been one of the most important cities within the hip-hop genre and the University of Houston has had it’s share of musicians who once studied within its many buildings. Master P, Lil’ Wayne, Paul Wall, Chamillionaire, L.E.$., and The Nice Guys (who were my next door neighbors at Cullen Oaks many years ago) all studied at UH at one point, not to mention the Kenny Rogers himself was once a student. I also remember a young Riff Raff hustling mixtapes by the shuttle stop in front of PGH hall back around 2008 when I was waiting to catch a ride back to Cullen Oaks. Short of Berklee, few schools have as much history with musicians studying on it’s campus.

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Lil Troy plaque outside the Special Collections room at UH Anderson Library
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“Houston Rap” photography book on display inside the Special Collections room

The DJ Screw Papers

First I took a look at the DJ Screw papers which is a mix of photos and documents relating to the late deejay’s life. The collection is not behind a glass enclosure like in a museum but contained within several boxes that can only be viewed upon request from the Special Collections staff, who are all incredibly helpful and friendly.

Screw is lionized within Houston and the hip-hop community nationwide, rightfully, as one of the most innovative people ever to touch a set of turntables and it’s easy to forget that he was just a regular guy but viewing the papers made me realize his normalness. Screw was just a kid from Smithville, Texas who originally wanted to be nothing more than a truck driver like his father when he stumbled across his mother’s turntables and decided to teach himself how to scratch like he saw in the movie Breakin’. Eventually he would completely redefine the entire hip-hop genre and create a unique sound that is still being duplicated by countless musicians today.

[Note: This article will take a few minutes to load due to the amount of photos included. It’s best to wait for the page to finish loading before clicking into the photo galleries. I’ve marked the last photo in each gallery as “The End” so you know when you’ve seen everything. To see the larger version of an image, right-click and open image in a new tab.]

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The Pen & Pixel Collection

Pen & Pixel founders Aaron and Shawn Brauch displaying their uniquely gaudy artwork in an ad for their firm
Pen & Pixel founders Aaron and Shawn Brauch displaying their uniquely gaudy artwork in an ad for their design firm

Pen & Pixel Graphics was a graphics design firm from Houston that was most known for designing, primarily, southern hip-hop album covers in the 1990s and early 2000s. The firm was founded by brothers Aaron and Shawn Brauch who originally started doing artwork for Houston’s Rap-A-Lot Records and received so many requests for artwork they decided to build their own art studio in 1992. Aaron is an MBA from Cornell and Mensa member (wonder if he knows Tom Herman?) and Shawn has multiple design degrees and is a scuba-diving and sailing fanatic and now resides in Oregon.

[note: short video documentary on Pen and Pixel from Noisey below]

The artwork typically was all very over the top and gaudy. Any hip-hop head, whether they listened to southern rap or not, was inundated by the images of Pen & Pixel in countless advertisements in The Source magazine and in record stores during this era. Pen & Pixel handled the majority of album covers for No Limit Records, Cash Money Records, and Hypnotize Minds as well as an endless amount of other independent record companies and aspiring emcees. While the hip-hop game has always been dominated by New York and Los Angeles, independent upstarts in America’s flyover country had to have attention grabbing artwork to entice listeners with the potential of a dope record inside the case to get them to purchase their album.

One of the most memorable album covers from Pen & Pixel
One of the most memorable and over-the-top album covers from the Pen & Pixel era

The firm designed over 19,000 album covers for an estimated 6,000-8,000 clients who sold a cumulative 750 million albums and were awarded over 80 plaques form the RIAA from 1992 until 2003. The artwork they made personified the Bling era, including the cover for B.G.’s “Chopper City In The Ghetto” who’s song “Bling Bling” put the term in the pop culture lexicon and eventually into both Webster’s and Oxford. Although hip-hop was what made them a household name, the firm also produced work for Cher, Chris Rock, Destiny’s Child, Lyle Lovett, and ZZ Top.

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DJ Screw’s Personal Vinyl Collection

In this post I couldn’t possibly include pictures of every single vinyl record that Screw’s family donated to UH, nor every record from each artist mentioned, as Screw’s family donated nearly 5,000 of the late deejay’s records to the library and Julie Grob, the library’s Coordinator of Digital Projects & Instruction for Special Collections, and staff curated the collection down to 1,500, weeding out duplicates and LPs that were damaged. I’m trying to include photos of the ones I felt were the most significant to the this story and to the history of Houston and hip-hop. I was pleasantly surprised with what I found as the collection includes pretty much every important hip-hop and r&b album from the late eighties and nineties, up until Screw passed away on November 16th, 2000 at the incredibly young age of 29. There’s a few surprises like Marvin Gaye, Nirvana, Funkadelic, and Destiny’s Child.

A young kid from Smithville, Texas named Robert Davis, Jr discovered his mother’s turntables and taught himself to scratch records. Later in his high school years Davis would move to Houston to live with his father Robert Sr. The younger Davis, now calling himself DJ Screw, would continue to work on his turntable skills while working deejay gigs at local clubs and selling his own cassette tape mixes (known as “mixtapes”) on the side. Soon fate would intervene and alter Screw’s fate and the fate of Houston forever:

One day in 1989, he was mixing in his apartment with some friends. They were drinking and smoking marijuana and, according to Charles Washington, who would become Screw’s first manager, Screw accidentally hit the turntable’s pitch button, slowing everything down. Screw liked the way it sounded, though he was incredulous when one of his friends offered him $10 to record a slowed-down mix tape. “Screw thought the guy was crazy,” said Charles Washington. But he did it, and the next day Screw’s friend came back with a couple of friends, who also wanted slowed-down tapes.[1]

LPs from the SUC and other Houston artists:

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Soon enough the teenager’s slowed down Maxell cassette tapes began to spread across the city earning the young upstart an increasing amount of money. As Screw’s customer base grew across the region he began to receive custom mix requests and started giving a shoutout to various Houston neighborhoods on his tapes. Then he started taking the instrumentals of the songs he was mixing and allowed local up and coming rappers to rhyme on the tracks.

The tapes began to spread like wildfire outside Houston across the region and various Houston aspiring musicians would make themselves household names on the increasingly growing Houston underground hip-hop scene. Fat Pat, Lil Keke, ESG, Big Pokey, and Big Moe were just some of the young rappers in a sprawling, loosely connected group called the “Screwed Up Click” who would soon become known all across the south thanks to their freestyles over DJ Screw’s slowed down cassette tapes. Throughout this whole time he was making money hand over fist selling tapes, Screw was still selling the majority of tapes out of his house on Houston’s southside with cars lining the street for blocks to buy the tapes during the few hours the deejay left open for business. So many people were lining up to buy the tapes night after night the Houston police were called multiple times because so many neighbors assumed Screw was selling drugs.

Screw would receive multiple requests to start his record company over the years as his mixtape empire grew, but he always resisted. All he ever wanted to do was to put the city of Houston on the map and to expose our city’s unique culture to the rest of the world. That unique culture was the central topic of the freestyles on the Screw tapes, which typically consisted of talk about candy painted cars with swangers poking out the side, popped trunks exposed to show a slogan, swanging one’s car left to right down the street while driving real slow, sippin’ syrup, and general braggadocious street content.

Through the nineties as Screw music and Houston hip-hop culture began to boom in the underground, many other musicians across the south began to get national recognition. OutKast, Trick Daddy, Eightball & MJG, Master P and his No Limit Records, Three 6 Mafia, Cash Money Records, and several others began to sell millions of records and become prominent hip-hop acts.

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Final Thoughts

It was pretty surreal going through many of the different crates of Screw’s records. This collection is a near-complete cross section of nineties hip-hop from across the country, a lot of the music I grew up on and several others I would discover as I grew older. As fans we tend to pigeonhole artists into being only within the type of music they make. Looking through Screw’s records I’m reminded that musicians were fans of the music first and they typically listen to a wide variety. Deejays in particular tend to be on the forefront of music, especially hip-hop mixtape deejays like Screw who are always looking for the next instrumental to flip into a dope freestyle beat for their next tape. I mean, who the heck thought a Kris Kross song would become the most famous underground hip-hop record from Houston and be later remade by an upstart rapper from Toronto?

Even though Screw has passed on, others like Michael Watts from Swisha House and OG Ron C have continued the tradition of chopping and screwing the latest hip-hop tracks and releasing countless mixtapes. I moved to Houston in August 2004 right when the Swisha House track “Still Tippin” blew up and it was wild seeing Houston’s previously underground hip-hop scene getting national respect for the first time. A year later, to kickoff my sophomore year at UH, Paul Wall’s “The People Champ” dropped and referenced the Moody Towers in one of the songs, the same dorm that I was living in at the time the album was released. I was very fortunate to chop it up with Mr. Wall a few months ago and to tell him the story of how wild that whole time period was being a student at UH and being a fan of Houston hip-hop.

Special Thanks

A big special thanks to Ms. Julie Grob and the staff of the Special Collections at the University of Houston’s Anderson Library. Their friendliness and willingness to help me geek out for several hours and to pull countless crates of vinyl is much appreciated! I couldn’t have done it without their hospitality. Of course, even though I’ve never met them, a big thank you to the Davis family for donating the records to UH so the library can preserve Screw’s legacy.

The Special Collections room is open M-F 9-5 and on Saturdays from 12-4. More info on their website here. Be sure to check out some of their videos about the exhibit on YouTube.

Read more!

  1. The Slow Life and Fast Life of DJ Screw
  2. Syrupy Surprises: Random Selections From DJ Screw’s Personal Vinyl Collection
  3. History, Screwed and Chopped
  4. Letter of Recommendation: Pen & Pixel

 

 

 

Fear and Loathing on Cullen Boulevard

via the AP
via the AP

Hello darkness my old friend. Houston’s total and complete whoopin’ on Saturday night in Dallas shook the Coog fanbase to the core, re-triggering our PTSD that had been well hidden since the disastrous Levine era. The scoreboard read 38-16 at the end but it wasn’t even that close as SMU was up a convincing 28-7 at the half.

Not to be outdone by the meltdown on the field, many Coog fans have had themselves a near total meltdown on social media during and in the days following Saturday’s collapse. Multiple Coog fans have been gripped with a zest for conspiracy theories, rumor mongering, and general fear of the apocalypse not seen since, well, this current election season. Blame has been cast in many directions: At Coog assistants like offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, special teams and cornerbacks coach Jason Washington, and offensive line coach Derek Warehime who seemed to bear the brunt of the wrath of angry fans looking for a scapegoat. Nevermind that these coaches, and the units they coach, have had heavy losses since last season to graduation and this year to injuries, Coog fans have been calling for blood. I’m actually shocked that coach Warehime was able to keep the Coogs offensive line together for this long, considering how many injuries the unit suffered last season. I didn’t expect he’d be able to keep things duct-taped together enough last year for Ward and company to roll through the AAC title and on to a Peach Bowl win. Honestly, I thought Memphis and Cincinnati were going to beat us and Herman would have a nice nine or ten win debut season. The Jack Boys secondary lost Trevon Stewart, Adrian McDonald, and William Jackson III in the offseason so nobody should be surprised that the new unit will take time to play at the same level as last season’s squad.

In addition to blaming random assistant coaches, many Coog fans have been spewing conspiracies that the players aren’t motivated because Tom Herman has already accepted a job at UT or LSU, whichever Twitter rumor you prefer. The rumor goes: The Coogs have looked bad since Navy (or Cincinnati, again depending on the rumor) and it’s because the players know Herman is already out the door. Coaches don’t typically interview for jobs in late September or October so this rumor seems especially silly. This idea that the University of Texas has already decided to fire their head coach in October and already has an agreement with their next coach is completely batshit crazy. This is Texas for goodness sakes: Should there be an opening, the Longhorns will likely take their time and interview multiple candidates. I’d be shocked if UT doesn’t talk to David Shaw, Chris Petersen, Mike Gundy, Gary Patterson, and former UT assistant Bryan Harsin. In fact, looking at that list, Herman isn’t and shouldn’t be at the top of UT’s wish list. Just look at coaching salaries: Charlie Strong is #6 and Chris Petersen is #25. Why not offer to double Petersen’s salary? That’d be a hell of a hire for UT and his resume blows Herman’s out the water.

Also, consider if Herman wanted to leave Houston for another job, why in the hell would he make that decision in October? He’d most likely have his agent field multiple offers from all over the country towards the end of the season once there are actual job openings. The only opening now of that caliber is LSU, the UT job isn’t even open yet and we don’t know which other programs will have openings. What if the Oregon or USC jobs come open and offer a lot more money than UT? There’s nothing to gain by him making a decision now, especially when he needs to focus on keeping the Coogs from having a total collapse to the season. If the Coogs can’t get out of this tailspin then his leverage goes out the door, again if he wanted to leave.

Comparisons are being made to the Kevin Sumlin exit in 2011, but Sumlin was in discussions with Texas A&M in late November near the end of Houston’s 2011 season. Also, Sumlin interviewing was reported by actual journalists from reputable news organizations, not random Twitter accounts who don’t even cover college football and have less than 100 followers. If a journalist who gets paid a salary to write about college football, like Joseph Duarte, doesn’t report on it, then it’s probably bullshit and not worth worrying about.

The strangest part of all of the blame-gaming is the fact that Herman has been largely spared from any criticism. Herman seems to be held in some deity-level status that absolves him of any criticism or blame. If those assistant coaches are at fault for the Coogs’ collapse, then why not the man who hired them? Why is nobody wondering why in the world did Herman needlessly tape SMU jersey’s to the floor last year and then openly mock them to the media earlier this Spring? SMU coach Chad Morris is a hell of a coach who cut his teeth in Texas before running Clemson’s high-flying offense. Morris will likely be a very good Big 12 coach before the decade is out and Herman gave him and the Mustangs players some bulletin board material before Saturday night’s matchup.  The moment you don’t take an opponent seriously is how Texas State smacks you down 30-13 in your own stadium. Herman decided to let his mouth write a check his team couldn’t cash and the ‘Stangs had extra motivation to embarrass the Coogs and did so.

Herman won a conference title and the Peach Bowl last year with Tony Levine’s players and has done a great job recruiting since taking the job on Cullen Boulevard. The blowout up in Dallas last weekend should never have happened and makes me wonder how good of a coach Herman actually is. The guy who is considered to be the next Urban Meyer or Nick Saban barely beat Tulsa,  got whooped by SM freakin’ U, and couldn’t figure out how to slow down the Navy triple option. Herman may very well be the next Meyer but he also could just as easily be the next Brady Hoke or Charlie Weiss, both who had strong first seasons before ultimately getting fired. Herman has still only been on Cullen Boulevard for a season and a half and we don’t have a big enough of a sample size to really know how good of a coach he is.

Truthfully, I think Herman is potentially a fantastic coach, but I’d be more comfortable believing that after watching him coach successfully at UH for five seasons or more. I believe the reason the Coogs have lost their swagger on the field the past few weeks is due to injuries and losing several key playmakers in the offseason. Herman simply hasn’t had time to recruit enough depth at key positions. The SMU game showed that Houston has depth issues at multiple positions and will need another recruiting cycle or two to get back to championship level football. I can’t wait to see what the Coogs will look like after Herman has three or four full recruiting cycles under his belt and hopefully Herman stays long enough for us to do so.