3 Biggest Questions Facing Houston Head Coach Willie Fritz Ahead of Big 12 Media Days

    As the Houston Cougars look to make up for a down year, what questions will first-year head coach Willie Fritz face at Big 12 Media Days?

    It will be the second Big 12 Media Days for the Houston Cougars after the program officially joined the conference last year, and they’ll already be bringing a new coach. Dana Holgerson was let go by the Cougars following a 4-8 debut showing in the Big 12, leading Willie Fritz to cross the Texas-Louisiana border to join Houston from Tulane.

    As he acclimates to his new environment, what questions is Fritz set to face at Big 12 Media Days?

    Three Most Significant Questions for Willie Fritz at Big 12 Media Days

    1) Will Donovan Smith be Healthy for Fall Camp?

    It wasn’t all bad for the Cougars last season, as Donovan Smith emerged as a capable leader under center. After three years at Texas Tech (2020-2022), Smith started all 12 games for Houston last year, passing for 2,801 yards and throwing 22 TDs to 13 INTs, adding another 428 yards and six scores on the ground.

    However, Smith had surgery on his labrum in the offseason, causing him to miss some crucial offseason workouts. Smith is expected to be ready to go, but Louisiana transfer Zeon Chriss is waiting in the wings if his recovery timetable hits a snag.

    2) How are the Cougars Adapting to a 3-4 Defense?

    Operating in a 4-2-5 base defense under DC Doug Belk, the Cougars finished second to last in the Big 12 for scoring defense at 31.5 points allowed per game, and in total defense, giving up 423.9 yards per game. Frtiz brought in a new defensive coordinator, Shiel Wood, with a new scheme, switching the program from a 5-DB, 4-down front under Belk to a 3-4.

    Wood oversaw a Troy Trojans defense that finished 8th in the country in total yards allowed in 2022 before joining Fritz in Tulane last year, where he led the 24th-best total defense. His scheme has yielded results, but there will undoubtedly be growing pains following an overhaul.

    3) Is Strength of Schedule a Concern?

    There is adversity from the jump for Fritz as he was handed the third-toughest slate of opponents in CFN’s 2024 strength of schedule metric.

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    The Big 12 is now 16 teams deep, all of whom are playing nine conference games. Stiffer competition means tougher stakes as Houston attempts to prove it was worthy of moving up from the Group of Five to the Power Four.

    Big 12 Media Days Schedule: Willie Fritz, Houston Head Coach

    • Date: Wednesday, July 10
    • Time: 4:00 p.m. ET
    • How to watch: ESPN+

    One thing Fritz has going for him is his penchant for running the ball. Houston finished 12th (out of 14 teams last year) in rushing at 118.7 yards per game. Tulane averaged 155 yards rushing per game while running the ball nearly 44 times per contest.

    With a solid option at QB and a defense under construction, if Fritz can get control of Houston’s rush attack, that strength of schedule might not look so daunting come the fall.

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