While the majority of starved college football fans across the country look for any morsel to fill their appetite, we decided to check in on Georgia State football's 2011 FBS opponent with our friend Dustin Rensink of SB Nation Houston. The Panthers will take on Houston of Conference USA on Saturday, September 24, 2011. Rensink provided interesting insights into what Panther fans should expect to see when traveling to the Bayou City.
SB Nation Atlanta: What was the feeling post-Spring practice among the coaching staff after coming off a disappointing season in 2010?
Dustin Rensick: Kevin Sumlin doesn't give a lot away. He always comes across very positive, but plays things very close to the vest, so it's hard to glean too much, but what has been said has sounded good. The biggest question marks for the Coogs this year are the offensive and defensive line, and both are getting good early reviews, but whether that's legitimate praise or coach-speak is hard to tell. We've been promised improved defensive play year after year at UH, and we're still waiting.
SB Nation Atlanta: How is Case Keenum's rehab progressing?
DR: He didn't fully participate in Spring practice, but that was to be expected. Again, it's hard to tell with a coaching staff that doesn't give a lot away, but as far as anybody knows, he'll be ready by the time the season starts. I don't know how much of fall practice he'll get to participate in, but he's a seasoned veteran, and I don't know how much he needs.
SB Nation Atlanta: How is the rest of the injury situation for the Cougars outside of Keenum?
DR: A lot of minor little dings, but nothing to be too worried about. Tyron Carrier missed some of the Spring, but it's not expected to be serious. I'm more concerned with how well running back Charles Sims (academics) and defensive end Zeke Riser (torn ACL) will react to missing all of last year.
SB Nation Atlanta: What is your No. 1 concern watching this team post Spring?
DR: The defensive line. No matter how good they look in the Spring, no matter how many glowing quotes come out of the coaching staff, Houston has failed to field a respectable defense (especially on the line) for years. The linebackers look solid, the defensive backs take a hit due to graduation, but have some big-time transfers coming in, but the defensive line is still a huge question mark.
SB Nation Atlanta: Houston was one of the top offensive teams in the country without Keenum, what are the expectations for that high powered offense in 2011 with key losses along the O Line?
DR: The offense is largely predicated on getting the ball out of the quarterback's hands quickly, so having a stellar offensive line isn't the highest priority. Don't get me wrong, it's still important. Somebody has to open holes for the trio of stud running backs Houston has in Bryce Beall, Michael Hayes and Charles Sims. But I think that Houston has some talented players ready to step up along the O-line, and as far as expectations go, I don't think anyone's expecting much of a drop-off.
SB Nation Atlanta: Are Houston fans buying into the growing comments that Houston could be a BCS buster?
DR: Last year, a lot of people were buying in. This year, not so much. And not just because we learned our lesson about having high expectations last year, but because some of us are looking at the schedule and wondering if this team would be BCS-worthy even if we went undefeated. (No offense to the fans of Georgia State or anybody else on the schedule.) Bottom line, we're overdue for a conference title (haven't had one under Keenum), and that's the only real expectation among the Houston faithful at the moment. If we beat UCLA in week one, that may all change, however. We get excited easily.
SB Nation Atlanta: Who do you believe will be impact newcomers from this year's recruiting class?
DR: I mentioned the transfers in the secondary, we may very well have three new starters in JuCo transfers D.J. Hayden and Chevy Bennett, and Texas A&M transfer Colton Valencia (played every game as a true freshman for the Aggies). Their development will play a huge role in Houston's success this year.
SB Nation Atlanta: What would you suggest as far as sites to see, restaurants, things to do for Panther fans during their visit to Houston?
DR: Houston offers plenty of good places to eat. A Cougar fan staple is Frenchy's fried chicken, just a block from Robertson Stadium (at the intersection of Scott and Wheeler), but fair warning, it's kind of "in the hood", so to speak. If you want to try out some Texas BBQ, I recommend Goode Company BBQ (from campus, take 59 south to Kirby, take a left, look for the giant armadillo). Houston isn't the most tourist-y city, but we do have a house made out of beer cans, and plenty of good museums if that's your sort of thing. (Check out the Holocaust Museum, the Menil Collection, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, or the Children's Museum of Houston, if you have youngsters.) If you don't mind driving a bit, there's NASA and the Kemah Boardwalk.
Special thanks to Dustin and read his work at SB Nation Houston.