As Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong's national search for a new wide receivers coach and new tight ends/special teams coach stretches into its second week, former Houston Cougars head coach Tony Levine has reportedly emerged as the front runner for the latter position:
Re: Levine - one source said it was a done deal, another said it was "close," another said only knew of contact w/ #Longhorns - Lotta smoke.— Alex Dunlap (@AlexDunlapNFL) January 7, 2015
On Monday, Levine was cited as being one of the leading names for that position by 247Sports.
Based solely on special teams coaching credentials, Levine can hang with another supposed candidate in former USC associate head coach/special teams coordinator John Baxter in that area. During Levine's tenure at Houston, the Cougars recorded 20 blocked kicks, nine kickoff returns for touchdowns and six forced turnovers on special teams. Those units also tied or broke seven NCAA records and set 11 school marks.
And during the four seasons that Levine coordinated the Houston special teams, the Cougars produced eight kickoff returns for touchdowns (second in the FBS over that period) and blocked 16 kicks of the 20 kicks during Levine's overall tenure.
Levine also had some success at the position level, taking former Arizona basketball player Fendi Onobun and helping him transform into a sixth-round draft pick as a graduate transfer, even though his bio doesn't list him as having played football in high school. The 6'6, 250-pounder had a touchdown catch and blocked two extra points in one game. Levine also helped Mark Hanfer turn in a career season and earn second-team All-Conference honors as a senior during Levine's first year at Houston in 2008.
Most importantly, Levine would bring deep Houston connections to the staff at a time when the Longhorns have been struggling some to recruit in that area, as the Aggies have become the dominant program Houston-area program in recent cycles, though the Under Armour game pledge of star cornerback Kendell Sheffield to Alabama is a good sign that Texas A&M doesn't exactly have a compete stranglehold on the talent-rich area.
Of the available names out there right now, Levine seems like the best candidate, so if he's willing to join the staff, he's as close to a home-run hire as the Longhorns could expect.