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Tuesday, March 28, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 120

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Dimel's task is a real challenge

Rohith Nandagiri

Dana Dimel sounds amazingly calm during interviews this spring.

It will be quite different this fall as he tries to help this young Cougar football team take the next step toward challenging for the top spot in Conference USA.

Last year, Houston was a few big offensive plays away from beating the upper-echelon teams in the league, but poor play calling and penalties killed every chance.

The Cougars' growl turned into a whimper at the most inopportune time -- the fourth quarter.

But a new offensive scheme and a recharged attitude has already overtaken this Cougar squad. Grueling practices intended to weed out the weaker players is the norm, almost like organic chemistry for pre-medicine majors.

The practices are a building block for things to come. Only the strong survive in the real world, and the same holds true on the gridiron.

C-USA is not really a power conference in college football, but it is strong enough to let teams show what they are made of. Every year there is at least one team in the Top 25 and several players who are drafted in the top rounds of the draft. If this Cougar football team wins 90 percent of its conference games, it will be in a bowl game in December.

Jason McKinley

Senior quarterback Jason McKinley is surprising Dimel and the other coaches with his arm strength, but it's what is above his arms that will be counted on the most.

His head and his ability to read defenses in his fourth year will be a fundamental part of his maturation. He has the tools, but now he needs the scheme to show it. Draw plays, short dump-offs and long bombs are not what makes an adequate passer. Out patterns, posts and crossing patterns show the accuracy and poise of an upper-echelon quarterback.

This is what we have come to expect from McKinley, and it is expected from the revamped coaching staff.

An exciting new passing style, in which four receivers will be a major part of the offense along with a lone set back, will remind Cougar fans and alums of the run n' shoot era.

Also, the return of senior wideout Jerrian James from injury will make a huge impact. His speed and attitude alone should revitalize the entire team.

Jerrian James

The influx of new talent has already started with the recruiting class Dimel brought in. Many of the players are from Texas, which is a welcome change from the previous regime that alienated local high school coaches.

Offensively, the team seems to have what it takes, but the loss of safeties Mike James and Micah Malone on defense will hurt initially. Future senior William Pettis is coming back and will be counted on to lead the young guns in the secondary. Jason Parker, who will be a junior, will also need to step up.

Chemistry is a tough subject in school, and it's also a tough thing to achieve on the football field -- especially with the number of junior college transfers who have been brought in. Meshing all of the personalities and playing styles will be a challenge, but the manner in which the coaching staff is dealing with them -- like a military boot camp -- should help them to grow closer, faster.
 

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