Wednesday, August 22, 2001 Volume 66, Issue 1


Air assault backed by infantry

By Ed De La Garza
Daily Cougar Staff

Losing five of his team's last six games in 2000 was symptomatic of a bigger problem for UH football head coach Dana Dimel. The offense lacked a consistent running game.

Many of the games last season turned into shoot-outs, making it difficult to establish a ground attack. Dimel hopes to instill a more balanced offensive scheme this season, but
the second-year coach is quick to allay fears of a return to the plodding, predictable Kim Helton-led Cougar offense.

"It's not like we're going to be this smash-mouth type of offense, but we just didn't run the ball worth a dang last year," Dimel said. "We ran for 80 yards a game and you've got to
be able to do better than that."

Senior Leif Penn, junior Joffrey Reynolds and junior transfer student Chris Robertson are vying for the No.1 spot. Dimel believes neither Penn nor Reynolds had ample time to
showcase their skills last season.

"We're going to be more of a type of offense that I'm accustomed to having to getting victories," Dimel said. "It's based more on running the football as well as having a solid
passing game."

Penn carried the ball 94 times for 348 yards (good for a 3.7 per-rush average) and scored three touchdowns last season. His breakout game came against Tulane when he had
24 carries for 144 yards.

Pin Lim/The Daily Cougar

Junior running back Joffrey Reynolds bursts through the line and into the open field while his blockers scatter defenders like bowling pins. Reynolds is a preseason All-Conference USA candidate.

Reynolds entered the 2000 season as the No. 1 back, but was never 100 percent. He did have the most success of any Cougar rusher, running for 534 yards on 136 carries (a
3.9 average). Reynolds earned the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week award when he gained 201 yards on 34 rushes against Army.

Robertson sat out the 2000 season after transferring from Texas as a sophomore. As a freshman, he ran the ball a total of 16 times for 84 yards. He's the biggest of the three
backs (6-1, 218 pounds), but he has the least experience.

"We have a problem, but it's a good problem," Dimel said. "(They) are all in a heated battle for that position."

Dimel stressed it's the running game that will open up the aerial assault. With a healthy Orlando Iglesias, who went down against Rice last season, and Brandon Middleton, the
UH receiving corps looks to be one of the best in the conference.

After Iglesias' injury and the loss of Jerrian James Robinson and Bell came into their own as one of the top tandems in the country.

Robinson caught 80 passes for 890 yards and six touchdowns. His best game (a 15-reception, 151-yard performance) came against Army. Bell's season included a
10-reception, 157-yard day against Southern Methodist en route to a 54-catch, 722-yard season.

The two were so good that they were named to C-USA's preseason team.

"I like the recognition," Robinson said. "I think we're going to live up to it. I don't think we have to, but I think we will."

Middleton returns to the Cougars after sustaining a broken arm during the Army game. This followed recognition as C-USA Offensive Player of the Week for an eight-catch,
175-yard day against Louisiana State.

But the best news coming into the season is Iglesias. The 2000 season forced younger players to step up because of his absence and the coming year should feature a load of
talent in the position.

"I was never surprised about (Robinson, Bell) and all the other guys," Iglesias said. "They've always been great. Ever since their freshman year, I knew they were going to be

While UH has plenty of talented receivers, the biggest question mark is replacing Jason McKinley at quarterback. This year, Dimel has three quarterbacks competing for the
starting job: Kelly Robertson (a junior transfer from Western Kentucky), freshman Barrick Nealy and sophomore Nick Eddy.

"Robertson had a very good spring," Dimel said. "His biggest strength is that he understands the system really well and can get us into the plays that we need."

While Robertson is the odds-on favorite to start against Rice on Sept. 1, Nealy could eventually become the Cougars' No. 1 passer.

"(Nealy) right now has great mobility, great skills," Dimel said. "It's just how quick he can pick up on the system. He has tremendous skill level."

With returning senior and All-America candidate Jabari Beauford, junior Chris Wheeler, senior Josh Demarr, senior Patrick Boatner, sophomore Al James and sophomore Rex
Hadnot, the line is definitely more experienced heading into this season.

The Cougars should be capable of providing Robertson with enough protection to throw.

"We have nine offensive linemen that can play for us this year," Dimel said. "I'd feel comfortable (throwing) any one of them out there and they'd do a good job for us."

But as new players come in and learn the system, the battles won't be limited to the football field.

"The competition amongst our football team has increased immensely," Dimel said. "Because of that, it's raised the bar of our whole football team."

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