Defense blends savvy veterans with talented newcomers
By Derrick Hinton
Daily Cougar Staff
Two weeks of practice twice a day under the oppressive August sun coupled
with little respect from the polls makes the Cougar defense eager to prove
on the field that they are
better than the experts claim.
"We feel like our two starting corners will be as good ... as anybody
has in the conference," Cougar head coach Dana Dimel said. "They all have
great size, over 6-2, 6-3 and
they run well and they're physical. So we feel that's a real strength
for our football team."
An unknown front seven, backed by a star-studded secondary of returning
starters, could provide some fireworks come September.
Hamin and Hanik Milligan, along with senior cornerback Jason Parker,
compose the strength of the defense.
The Milligans hit like freight trains and provide excellent man-to-man
coverage. Parker brings the most experience to a veteran secondary.
One of the top cover men in the conference, Parker, a four-year starter,
earns his keep smothering the opposing team's top receiver.
Combined with talented redshirt freshman Bobby Tillman and super sophomore
Heard Robinson, the Cougar secondary could be one of the best in the nation.
In a pass-happy conference where offensive coordinators feast on match-up
problems, the Cougar defensive backs wear the bibs.
The secondary can't win games alone. A solid pass rush will prevent
the quarterback from getting to his second and third reads, causing sacks,
interceptions or air balls into the
Redshirt freshman Kendrick Goss will undergo his trial by fire immediately,
just as sophomore starter David Midyett did as a freshman. It's their responsibility
to apply the
pressure from the outside.
The Cougar defense gave up over 1500 yards rushing last season, even
with Wayne Rogers plugging the holes. The opposition averaged 3.4 yards
a carry against the tough
Senior Lee Ingersoll, converted from end to right tackle, and left tackle
junior Bryan Hill will try to limit opposing backs to less than three yards
a carry while providing a solid
pass rush up the middle.
Walter Cordeas/The Daily Cougar
A lone Cougar defender rides the ball carrier into the ground as the
teams prepare for their season opener against Rice University.
Ingersoll is the only starter returning from last year's defensive
line. But a talented group of linebackers adds some sting to the Cougar
"The linebacker position will definitely be more athletic. Probably
... as athletic as any linebacker position that I've had as a head coach,"
Senior Arthur Gissendanner returns as a starting linebacker. The 6-2,
225-pound Gissendanner might be the most athletic player on the team.
His partner in crime at the Mike linebacker position, the quarterback
of the defense, is sophomore Justin Davis. Davis took the starting job
by force in spring drills after sitting out
last season because of NCAA qualifying standards.
Those who claim to know talent gave lip service to the Cougar front
seven in their predictions. But what kind of look did they really give
A Conference USA program in transition, coming off a 3-8 campaign, with
only two winning seasons in the past decade doesn't receive scrutiny from
the national publications
and media gurus like the venerable SEC and Big 12 teams.
It's one of the hazards of being a prophet. Teams like Houston tend
to get overlooked while struggling to turn their programs around. Success
forces the "experts" to pay
The front seven will get no respect from opposing offensive coordinators
until, like Smith-Barney, they've earned it the old-fashioned way; on the
If they play to their abilities they should be solid, especially with
the best secondary in the conference watching their backs.
Defensive co-coordinators Dick Bumpas and Bradley Dale Peveto surprised
some people with their NCAA 25th-ranked defense in 1999.
This defense has more talent, size, speed and overall athleticism. The
question is, can those assets make up for an overall lack of experience?
Dimel is counting on it to make the season a success.
"Our philosophy is going to be one that the defense has to win football
games for us," Dimel said. "We're going to lean on the defense to do that
for us, as well it should."