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Volume 68, Issue 1, Monday, August 26, 2002

Sports
 

Returning players add experience

By Geronimo Rodriguez
The Daily Cougar

The Cougar football team couldn't be in better shape.

Following an 0-11 record in 2001, that may sound like a joke, but considering the amount of talent returning
for Cougar head coach Dana Dimel and his staff, you wouldn't think UH is coming off a winless season.


Brian Viney/The Daily Cougar


Senior wide receiver Brian Robinson had a standout year in 2000 filling in for an injured Orlando Iglesias. Robinson's ability and experience will be necessary as the coaching staff leans on its lettermen.

Returning 45 letterman including 15 starters, both the offense and defense come out of the gates with a pool
of growing talent and more experienced All-Conference candidates who have physically and mentally prepared
themselves to prove they are better than last season's winless record.

Starting junior quarterback Nick Eddy and senior back-up Torrence Botts may have different styles of play
when lining up behind center, but both are experienced leaders who add depth to one of the most important
positions on the field.

"I feel good knowing that when I get in the huddle and all those guys are looking at me, that I'm going to make
the right play, and they feel comfortable with me," Eddy said.

Regardless of which quarterback is calling the shots, there will be 10 red and white jerseys ready to step up
and make a play around him.

While senior Joffrey Reynolds anticipates a good season on the ground and in the open flats, senior running
back Chris Robertson hopes to get some carries as soon as he fully recovers from a knee injury.

When junior offensive linemen Rex Hadnot and Al James broke into the Cougar program in 2000, the
now-impressive tandem was glowing with promise. 

The two have earned respect on the field by becoming effective protecting against the rush, proving they have
more than just potential.

When the running game is effective against the opposing teams' defense and Dimel wants to air it out, senior
wide receivers KeyKowa Bell, Brian Robinson, Jeremy McCardell and junior Brandon Middleton have the potential
to go long for sure-fire touchdowns. 

Despite being plagued by injuries in past seasons, each receiver has posted honor-worthy numbers.

Robinson, for example, earned national recognition for his performance as a sophomore, registering 80 catches
for 890 yards.

After starting in the shadow of Orlando Iglesias, the receiver is expected to have a breakout senior season.

In one of the most valuable roles for an offense that relies on short passes to set up bigger plays, the
Cougars have gained both experience and depth at the tight end position.

While junior Jonathan Pritchett returns to the starting lineup, junior Stephen Cucci has fully recovered from
shoulder surgery. 

With the added depth, middle linebackers may have their hands too full to look for a quick sack or cheat on
coverage for a pass deflection.

On the other side of the ball, senior safety Hanik Milligan will lead his troop of experienced defensive cohorts
by example.

After racking up 174 tackles during the Cougars' dismal season, the starting free safety has been mentioned
for All-America honors, the Jim Thorpe Award (awarded to the nation's top defensive back) and the Bronko
Nagurski (the nation's top defensive player) Trophy.

Senior strong safety Jesse Sowells and sophomore weak safety Jermain Woodard complete what is one of the
conference's most formidable safety combinations.

Sowells answered Dimel's decision to give him the start in the final game of the season by recording a
career-high 16 tackles against Georgia.

Woodard earned C-USA All-Freshman honors with an outstanding freshman performance that included 78 stops
(49 unassisted).

At the cornerback positions, senior Victor Malone, who relies on his ability to blanket receivers, and speedy
sophomore Stanford Routt look to solidify their chances in the starting lineup.

Sophomore Matt Schirmer, who makes the transition from fullback to linebacker this season, will backup junior
linebacker Justin Davis in the middle.

Seniors Quantaa Jackson, Bryan Hill and Adrian Lee round out the players returning to the defensive line. 

Lee leads the skilled pass rushers with three career sacks.

 Send comments to dcsports@mail.uh.edu

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