Cougars host the Miners Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Levine, Cougars discuss Saturday's Conference USA contest against UAB
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Jamie Bryant enters his second season with the University of Houston football program and first as the team's defensive coordinator. Bryant played a huge role in the development of the Houston defense in 2011 and helped mentor a group of starting linebackers that earned numerous honors in 2011.
In fact each starter at linebacker enjoyed an honor of some sort this season. Marcus McGraw was once again an All-Conference USA selection and finished his career at Houston's all-time leader in tackles (510), while freshman Derrick Mathews was named to the C-USA All-Freshmen squad, accumulating 106 total stops and 10 tackles for loss. Senior Sammy Brown finished his senior season with 13.5 sacks (No. 2 all-time in UH history) and his 30 tackles for loss were the top total in college football this year. Brown, a junior college transfer, also earned First Team All-C-USA honors and Third Team All-America honors in 2011. The fourth starter, Phillip Steward, was one of college football's top coverage linebackers and picked off six passes, which was tops in the NCAA among linebackers. He added his sixth interception in the 2012 TicketCity Bowl victory against Penn State. The six INTs is also among the Top 10 all-time in UH single-season history.
"I am so pleased we were able to retain Jamie as our defensive coordinator," Head Coach Tony Levine said. "He had some tremendous opportunities, but Houston is where he wants to be. Jamie has experience as a defensive coordinator in the Southeastern Conference from his time at Vanderbilt and he has a great track record of recruiting and developing players. This was just his first season on our staff, but as we saw, the improvement shown by our defense this year was significant."
Houston's top four linebackers each led the team in tackles, with both the senior McGraw (141) and the true freshman Mathews (106) eclipsing the century mark. Overall that starting collection had 62.5 tackles for loss, 18.5 sacks and 10 interceptions, well up from the 2010 starting linebacker totals of 43.0 TFLs, 11.5 sacks and four INTs.
"I'm honored to have this opportunity to work with our entire defense here at Houston," Bryant said. "First and foremost the opportunity for my family to remain in this city was important. We love the city of Houston and the family atmosphere that has been created on campus and within our athletics department should not be undervalued. Over the past year I have developed tremendous relationships with the student-athletes in our program, the coaches on our staff and of course Coach Levine, so those relationships, coupled with the relationships we have built in the high school community and around our university mean so much to my family and me."
Prior to his time at UH Bryant was the defensive coordinator at Vanderbilt University. The Fredericktown, Ohio, native tutored Vanderbilt's first-ever All-American defensive back in D.J. Moore in 2008. He also produced All-SEC defensive backs in three consecutive years -- Moore in 2008, Myron Lewis in 2009 and Casey Hayward in 2010. Hayward led the SEC in passes defended and ranked second in interceptions. Moore and Lewis were also NFL draftees, with Moore selected in the fourth round in 2009 and Lewis in the third round a year later.
"I'm excited," UH returner Phillip Steward said. "He will make our defense more physical and more aggressive than it has ever been before, so as a defender I'm looking forward to it."
In addition to Lewis and Moore, Bryant had two other players on NFL rosters at the beginning of the 2010 season -- Ryan Hamilton with Philadelphia and Reshard Langford in Kansas City.
Prior to Vanderbilt, Bryant was a defensive graduate assistant at North Carolina for the 2001 season alongside former Vanderbilt head coach Robbie Caldwell. That year, an aggressive defense helped the Tar Heels win seven of their final nine regular-season games, including impressive routs of ACC foes Florida State and Clemson, before defeating Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
Bryant entered the collegiate coaching ranks in 1997 as outside linebackers coach at Clarion. He spent three seasons with the Eagles and his duties evolved to secondary coach and special teams coordinator for his final two seasons. Before embarking on his 16-year college career, he coached for five seasons at the high school level in Ohio. Bryant was a three-year letterwinner at Ohio Wesleyan. He earned a B.S. in Economics Management in 1993.
Bryant and his wife, Elisa, are the parents of three sons, Luke, Jake and Josh.
THE BRYANT FILE