Cougars Eagerly Await Spring Ball

HOUSTON -- With an eye looking towards the fall, University of Houston head football coach Dana Dimel gets his first look at the 2001 season, when the annual spring practice begins at 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 28. All Cougar practices will be open to the public free of charge.

The Cougars will practice every Monday, Wednesday, Friday from the 28th on, with scrimmages set for Saturday mornings at John O'Quinn Field at Robertson Stadium. Spring practice will culminate with the annual Red-White Game on Saturday, April 21, at 11 a.m. at "The Quinn." All weekday practices will be held on the UH practice fields located behind Garrison Gym at the corner of Holman and Scott streets.

"We are looking to do a few things this spring," commented the second-year head coach. "One of our goals is to run the football much better than we did last season. Both the production and efficiency need to increase in order for us to be a more effective offense.

"Also, we need to work on becoming more mentally and physically tough, and spring ball is good place to start. We are always looking to improve our physical conditioning, and its good we have an opportunity to work on that right now.

"Finally, we need to find the best personnel for our special teams. This will be a area of major emphasis during the spring."

The Cougars return 43 lettermen from last year's team, including eight offensive (which includes 1999 starter Orlando Iglesias) and six defensive starters. With the return of both Iglesias and Brandon Middleton from season-ending injuries, Houston heads into the 2001 season with one of the top receiving corps in the nation. Juniors KeyKowa Bell and Brian Robinson head into the fall as the nation's number-two receiving tandem after finishing fourth best in 2000.

Defensively, the Cougars boast one of the top secondary units, with four of five starters coming back for action this season. Senior Jason Parker has been a stalwart at cornerback for three seasons, and he is joined in the secondary by the safety trifecta of brothers Hamin and Hanik Milligan, senior and junior, respectively, and sophomore Heard Robinson.

As for replacements for the 11 starters lost from a year ago, none is more pressing than finding someone to fill the huge holes at both quarterback and middle linebacker. Gone is four-year starting quarterback Jason McKinley, who finished his outstanding career in the red and white with several school passing marks and a nation-best 41-game starting streak.

Wayne Rogers also has left and graduated to the NFL, several months removed from Conference USA Co-Defensive Player of the Year award and several other national accolades. Both the McKinley and Rogers voids should be filled by inexperience. Sophomore Bubba Teague (who is sitting out spring drills), junior walk on Kelly Robertson and senior Alvin Lee, a converted defensive back, will battle for McKinley's old job, while youngster Justin Davis (sophomore) and redshirt freshmen Travis Griffith and Nick Stavinoha clash for Rogers vacated spot.

The Cougars 2001 season begins on September 1, when they play host to cross-town rival Rice in the annual Southwestern Bell Bayou Bucket. UH also plays host to Texas (Sept. 22) and TCU (Sept. 29) in the season's first month.



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