The University of Houston football team wrapped up their final Spring practice before the annual Red-White Game Thursday afternoon over on the football practice fields. With the scrimmage only a couple days away, the team dressed in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts to stay ready for their live action game on Saturday afternoon.
SPOTLIGHTING THE LINEBACKERS: With all four backers who started the final three games for the Cougars, the Houston linebacking core is going to be one of the most experienced position groups for head coach Kevin Sumlin and linebacker coach Jamie Bryant. Combined among Marcus McGraw, Sammy Brown, Efrem Oliphant and Phillip Steward, the Houston linebackers have 684 career tackles and 74 starts. Senior Marcus McGraw contributes the most to those numbers with his 369 career-tackles and 39 games started.
McGraw is currently sixth all-time in tackles and would need 139 stops this year to pass Ryan McCoy (1990-1993) to take the top-place. McGraw has started every single game of his career and has played all across the position group. As a freshman, McGraw racked up 110 tackles from his WLB position before moving to MLB his sophomore year and accumulated a team-leading 156 tackles. McGraw led the team again in tackles in 2010 after transitioning to one of the MLB positions (MO) in the new 3-4 defense.
Phillip Steward (junior) and Sammy Brown (senior) contribute with their experience as well. Steward has started 23 games for the Cougars and made 173 tackles over his career. As the SLB, Steward specializes in coverages while his outside counterpart, Brown, focuses on rushing the passer. Brown, a newcomer last year, left an immediate mark as the WLB by leading the team in sacks with 7.5.
The trio of Brown, McGraw and Steward started all but one game together last year.
Sophomore Efrem Oliphant made his jump into the starting lineup the final three games of the season and despite limited playing time, finished fifth on the team in tackles with 66.
Matt Nicholson will serve as a student-coach this season after a long and productive career as a Houston linebacker.
RED AND WHITE SPRING GAME: The annual Red and White Spring Game is scheduled for Saturday, April 9 at 2 p.m. at Robertson Stadium. Admission is free as well as parking. An announcement of the game format will come later in the week.
YOUTH EXPERIENCE: The Houston football team will host the 2011 Cougar Youth Experience on Sat., April 9 immediately following the Red and White Spring Game on John O'Quinn Field at Robertson Stadium. Children aged kindergarten through eighth grade can join the players and coaches for a clinic and autograph session on the field. Admission is free, and pre-registration can be done in advance by calling the Houston football office at 713-743-9388. Children will also be able to register the day of the event.
KIDS CAN PLAY: In addition to the Youth Experience, kids will be able to play in inflatable games in the Cougar Pride Kid Zone from 12-2 p.m. before the spring game on the West side in the Pavilion area.