Top returnees on the UH schedule
By Danny Cup Choy
Wednesday, July 17 2002
Eastern Illinois Panthers- This strong Division I-AA team returns two of their top players from last year's team. Tony Romo, a 6'3, 215-pound quarterback and has already been named the frontrunner for the Walter Payton Award, given to the top player in Division I-AA. He led the nation in passing efficiency last season, and he has thrown for 5,407 yards and 51 touchdowns during his career with the Panthers. The Panthers top defender, linebacker Nick Ricks, also returns for his junior campaign. The 6-foot, 210-pound inside linebacker led the conference with 125 tackles. Both Romo and Ricks were first-team All-Americans for Division I-AA.
BYU Cougars- The losses of QB Brandon Doman, RB Luke Staley, LB Justin Ena and DE Brian Denney will hurt this ball club. However, returning to the Cougars is Reno Mahe, a tremendous athlete who does a lot of everything for BYU. Mahe had a huge junior campaign, catching 91 passes for 1,211 yards and nine touchdowns. The 5'11, 185-pound senior also returns kicks for the Cougars. The BYU defense had its problems last season, and they do not look like they have improved on paper. Cornerback Jernaro Gilford was one of the bright spots on a defense that was below average against both the pass and the run. The 6'2, 190-pound Gilford will need to have a big season if the Cougars want to repeat their success of last season. In 2001, Gilford was named to the Mountain West Conference first-team after recording 56 tackles and six interceptions.
UTEP Miners- The Miners have most of their players back from last season, but that might not be a good thing. UTEP finished the season at 2-9, losing their last seven games of the year. If the Minors want to improve on their 21.4 scoring average from last season, senior WR Terrance Minor must produce. Minor, who is 6'1, 190-pounds, had a sub-par junior season, catching 24 balls for 371 yards and three touchdowns. However, he did have four catches for 99 yards and a touchdown in UTEP's spring scrimmage, and coaches are optimistic about Minor's potential this season. On defense, 10 of the 11 starters return from last season's team that gave up a WAC worst 234.5 rushing yards a game. UTEP's leader, and two-time All-WAC choice D.J. Walker must continue to perform at a high level if this team hopes to succeed. The 6'3, 215-pound free safety had 85 tackles last season, 72 of which were solo stops. Walker has 12 career interceptions, including four last season.
SMU Mustangs- The Mustangs are excited about sophomore tailback ShanDerrick Charles. Charles ran for 860 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Those solid numbers are even better when it is mentioned that the 5'9, 180-pound back only started to see significant playing time about half-way through the season. In fact, Charles managed to compile a 6.4 yard per carry average. He is primed to make a name for himself during the 2002 season. On defense, the Mustangs might have the best pair of corners in the WAC, which is a huge asset when playing the Warriors of Hawaii. Jonas Rutledge and Kevin Garrett have both received All-WAC honors in their careers. Both corners have nice size, with Rutledge standing tall at 6'0, 190-pounds and Garrett at a solid 5'10, 196-pounds. Their combination of size, speed, and savvy will make them tough to beat.
Boise State Broncos- Ryan Dinwiddie is not only one of the top quarterbacks in the WAC, but in the nation as well. Dinwiddie was fourth in the nation in passing efficiency, and 10th in total offense. The 6'0, 190-pound does not seem to be slowing down, as he threw for 142 yards and two touchdowns in only nine attempts during the Broncos spring scrimmage. Boise State, like SMU, has a tremendous secondary. They are led by safety Quintin Mikell, who was chosen as the pre-season WAC defensive player of the year. The 5'10, 200-pound Mikell is also a candidate for the Jim Thorpe Award, which goes to the nation's top defensive back. In his first two years at Boise State, Mikell has accumulated 217 tackles. He is also a productive punt returner. Dinwiddie and Mikell are two of the biggest reasons why Boise State is expected to be a strong contender for the WAC title.
Nevada Wolf Pack- Nevada took a big hit when QB David Neill, the school's all-time leader in total offense and passing, graduated. However, freshman All-American Chance Kretschmer returns to follow up his tremendous first year. Kretschmer led the nation in rushing, averaging 157.5 yards a game. This 6'2, 210-pound former walk-on rushed for an amazing 327 yards and six touchdowns against UTEP last season, and he is sure to be one of the best players in the entire conference next season. He will literally need to carry the offense if the Nevada hopes to be successful. The Wolf Pack return 10 of their 11 starters on defense from last year. Looking to build upon his solid sophomore season, Daryl Towns is back to man the middle for the defense. This 6'0, 226-pound middle linebacker led the team with 103 tackles on his way to being named to the All-WAC second team.
Tulsa Golden Hurricane- Trying to find an impact player on a team that finished 1-10 is no easy task, and that is the predicament one faces with Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane had a dismal 2001 season, which included a 10-game losing streak and a conference worse 17.4 points per game. If Tulsa looks to improve this coming season, quarterback Tyler Gooch needs to step up. The 5'11, 190-pound Gooch was involved in a quarterback controversy for much of the 2001 season, which helps to explain his low statistics. Gooch passed for 825 yards and five touchdowns, while scoring three more with his feet. On defense, the Golden Hurricane return linebacker Michael Dulaney, who led the team with 93 tackles last season. The scouting report on Dulaney is that he is a physical, quick player with good instincts and is a solid presence in the huddle. He needs to have a career year if Tulsa hopes to be competitive in 2002.
Part II to follow...