The heavyset man wearing sporty red sunglasses walked into the designated phone booth, closed the door behind him, and reached around behind the telephone. He pulled off the thin metal cover on the back, put his hand inside, and felt it immediately. He took it out, hit the play button, and listened intently. "Good morning, Coach Dimel."
The voice on the tape recorder continued, "Please see the folders inside the telephone book." The coach found them — there was a perfectly cut space in the book containing them — opened to the first page, and saw a glossy black and white photograph of a familiar face. "This is Nick Eddy. He will be your quarterback this season. Eddy played well last year and his return gives your team a significantly better situation than it had going into the 2001 campaign. Entering a season with a walk-on quarterback with no Division I experience is too risky even for IMF agents. The next photos show Barrick Nealy and Blade Bassler. These two are your signal callers of the future. How far in the future is hard to say. Not pictured is Torrance Botts, a quick athlete with a strong arm who played as well as either of the touted freshman in the spring. IMF believes you have the best blend of talent and experience at quarterback since you've been at Houston."
"At running back, it is imperative for Joffrey Reynolds, who is up to 220 and hasn't lost a step, to have a good year. If possible, see that he rushes for 1000 yards." Dimel then turned to the next page in the dossier but found it blank. The recorded voice answered the unspoken question, "Chris Robertson's picture should be next, but we are unsure if he will be a factor this year. I understand that you had counted on him being part of your team, but an injury may keep him out for some or even all of this mission. There has been some good news from the doctor recently, but no one knows for sure just when he'll be back, if at all. Other possibilities include Anthony Evans, a redshirt freshman who shows great promise." Dimel smiled as he looked at the photo of Evans, a fine young agent that he felt proud to have brought in to the IMF. "At fullback, Tim Feathers gives you just the kind of unselfish, outstanding blocker you want, and he can pick up the tough yards as well. And freshman Jackie Battle could contribute; he has the size and speed."
Dimel went on, flipping photos and listening to the man's voice. "As you know, Orlando Iglesias will not be with the team this year, but you will still have some fine operatives at wide receiver. Keykowa Bell and Brandon Middleton have speed, talent, and experience. Brian Robinson is only somewhat lacking in the first attribute. New team member Jon Clarke has excellent hands and size as does Mark Hopkins. Others who will see playing time are Jeremy McCardell and speedsters John Tyson and Choni Francis. None of these agents stands head and shoulders above his teammates, but all are skilled and competent, and there is an abundance of them. The passing game is in good hands."
"Your top two tight ends will be formidable blockers as well as solid short-yardage receivers. Jon Pritchett, if he remains healthy, could be an all-conference candidate, and Matt Mattox gives you a pair of fine hands as well as a big body to use in two-tight-end situations. Steve Cucci is back from an injury, and will log playing time as well."
Coach Dimel's hopes for a winning season were beginning to soar until he opened the next dossier, which was titled "Offensive Line." His confidence visibly plummeted as the voice continued, "Possibly the major concern on this mission is your offensive line. Yes, we have a few veteran agents. Left guard Rex Hadnot and center Al James can be counted on to do their jobs efficiently, and Chris Wheeler, a fifth-year senior and former Texas Football First-Team Super Teamer, should be fine at right guard. We have some young but talented and very large players waiting in the wings. Roy Swan, all 6-2, 320 pounds of him, backs Al James at center, and mammoth 340-pound Willie Thomas plays guard. Jessie Bryant is running second team at left guard. The potential problem is tackle. Senior Rufus Williams has good size and some athleticism, but he has played defense his entire career at UH. If he can adapt to the new position, he could be formidable, but that is a big "if." Junior college transfer Ty Green along with redshirt freshman David Douglas are the candidates at the critical left tackle slot. IMF doubts whether the former is talented enough and the latter experienced enough to hold down such a key position. Two super heavyweights, Phil Hawkins and Chris Redding, could be factors. Both probably have the talent to make all-conference; the question that neither has yet to answer is whether they have the motivation. It is imperative that the offensive line performs competently. This mission cannot be accomplished if not."
Dimel took a deep breath, picked up the second set of folders and continued to listen as the voice droned on, "As always, the defense will determine the success of the mission. There are some question marks, but there is also some talent and good depth. If the defensive line comes together, this could be your best defense at Houston."
"The defensive line did their best impression of the Maginot Line last year and desperately needs help. Aid could be on the way with the additions of some fine junior college transfers and several well-regarded redshirt freshmen. If nothing else, the defensive line will be deep and perhaps even talented. The starters after spring practice were ends Adrian Lee and Quaanta Jackson and tackles Bryan Hill and Kendrick Goss. Look for Lee and Jackson to be pushed by J.C. transfers Farouk Adelekan and Ryan Huffman, and don't be surprised if a couple of other jucos, Pat Howard and Dustin Carr, aren't penciled into the starting lineup at tackle by August 31. Sharrod McGowen, David Midyette, Kade Lane, and Theadrick Lee should all see playing time and possibly push for starting spots. So, your front four won't be nearly the problem it was last year. It could possibly even be a strength, if the junior college transfers are ready."
"At linebacker, Damien West should be an anchor in the middle. He has all the tools. Justin Davis is slated for the weakside position, but we are hoping that Bryant Brown will return to the fold. He was running with the first team when he took his leave of absence. Newcomers to watch for include Travis Griffith and converted fullback Matt Schirmer. Ronnie Braxton brings experience and excellent speed to the weakside. You'll be ok even if Brown doesn't return, but if he does, consider linebacker a strength."
Perhaps the deepest, most talented group is the secondary. The most likely candidate for pre and post-season honors, Hanik Milligan, makes his home here, and he is capable of making his neighborhood quite inhospitable for opposition receivers. He is backed up by a very promising redshirt freshman, Levi Gaston. Jermaine Woodard and Carlos Jones are waging a battle for the starting weak safety. Woodard is a heady DB with strong closing speed. Jones is very fast and has enough pop to play linebacker. Jesse Sowells will start at stud safety. He could be the surprise of the year. He has it all, great speed, good size and instincts. Some major programs recruited Sowells before he suffered a season-ending knee injury. He now appears to be 100% and should bolster the secondary. Fleet Tristen Robertson is in reserve. Your cornerbacks could conceivably run the four legs of the 400 meters at the track team's next meet. Stanford Routte, Roland Cola, Victor Malone, and Delenell Reid have excellent speed. Routte and Malone currently hold down the starting jobs, but that could change from day to day. You should feel comfortable with any one of them starting. The strength at this position will enable you to play the kind of attacking defense best befitting your 4-2-5 scheme. If the defensive line can get pressure, your pass defense could be among the league's best."
"Special teams make up approximately one-third of a football game, and they often mean the difference in winning in losing. Special teams have been woeful the past couple of years, but IMF expects vast improvement this season. Dustin Bell seems to be an accurate kicker and you have an incoming freshman, Justin Laird, who made the Houston Chronicle's State Top 100 list. Jimmy McClary returns to handle the punting chores. You have a host of speedy, elusive skill position players and defensive backs to choose among for your return men. Keep a close eye on freshmen Roshawn Pope and Willie Gaston, both of whom would be threats to take it all the way on returns."
"Your mission. Coach, should you decide to accept it, is to win six football games and, in the process, turn around the fortunes of a school that was once a national power. As always, should you or any member of your coaching staff lose a lot of games or anger the fans, the athletic director will disavow any knowledge of your actions. And, Coach, remember that the IMF team has yet to fail! This mission may not seem quite as impossible as it sounds. Good luck! This tape will self-destruct in five seconds."