Sports Notebook

Espiau back in camp,
as a coach

By Dave Reardon

Spring practice is transition time -- and not just for players learning new positions or trying to climb rungs on the depth chart.

Newly minted graduate assistant Jacob Espiau is learning his role.

Espiau, a three-year starter at safety, is helping defensive backs coach Rich Miano.

"It's fun. I'm just trying to help out as much as I can. It's fun when you can teach somebody something," Espiau said.

Instructing players he was once teammates with has its positives and negatives, he said.

"It makes it easier in the sense that they know I played the position and they've actually seen me do it. This team wants to learn. They ask questions a lot. It's easy for them to come and ask," Espiau said. "In another sense, it's hard. I don't have authority, but I don't want the authority."

Espiau sees all the defensive back positions -- not just safety, where the top three players were seniors last year -- as extremely competitive.

"Especially now. There's so much talent out here. You've got to be physically and mentally sound or the next guy will be right there to take your spot," he said.

Coach June Jones sees Espiau as a valuable addition.

"He's a really smart kid and he knows what's expected," Jones said.

Justin time: Senior wide receiver Justin Colbert is the only of UH's top five receivers from last year to return to the team this season.

Colbert has been hampered by a sprained right ankle that led to a strained right hamstring when he overcompensated for the ankle. He didn't participate in drills last Thursday (the first day of spring practice), but has gradually gotten back into action.

"I'm trying to teach the younger guys, and the guys who aren't too sure about what they're doing, like the older guys like Dwight Carter used to teach me," Colbert said. "I remember what it was like as a freshman, out there dropping the ball. When you're learning the routes, catching the ball is the last thing you think about."

Another Brown: Add Tyrone Brown to the crowd vying for playing time at linebacker. The 6-foot, 203-pound sophomore has impressed Jones.

"He's done a lot of good stuff, a very good athlete who can run," Jones said. "A lot of this is all new to him, but he can play."

Brown has cleared some academic hurdles that kept him off the field last year and is working out at outside linebacker.

"The first couple days (of spring practice) were kind of shaky for me, having to learn the plays," said Brown, who worked out some at safety last fall. "But I'm working through it and it's coming along."

Short yardage: Former UH linebacker Yaphet Warren visited practice yesterday. He now works for the state Department of Labor as a work force specialist. ... Sophomore running back Mike Bass thought he had a groin pull, but it turned out to be a hernia. He underwent surgery for it last week. "I can't really do any running or anything yet," said Bass, who has been coming to practice anyway.

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