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Monday, November 29, 2021

Football

Chronic knee trouble sidelines UH linebacker


UH linebacker Matt Nicholson marveled coaches and players as he returned to the starting lineup this season after suffering two season-ending knee injuries in a row. Unfortunately, the redshirt senior will again watch the

Linebacker Matt Nicholson will be remembered by his coaches and his teammates more for his ability to produce on defense than for his career being hampered by injuries. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

remainder of the season from the sidelines after re-aggravating his knee in Friday’s loss against UCF.

“We got far more out of Matt this year than I had ever dreamed,” head coach Kevin Sumlin said. “I told him that I appreciated him as a player, and as a guy who walked on here and was given a scholarship.”

Nicholson underwent serious knee surgery last January after tearing his MCL and ACL in the fourth quarter win over Texas Tech. Sumlin said that Nicholson was on the fast track to recovering as he was given back his starting position in the 3-4 defensive front.

“He came back, and that ball was completely in his court,” Sumlin said. “He is a guy that came back a couple of months later and I didn’t think he was going to play.”

Nicholson had a productive season. He is currently the second-leading tackler on the team, posting 57 tackles, 29 of which were solo stops. He averaged 6.3 tackles per game, and also recorded five tackles for a loss. In his debut against Texas State, Nicholson returned an interception 42 yards for a touchdown.

“I couldn’t be more appreciative of a guy who has come here and adapted to us and earned a scholarship,” Sumlin said.

“For the numbers that he put up this year in the games that he played in is really a phenomenal story. He is always a part of this team and we are going to help him any way that we can.”

Replacing Nicholson will be freshman Efrem Oliphant. Oliphant has been taking reps ever since Nicholson returned in the spring. Sumlin said that Nicholson, at times, was limited to one practice a week during the season. This gave Oliphant the opportunity to see some playing time.

“It has really helped him (Oliphant) in being able to handle the situation,” Sumlin said. “Going into a game from the sideline is different from starting, so we will see how Efrem handles that this week.”

Oliphant has posted 32 tackles so far this season. The freshman linebacker played three solid quarters in Friday’s loss. Sumlin said that Oliphant is qualified for a spot on the starting roster.

“He did better than we all expected on Friday,” Sumlin said. “I look for him to get better as a freshman.”


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