Men's Basketball

Familiar position suits safety

After spending last season as a defensive end, junior Eric Eiland is moving back to his natural position at safety. | File photo/The Daily Cougar

After spending last season as a defensive end, junior Eric Eiland is moving back to his natural position at safety.  |  File photo/The Daily Cougar

Junior Eric Eiland is well-suited for his transition from defensive end to safety because he has gone through so many in his life.

Last year, on the 10th snap of the season, Eiland suffered a leg injury that forced him to sit him out for five games. Eiland came back from the injury to start eight games. Against SMU, Eiland finished with six tackles, including one sack while returning a fumble 62 yards to the Mustangs’ one-yard line.

Following the season, Eiland focused on getting healthy and working on his craft to prepare for UH’s 15 spring practices.

“Basically I worked on my footwork and to get my technique down,” Eiland said. “Knowing what to do on each play is important, and with repetition, I will get better. (Defensive coordinator David) Gibbs’ system is simple, and it should make the transition process easy. As a safety, I have to know what my teammates are doing in order to make plays.”

Eiland is comfortable with the position change because he played safety when he was a football and baseball star at Lamar High School.

Though he committed to Texas A&M as a safety, Eiland chose to enter the MLB draft and was taken in the second round by the Toronto Blue Jays.

“Playing safety is basically playing center field,” he said. “You see the ball in the air, and you go get it. You see the routes, and you go get it.”

After spending five years in the minor leagues, Eiland decided he wanted to come back to football. He walked on to the football team and played nine games, contributing on special teams and playing linebacker. In the last game of the 2012 season against Tulane, he had a breakout performance, finishing with a career-high four tackles, one sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery and interception.

Playing came normally, but Eiland’s transition from the diamond to the classroom was tough, and he again adjusted.

“School was a little rough at first — getting up and going to class — but I got used to it, and now I have it under control.”

Head coach Tony Levine said Eiland’s experiences with minor league baseball can help younger players learn from his professional history.

“He can bring some past experiences in terms of being a professional and show what work ethic it takes to get to professional level,” Levine said. “Eric can pass that knowledge on to our young players who want to get to that level.”

Senior defensive tackle Joey Mbu said Eiland brings an interesting element to the locker room.

“First of all, he is old, and he always tells us that he is a great athlete. We will find out this spring about that,” Mbu said.

“He shows great work ethic and professionalism. He doesn’t complain much. He doesn’t show any immaturity, and if a coach tells him to do a certain task, he just does it. He is very mature.”

Levine knows that Eiland brings a lot of versatility at safety and as an outside rusher, which is sure to cause opposing quarterbacks to think at the line of scrimmage, but it’s the kind of person Eiland is that Levine admires.

“You can tell being around Eric that he is very mature; he carries and handles himself like a professional.”

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