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Acclaimed Rice linebacker transfers to SMU for final season

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Rice’s most experienced – and accomplished – linebacker won’t suit up for the Owls in 2014.

Cameron Nwosu last week transferred to SMU for graduate school and his final season of college football. Since Nwosu has already graduated from Rice, he is eligible to play this fall.

Nwosu missed the 2013 season with a knee injury, meaning his last time in a Rice uniform was the 2012 Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth. He had 10 tackles in that game.

The news leaves Rice with a rather inexperienced linebacker group, The Owls return one starting linebacker in James Radcliffe. The senior from Katy was fourth on the team with 63 tackles in 2013.

“We’ve got James Radcliffe coming back, and he’s basically started most of the last two years and then a lot of young guys who can really run,” Rice defensive coordinator Chris Thurmond said during spring practices.

Nwosu is a Houston native who attended high school at Klein Forest. He played in eight games his freshman year, recording his first sack against Northwestern. As a sophomore, he made 108 tackles, including seven for a loss. He also forced two fumbles.

Nwosu opened the 2012 season by blocking three extra points in the same game against UCLA. He recorded 92 tackles and three sacks. He was an all-Conference USA honorable mention selection in 2011 and 2012 and was voted preseason second-team all-conference before the 2013 season.

However, he never played a down. Nwosu underwent arthroscopic knee surgery prior to the 2013 season. Rice coaches were optimistic he could return to the field a few games into the season, but ultimately the decision was made to use his redshirt.

Nwosu’s absence paved the way for Michael Kutzler, who filled in admirably with a team leading 86-tackle season. Kutzler is out of eligibility.

“I want to thank Cam because he has taught me a lot,” Kutzler said after a victory over Kansas in September. “Even though he has been out, he helped me from the sideline giving me a head’s up about things he is seeing. He’s definitely had an influence on us [linebackers].”

Alex Lyons was on top of the Rice spring depth chart for the other linebacker starting job. Lyons is perhaps best remembered for returning a blocked field goal for 62 yards and a touchdown against Houston. He made 32 tackles during his freshman season.

Two San Antonio native Nicks – Uretsky and Elder – also could see considerable action. Elder had a career-high 8 tackles against Texas A&M last season. He led the team with seven tackles against Louisiana Tech. Uretsky redshirted last season after a standout high school career at Alamo Heights in San Antonio.

“Alex Lyons got a lot of snaps last year,” Thurmond said. “Nick Elder got enough snaps to get a comfort level there. …Nick Uretsky has really got good speed. We’re going to be able to have some real speed at linebacker. We lose some experience, but we gain some speed. That’s the tradeoff.”

The Owls open the 2014 season Aug. 30 at Notre Dame.

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