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Of Vets and Young Men

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It took several days for the shock to subside. The opening of fall camp introduced newcomers wearing No. 16 (Taylor McHargue), No. 81 (Donte Moore) and No. 12 (Andre Brackens), and as the workouts passed it became painfully obvious that Chase Clement, Jarett Dillard and James Casey weren't coming down that tunnel. Begrudgingly, the time had come to move on.

On Monday morning, the notable tab of the UAB game notes brought something equally disheveling to mind. Granted the starters on offense have been set for a while now, but to read that left guard Davon Allen and center Keshawn Carrington will make their first career starts on Saturday against UAB makes one shift in his seat. To understand that Taylor Dupree and Derek Clark have combined for zero career receptions makes one stammer. To accept that John Thomas Shepherd and Nick Fanuzzi have one career start between them is sobering.

The good news? The Owls' inexperience at quarterback, receiver and in the trenches might not prove costly. In Ed Zaunbrecher (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks), Larry Edmondson (receivers) and Ronnie Vinklarek (offensive line), the Owls have veteran coaches at the ready.

"It's one of the things when you lose three coaches on offense, I was an absolute nervous wreck wanting to make sure we hired the right people," Owls coach David Bailiff said of the departures of Tom Herman (Iowa State), Dan Hammerschmidt (Wyoming) and Blake Miller (Utah). "Not only have the right people been hired, we have these very experienced offensive coaches with an inexperienced offense. The timing really couldn't have been better. All three of them have been great fits for these players.

"I'm very comfortable and confident with this coaching staff."

In Vinklarek, Bailiff has an assistant with professional experience, an added bonus for an offensive line that lost three seniors on its interior. Edmondson has spent nearly 20 years in coaching, more than half of that tutoring receivers. While the Owls return three seniors at the position (Toren Dixon, Corbin Smiter and Taylor Wardlow), their depth is inexperienced, and Edmondson has been instrumental in getting those younger receivers up to speed.

And Zaunbrecher has overseen a quarterback competition with a steadying hand. Whatever questions Shepherd and Fanuzzi conjure on Saturday the odds are good that Zaunbrecher will have an answer. His career has spanned four decades, and the list of NFL players mentored is extensive and decorated. Saturday will bring moments of confusion for the younger Owls, but they can rest assured in the knowledge that their position coaches are well equipped. 

"It's the first time in my life where I've been able to hire really experienced guys," Bailiff said. "A lot of the times you'd have to sit there for two or three weeks to try to get everybody on the same page. It was so close to spring when they were hired and you sit in there with them for three days and you just watch these wonderful things happen because their challenge was to learn how Rice does it.

"We wanted those guys to learn our vernacular so our players didn't have to learn anything. It was up to those coaches to learn it and they came in and could have practiced by the third day because they have experienced so much and been a part of so many different schemes and systems. And more importantly they're very good men for these young men to be around."

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5 Comments

Nice article. Definitely gives hope that we won't see anything similar to the sputtering start of 2007 where it took forever for the coaches to properly get things rolling.

Can't wait until Saturday. Will you be live-blogging? Will this site have a summary of options for watching/listening to the game?

At Ease: What's the temperature out there regarding how I share the game experience? Blog? Tweet? Live chat? I prefer the latter, but I don't know if we'll have the access to the software needed for the live chat. I can check on that. Also, all the info is on the football page under events (TV, radio, GameTracker, etc.). - MK

Perhaps a question best posed to the Parliament. Personally, I enjoyed the live chats last year, so hopefully that becomes an option again. Tweets of score updates would be great, too, for those who may not be around a computer and want to get updates texted to them from twitter.

Live chat would be great if possible.

Tiki: I'll see what I can do. - MK

I really can't believe Saturday is game day for the Owls. I'm looking forward to seeing how the Owls move on offensively and see if they can make their presence felt defensively.

Live chat gets my vote. I feel good about this game.

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