The Travel Roster (Inc.)

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There are staff meetings, and then there are excruciatingly lengthy pow-wows where decisions are made, reconsidered, reversed, and then agreed upon once more. Contentions are presented, debated, debunked and dismissed just so that the process can begin anew.

Suffice it to say David Bailiff and his assistants spend their Sunday afternoon partaking in the latter as they composed an outline for their 66-man travel roster for the Owls' season opener at UAB on Sept. 5. Most of the names were obvious, but when the time came for those last few men to be discussed, the Conference USA-mandated shrunken travel squad made the task decidedly more difficult. Nine offensive linemen or a dozen? Five defensive ends or four?

Decisions, decisions.

"There are a couple of positions where Wednesday we're going to put the ball down a little bit and let some guys compete," Bailiff said, referencing the Owls' third and final scrimmage of fall camp. "We're really going to try to make up our mind because when you reduce your travel squad by four (it was 70 last year), it's really going to make some of those decisions critical."

For instance, Bailiff typically travels 22 linemen (offensive and defensive), but he might shave that number down to 18. After receiving news that junior receiver Brent Hotard must undergo surgery on his broken left thumb and will miss four weeks, the staff needs to find a travel replacement. With so many receivers dinged up, Bailiff is leaning toward taking more than usual as a precautionary measure, but which position will by compromised by that move?

Bailiff would like to take freshman quarterback Taylor McHargue so he can learn to signal plays to the offense and get a feel for life on the road, but that luxury could be nixed. And how many roster slots can be allotted to special teams mavens like Andre Brackens and Matt Nordstrom? Bailiff will take all five tailbacks, so he might need to scale back elsewhere.

"We're going to have to make those hard decisions next week," Bailiff said. "We've made a preliminary travel list, but there's still 70 names up there (on the meeting room white board)."

To help bolster the dwindling depth at receiver, freshman safety Turner Petersen has switched sides. How worrisome is the injury situation at receiver? The Owls have practiced without the following at some point during camp: Pierre Beasley (hamstring), Toren Dixon (hamstring), Hotard (thumb), Roddy Maginot (shoulder), Donte Moore (undisclosed), Michael Patterson (hamstring), Corbin Smiter (hernia) and Denzel Wells (shoulder). Wells is lost for the season.

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We have too many tailbacks and a sudden shortage of receivers-- has there been any talk of working a RB into the slot?

I presume the team will start preparing for UAB now? Hopefully the team can execute better QB containment against Webb than what they've shown when scrimmaging against JTS.

At Ease: Goodson would be the candidate among the tailbacks to move to the slot if the need arose. Alas, most of the injuries at receiver are considered minor. - MK

For a position that was deep with talent, the Owls now seem to be shaky at receiver. Are the injuries particularly serious or more of the nagging kind that keep you from playing at less than full strength?

Owl-88: Nagging. Disruptive, but merely nagging. At this rate, everyone except Wells (4-6 months) and Hotard (four weeks) should be available for the opener at UAB. - MK

I was just about to ask about the severity of the injuries. I thought they were pretty minor but I had seen a couple mentions of "mounting WR injuries" and was beginning to get concerned.

Good article on J-Hill. Driesbach is thinking of starting him? Wow. That would be a quick transition. He has all the physical tools to be sure. LB is looking like a pretty strong position now with 4 capable starters in the 2 Deep: Garmon, Calhoun, Hill and Shuck.

If we can just shore up the DT position this D will look pretty stout heading into the season. On that note, how is big Chance Talbert progressing?

Talon: Talbert has gained 20 pounds since the start of camp, but he has yet to resume full participation. He'll be reevaluated over the next couple of days to determine his status for UAB week. It might come down to the wire with him. - MK

A bit OT, but regarding a recent tweet, why would you question the logic of Charles Ross at KR? He has everything you look for in a KR (catching ability, speed, power and plus size), and was an accomplished one in HS, as were many of his classmates.

In that vein I'm surprised we're not seeing more of the freshmen get tries there. For example, Andre Brackens' KR highlights from HS are ridiculous.

Gaddis, Frazier, Francis, and Gaines were also talented kick returners in HS. Donte Moore's speed would also make him an intriguing candidate, but he's a likely redshirt.

I'm starting to get excited about Ross' potential impact this season. It sounds like he is practicing at a level that will see his prospective touches continue to increase.

Talon: Just my own personal bias of preferring smaller, darting types returning kicks. Ross has that long, loping stroke that seems an odd fit for special teams, but again, with that deceptive speed anything is possible for the young fella. - MK

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