The Young and the Swift

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Charles Ross did it again.

As the Owls conducted a surprisingly brisk practice on Wednesday morning, an effort that belied the suffocating heat that oppressed both participants and observers like a totalitarian regime, Ross elected to add a jolt of electricity to the humidity. On an option play to the left side, Ross snared the pitch, turned his pads perpendicular to the sideline, and exploded up the field. Pursuing defenders attempted to contain Ross by taking an angle to an upcoming point on the field only to discover Ross was scooting so fast that those estimates were faulty.


When David Bailiff revisited that moment after practice he smirked, then recounted a similar episode of athletic prowess Ross displayed on Monday night. But this showcase was different for, unlike the post-workout scrimmage that included only freshmen and third-stringers two nights earlier, Ross made mincemeat of those pursuing loftier perches on the depth chart this time around. It may seem unabashedly optimistic to note this, but Ross is started to get it.

"That guy continues to get better every day," Bailiff said of Ross, a freshman tailback from Schertz Clemens. "He's got legitimate speed, he's a big-play guy, and when you get it in his hands ... . The last time in the stadium he broke that run on the outside zone, and he did it again today on the option. He's a big man that can really move. He carries his pads well, and as he gets more comfortable in the offense he also has different gears that he can hit. I'm really, really pleased with his progress."

That progress has been sudden. As recently as last Saturday's scrimmage Ross appeared unsure of himself and uncertain of his responsibilities. His trepidation - not his speed - had become his trademark, but the second week of camp has inspired timely growth. And, wisely, the coaches have sensed Ross' swelling confidence and subsequently loaded his plate with additional reps. During live action on Wednesday, Ross had multiple opportunities to prove his acclimation, and there were other runs that caught the eye in addition to his scoring gallop.

If Ross can continue down this road of development, a spot on the depth chart for the Owls' opener at UAB on Sept. 5 might not be out of the question. Ross controls what happens next.

"It's one of those things where if you look around the country with a lot of the running backs and skill (players), as soon as they figure out what's going on they're ready to go," Bailiff said. "Charles Ross is already physically ready to go. We've just got to get him where he's on the same page because you see that when he knows what to do, he's a big -play guy for us.

"Early on you could see where he was picking and choosing (which holes to run through). He's turning into that NASCAR driver; when he sees smoke, he's starting to accelerate."

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I was surprised that there wasn't more buzz about Ross earlier in camp. I mean he's a 6-1 205 true frosh RB that runs the 40 in a legit 4.38. There haven't been many of those around Rice in a good while. But I guess hesitancy can mask even that talent.

Very interested to see how the suddenly abundant talent at RB is managed for this season. And to think the naive national pundits think this team's run game will be reeling because C.J. entered the job market early. Ha.

Tyler Smith, Shane Turner, Jeramy Goodson, Charles Ross and a lighter and swifter Marcus Knox. The cupboard is certainly not bare.

It sounds like the Owls have the RBs to make an aggressive ground game possible, is the O-line up to making the holes for them?

BTW I haven't had any troubles signing up or logging in to the system for comments.

Owl-88: I'm not so sure on the O-line, although I must admit that it does seem to be improving daily. And thanks for the perspective on logging in. For some, it may be a browser issue. - MK

I have said this once before, but I guess I will say it again. While I am happy that our RB corps seem to be the best we have had since I have been a Rice Owl fan, I am just concerned that we have too much talent at RB. Now while this may seem like an idiotic statement, hear me out. I am just worried that we have all this guys that can be play makers, but how will we utilize them all. We have McGuffie in the wings for next year, Ross is turning into a playmaker, Smith is the starter and lets not forget about Shane "the Burner" Turner or Goodson or Knox. I just hope we don't end up with a log jam at that position.

cacahuate98: Well, at least Goodson and Knox will be removed from the equation next season. But, for this upcoming season, I share your concern. - MK

Any new developments in the Thor/wildcat package? Tulsa has had the most success running that set with their smaller receiver, AJ Whitmore, who was a QB in HS. A similar player in the Rice program would seem to be Jeramy Goodson.. any chance he starts getting direct snaps?

At Ease: Without giving too much away with regard to strategy and personnel, I have not seen Goodson take snaps in the Wildcat package. As for Tulsa, a bigger, more experienced O-line enables you to replace size with speed in that formation. - MK

Thanks, MK.

Speaking of the young and swift, which of our new burners are getting time at KO and punt returns?

At Ease: I'm still trying to figure that out. I've seen Gaddis, Randolph and Maginot (I think) back on kickoffs, but I don't recall too much live action on kick returns. I'll definitely get with Bailiff and see what direction he's heading regarding the return game because I am certainly curious (especially if Smith is not in the mix). - MK

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