Who's Getting On the Bus

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Had it not been a typically humid - albeit manageable - Houston morning, Terrance Garmon and Scott Solomon would not have broken their customary practice sweat. With their spots in the rotation secure and with so many of their less experienced teammates jostling for position on the depth chart, Garmon, Solomon and several veterans were limited in their participation on Saturday as the Owls conducted their second and most critical scrimmage of fall camp.

"The guys that we've got to figure out who's getting on the bus and who isn't got a lot more reps than the guys that we know that are on the bus," Owls coach David Bailiff said. "There were different combinations of young men out there playing with the 1's and playing with the 2's. We're going to sit down (Sunday) as a staff and determine who's traveling and who's going to scout (team) because we've got to start working on UAB the midpoint of next week."

As a test of knowledge and observation skills, here is a stab at the 66-man travel roster Bailiff and staff will compile on Sunday afternoon. I'd like to think that these are the 66 Owls who will travel to Birmingham to face the Blazers on Sept. 5, but the real test is how few I will miss. Receiver Brent Hotard broke his left thumb during the scrimmage, and since the severity of the injury was unknown when this post was composed, I can't take responsibility if Hotard is forced to miss the opening weeks of the season. I'll wish him a speedy recovery and include his name on the travel roster as reward for a job well done during the first two weeks of camp.

Of course, all bets on these selections are for entertainment purposes only.

QBs (3): Shepherd, Fanuzzi, Lewis.

RBs (5): T. Smith, Turner, Knox, Ross, Goodson.

WRs (8): Dixon, Smiter, Randolph, Clark, Hotard, Dupree, Beasley, Maginot.

TEs (3): Wardlow, McDonald, Willson.

OL (11): Mitchell, Allen, Carrington, Hicks, Parish, Emmert, Hebert, Ball, Mason, Nazar, Janish.

DL (10): Solomon, Gioffre, M. Smith, Ozougwu, Lucio, Talbert, Stacey, J. Williams, Lowry, Bauer.

LBs (6): Garmon, Calhoun, Shuck, Hill, A. Williams, Nordstrom.

CBs (6): Ben, Jammer, Welch, Gaines, Gaddis, Francis.

SAFs (8): Sendejo, Bradshaw, Jones, Webb, Kitchens, Garley, Anyiam, Falgout.

Specialists (6): Long, Fangmeier, Boswell, Brackens, Martens, Brundage.

Notes: It seems outlandish to take five tailbacks, but Smith is the starter, Turner is a first-team kick returner, Goodson is on the second team on kick returns, and Knox is the lead blocker in the Wildcat package. Ross, a freshman, could be left at home, but he is such an explosive talent that he should be kept in the staff's back pocket. ... If Hotard is unavailable, I suspect that only seven receivers will travel. ... Janish, a freshman, has trained at guard and tackle, making him the most valuable of the freshmen linemen. ... Bauer should be redshirted, but with so many injury concerns on the D-line, he has to travel as a safety valve. ... Nordstrom over Lillard? It's a coin flip, with Nordstrom getting the edge because he could be serviceable on special teams. ... Gaines has been the best of the freshmen corners, and with both Gaddis and Francis working special teams, they get the slight edge over Frazier. Akinwumi will eventually move to safety. ... Falgout, like Nordstrom, has value on special teams. ... Brackens has earned his way on the travel squad with his ferocity on special teams, especially on kickoff coverage. Brundage can punt and kick, so he goes as an emergency reserve.

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Assuming you are correct on the travel roster who do you see playing at home among the true freshmen and who do you see being redshirted?

Tiki Owl: The only freshman on offense I wouldn't redshirt (barring injury) is Ross. Otherwise, Boswell, Brackens, the four corners (Frazier will eventually play) plus Lowry should participate as true freshmen. I'd redshirt the others on defense, but the two ends (Bauer and Hammett) might play at some point. - MK

I agree with your choices at all the positions. I thought perhaps Frazier was ahead of Gaddis/Francis at CB, but you're right, ST versatility makes perfect sense. That being said, I thought I saw Frazier back on kick returns this morning, too.

Tough news on Hotard. But I feel reassured by Taylor Dupree's steady improvement at WR. If Hotard doesn't travel, might they take another D-Lineman?

I hope/assume Chris Jones' absence today was for reasons similar to why Solomon and Garmon were held out for most of it.

Most bizarre play from practice today was that blocked FG. It looked like a coach moved a blocker out of correct position that then allowed Uwah around the edge easily.

Those two late passes from Fanuzzi were beauties, and in contrast to JT Shep's downfield attempts, really make me think Fanuzzi's takeover is not too far off. JT takes the mobility trophy no doubt. Do you think they'll actually use him on punt returns in games?

Talon Owl: It's splitting hairs regarding those four freshmen corners. Gaines might be the most talented of the quartet, but the others can play too. I could see another D-lineman making the trip for the rotation will need to stay fresh against Webb. I can't imagine Shep returning punts while also getting reps behind center. If the day comes when Fanuzzi wins the job outright, perhaps Shep gets back there. - MK

Good list. Glad to hear Brackens's name. Has he distinguished himself on coverage or returns?

At Ease: Coverage. He's a stocky guy who doesn't have a problem hitting people. - MK

MK, how are you feeling about the linebackers thus far? I seem to remember that group being the weak link last year due to injuries.

Cowl: The linebackers have been OK, definitely better than they were in the spring. Calhoun dropped pounds and that helped his maneuverability, and the addition of Hill has strengthened the group. I've always enjoyed watching Shuck operate in space; his issue has been correcting alignment errors. Garmon remains a steadying force. - MK

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