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Positive Impact

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That David Bailiff steadfastly believed freshman corner Phillip Gaines was prepared to make his first collegiate start at Boone Pickens Stadium before 51,000 orange-clad fans primarily because Gaines had displayed swagger in practice and played at Converse Judson High speaks to two things: Bailiff's confidence in Gaines' potential, and his respect for Judson.

Having shown their mettle in practice and as reserves at UAB and Texas Tech, Gaines and freshman nose guard Alex Lowry were inserted into the lineup on the road against No. 16 Oklahoma State. From the outside looking in Bailiff appeared to be testing his youngsters' resolve, but he was resolute in their ability to swim - and not sink - in that hostile environment.

"They both excelled. They both had great games," Bailiff said. "Alex Lowry has just been dominant up front in all three football games. The same with Phillip Gaines. He knows what to do, he plays hard and he's got a little swagger to him. Even when (Cowboys All-American receiver) Dez (Bryant) caught that one (23-yard touchdown pass) on him, he went back and fought the next play. There wasn't any worry about what happened. He was determined to get back out there and not let it happen again. That's the attitude you've got to have out there."

It would be hyperbolic to proclaim that Gaines and Lowry, along with freshman linebacker Trey Briggs and freshman tailback Charles Ross, enjoyed breakout performances in the Owls' 41-24 loss to the Cowboys. However, given the unique needs the Owls had at each position, the fact that four freshmen filled the voids reflects the stock Bailiff put in the quartet and the occasional audacity each has flashed since fall camp commenced. When presented an opportunity each delivered, despite circumstances that would have made some others wilt.

Because Gaines had grown accustomed to playing on the big stage at Judson, Bailiff never fretted over his mental preparedness for Oklahoma State. Lowry, on the other hand, is a product of tiny Caddo Mills High, so his exposure to FBS competition has been incremental.

Neither flinched last Saturday, with Gaines producing four solo tackles and Lowry a trio of solo stops. And when Briggs showed the intensity and athleticism that made him a coveted prospect and Ross produced three touchdowns as the primary ball carrier in the Jumbo package, Bailiff earned a heap of vindication for bringing both Briggs and Ross along slowly.

"He made some plays that we've been needing linebackers to make," Bailiff said of Briggs, who recorded two tackles against the Cowboys. "We ran a bullet, he blitzed downhill, the back tried to cut him, and he just went over the back and launched himself at the quarterback. We hadn't seen that, and that's what we've got to have. He plays with a lot of instincts.

"Right now (Ross) can run the football, but we've got to make sure he can protect (the quarterback) when he's in there. We've got to make sure he knows the pass routes. We're planning on giving him more and more each week as he learns what to do."

With Ross, as with Gaines, Lowry and Briggs, it seems only a matter of time before he can wield greater influence on the outcome of a contest. The learning curve is steep for most newcomers, but by acing individual tests in Stillwater, this quartet is gaining critical knowledge.

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4 Comments

Good stuff, MK. Looking forward to seeing what these guys can do as the schedule lets up a little.

We'll certainly need Lowry to be dominant against the power rushing attacks we'll face the next few weeks.

I'm generally in favor of redshirting freshmen. But if these guys can be impact players now, let 'em play. Can't wait to see these guys in person on Saturday.

Owl-88: Bailiff would love to keep that redshirt on Janish, but the injuries on the offensive line have put Bailiff in a quandary. We'll see how that plays out. - MK

What's the latest on Fanuzzi? Has he resumed throwing? Is he progressing on time to start Saturday?

Talon: No and no. Tomorrow is the big day, but I do not feel confident based on what I've seen. I think you can expect JT Shepherd to start and Ryan Lewis to play. - MK

Fanuzzi officially out?

d1owls4life: Fanuzzi did not practice today so, barring a miracle of some sort, he will not participate against the Commodores. - MK

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