March 2010 Archives
This was the most uneventful set of spring football practices in my six years covering this program. In 2005 there was the promise of a more 'pass friendly' offense, a promise that never materialized under the option-grounded Ken Hatfield (much to the chagrin of one particular quality control coach
). A year later Hurricane Todd blew through sounding off alarms while installing 'his offense' that he loaned to Major Applewhite. In 2007 David Bailiff took over amid scrutiny he was unqualified as a former FCS coach, and the following year the intrigue was tied to the Clement-Dillard-Casey triumvirate. In 2009, after four seasons of Clement behind center, a new quarterback needed to be named, so all eyes were watching that development.
This spring? Sure, there was a new offensive coordinator (David Beaty), run game coordinator (John Reagan), quality control (Clement) and offensive GA (David Sloan), as well as a three-way quarterback battle. But after last spring, the signal caller shuffle seemed old hat, and while the Beaty appointment was exciting, the Owls weren't going to show their complete hand during open practices. Whatever tricks Beaty has up his sleeve won't be revealed until later on, so while new coaches and eligible transfers (Taylor Cook, Sam McGuffie, Justin Allen) made things somewhat interesting, the temperature from Rice Nation felt lukewarm.
Why? Who knows? Spring practice closed Wednesday with a scrimmage and some starters healthy scratches (McGuffie, Sr. DE Cheta Ozougwu) and some youngsters getting one final shot to make a lasting impression. The staff will review film in the coming days and revisit the depth chart to make the necessary adjustments as the focus shifts to summer conditioning.
"With these 15 practices we really developed some depth with this football team," Bailiff said.
That depth enabled the Owls to complete camp without Sr. LT Scott Mitchell and RS Fr. Bobby Janisch on the offensive line. It empowered the coaches to stress downfield blocking to the receivers and have a card to pull - first-team reps - if the receivers didn't oblige. It allowed the offense to not miss a beat during the Blue-Gray Game when incumbent Jr. QB Nick Fanuzzi was sidelined and the defense to press on without Sr. DE Scott Solomon, Jr. KAT Travis Bradshaw and So. DE Cody Bauer, all of whom will serve as rotation players this season.
The loss of Jr. FS Joseph Leary (thigh contusion) in Practice No. 12 remains a concern, but everyone else that either began camp dinged or succumbed to injury will be back by fall camp. In the interim, I see no reason why I can't produce a reckless, haphazard list of 2010 starters.OFFENSEQB -
'The Taylors' RB -
So. Vance McDonaldLT -
Jr. Jake HicksC -
Jr. Keshawn CarringtonRG -
So. Eric BallRT -
Jr. Tyler ParishWR -
Sr. Corbin SmiterWR -
Jr. Randy KitchensWR -
So. Derek ClarkDEFENSEDE -
Sr. Kramer LucioDT -
So. Alex LowryDE -
Sr. Justin HillLB -
So. Trey BriggsCB -
So. Phillip GainesCB -
Jr. Chris JammerSS -
Sr. Chris JonesFS -
Jr. Kyle MartensDS -
Sr. Brandon LongPK -
RS Fr. Chris BoswellHLD -
Jr. Brent HotardPR -
So. Kevin GaddisKR -
So. Shane Turner
Meanwhile at The Reck, Jr. SS Rick Hague finally forced The OG's hand with his two-out, two-run throwing error on Tuesday night in the Owls' 7-2 win over Lamar
. The OG played a little musical chairs with his infield following the Hague miscue, flip-flopping Hague and So. 3B Anthony Rendon for a spell until Rendon dropped a routine pop up, camped out too far in front of second base while awaiting a throw from So. C Craig Manuel on a (successful) stolen base attempt, and short-hopped a throw to Sr. 1B Jimmy Comerota. All of that led to Comerota moving to short, Abe Gonzales to first and Hague to the bench, a defensive formation that will remain set at least through the start of the Owls' series opener against the Houston Cougars
Here is the primary problem with that alignment: the Owls have just two capable defensive first basemen (Comerota and Gonzales), and while Hague (who took infield at first Wednesday), So. OF Jeremy Rathjen, So. OF Ryan Leiws and Fr. IF Tyler Spurlin are options at first, the Owls will lose an awful lot if anyone other than SAK or Gonzo is on that bag. Gonzo is one of two options to start the series finale on the mound (Jr. RHP Boogie Anagnostou is the other), so chances are good that Hague could rejoin the starting lineup on Saturday. Where is anyone's guess. So. LHP Taylor Wall and Sr. RHP Jared Rogers will start Games 1 and 2.
I'd bet my considerable (ahem) earnings that The OG is unfamiliar with the cultural contributions of Frankie Goes To Hollywood
, but the mantra he shared with the Owls on Monday
had a familiar ring. The focus of their workout was situational hitting (developing a successful approach with two strikes; driving in runners at third base with less than two outs) and situational pitching (recording outs when working with two-strike counts). Despite the series loss at Memphis and the subsequent banishment from the national polls
, The OG was decidedly chipper. The Owls' problems are mental, and with stringent effort can be resolved.
This team is pressing. The offense because defensive blunders and poor pitching at Stanford left the hitters shouldering the responsibility of carrying the team; the pitchers because they underperformed early and developed a paralyzing habit of forcing the ball over the plate instead of simply pitching. At this point no one should object to any method The OG employs to get this team on track psychologically, even brainwashing
. If it works, go for it. Just relax.
"They're always going to try hard," The OG said. "They've got to have fun playing baseball."
As for the surprising news of Sr. RHP Mike Ojala making his first start of the season
with just two appearances under his belt following midsummer Tommy John surgery
, The OG had answers. In a sense, the decision was made prior to the Memphis series, and once the series finale was moved to the second game of a doubleheader last Saturday, the call was cemented. After pitching at Texas last Tuesday, the earliest Ojala would have pitched was Sunday. He will be on a strict pitch count (35), and should things go well, he'll be cleared to work again during the series finale against UH on Saturday. Starting Ojala allows the staff to control his warm-up and provide a safer environment as they carefully lengthen his outings, and it won't preclude Ojala from working out of the bullpen later this season. But with this decision, the ultimate goal is clear: Ojala will rejoin the weekend rotation as soon as possible.
Across the parking lot at HRS, the Owls completed their penultimate full pads workout. On Tuesday they will be in shorts, and they will cap spring practice with their third and final scrimmage on Wednesday. Film study from the Blue-Gray Game
didn't reveal many surprises, although it was a positive to discover that RS Fr. DB Tolu Akinwumi didn't make as many alignment errors as originally feared. Jr. DB Xavier Webb was guilty of only one mistake and posted a strong production number while Jr. DB Chris Jammer appears to have regained his confidence. Sr. DE Cheta Ozougwu delivered yet another exceptional spring practice effort.
Owls coach David Bailiff isn't too concerned with the uneven play of the offensive line. The unit is missing Sr. LT Scott Mitchell and RS Fr. G/T Bobby Janisch, and their absence hurts. Jake Hicks and Tyler Parish performed with developing technical savvy. That's great news.
If So. RB Sam McGuffie
plays on Wednesday, it won't be for many snaps. Wait 'till September.
As promised by Rice OC David Beaty late Thursday afternoon, the Owls kept it close to the vest on Saturday
. With so many random observers watching at HRS, including what looked to be a pair of Green-&-Gold clad Baylor fans near the 15-yard-line on the far side of the field, chances were slim that the Owls would reveal much of their playbook. Most of the formation diversity from earlier practices this spring was absent, primarily as a security measure. Additionally, the staff hasn't completed installation of the offense. There is more to come.
There were a few developments of interest. First, it was good to see RS Fr. QB Taylor McHargue take full advantage of his first opportunity to perform before the (ahem) masses. McHargue didn't just manage the offense, he excelled in spots, showcasing pass-run skills reminiscent of a certain quality control. The rushing total (10 carries for 25 yards) would have been more impressive were it not for a sack and a couple of fumbles charged to McHargue, and the passing numbers (8-for-11, 126 yards, 3 TDs) reflected a quarterback firmly in control.
So. Taylor Cook (12-for-18, 111 yards, TD) looked more than capable, but Saturday felt like a coming-out party for McHargue, whose performance confirmed what many suspected: this position battle (including Jr. Nick Fanuzzi) might not be settled by the middle of next week.
Some of what unfolded wasn't surprising in the least. The offensive line struggled to create sufficient holes for So. RB Sam McGuffie and RS Fr. RB Turner Petersen, but Jr. RB Tyler Smith ran with purpose through the muck. So. TE Vance McDonald is quite skilled, and it looks as though Beaty recognizes that fact and will utilize VMcD accordingly. So. WR Derek Clark delivered a 65-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown, but the receivers were mostly nondescript. While McGuffie was bottled up on the ground (7 carries for 10 yards), he got his with a jaw-dropping 63-yard reception. He will be a threat out of the backfield and as a decoy.
Results were equally mixed defensively where the Owls were without Jr. Travis Bradshaw and Jr. Joseph Leary in the secondary, and Sr. DE Scott Solomon and So DE Cody Bauer up front. That didn't prevent a few holdovers from making big plays, notably RS Fr. DB Tolu Akinwumi, whose two TFLs were negated somewhat by his mistakes in alignment. So. DE Jared Williams (2.5 tackles, fumble recovery) provided a spark while Sr. LB Justin Hill (3.5 tackles, sack) continues to develop into the force the defense needs. Veterans Xavier Webb (5 tackles, PBU) and Chris Jammer (4 tackles) were solid in the secondary, sparking hope that maybe, just maybe, the Owls might establish some quality depth once Bradshaw and Leary return.
Oh, and that 46-yard field goal by RS Fr. Chris Boswell should assuage any concerns over the kicking game for the next few seasons. Boswell has quite the leg on him.
If I can avoid dozing off at my desk (hooray for sleep deprivation!
), I'll write and post a feature on So. RB Sam McGuffie
, who opened up on a variety of subjects following practice on Thursday. Don't know if I've ever met anyone with relative fame whose personality serves as such a stark contrast to his public perception. There is no arrogance or pretense to McGuffie; he is a hard-working kid who just happens to be an athletic marvel. More on all of that later.
As for Saturday, McGuffie will have his carries limited, keeping in line with the plan adhered to by the coaching staff throughout the spring. McGuffie is singularly talented, yes, but his role in the offense goes far beyond his actually getting touches. The mere threat of his presence will open the field for So. TE Vance McDonald and So. RB Charles Ross to exploit. Given the options he plans to utilize and the offensive versatility of which he has inferred, Owls OC David Beaty can not afford to lose McGuffie to a spring practice injury. Thus, McGuffie will get in for a few plays and he'll exit stage left. Take heed: When McGuffie is out there, watch No. 3
While acknowledging that injuries to Sr. OL Scott Mitchell and RS Fr. OL Bobby Janisch make evaluations somewhat tricky, the offensive line continues to underwhelm. Granted the rotation will be altered once Mitchell and Janisch return to the fold, but the quarterbacks haven't had much of an opportunity to excel because they haven't enjoyed ample time in the pocket. The source behind my desire to see this team run more often is two-fold: the depth at tailback needs to be exploited to the maximum, and I'm still wary of the O-line's ability to pass block. The defensive line caused disruption without
Sr. DE/DT Scott Solomon and So. DE Cody Bauer on Thursday. Just imagine when the defensive front is at full strength during fall camp.
Unless I've missed something (a distinct possibility with this addled brain), Sr. Justin Hill and So. Trey Briggs will be the starters at linebacker without much opposition. If anyone notices otherwise on Saturday, please share with the rest of the class. ... With injuries great and small continuing to mount (Solomon, Bauer, Andre Brackens, Nick Fanuzzi, Turner Petersen), it's tough not to be concerned over Sr. CB Phillip Gaines. Following a collision earlier this spring Gaines had a soft cast placed on his previously fractured wrist. On Thursday, he absorbed the worst of a collision in the back of the end zone and staggered off the field. Gaines plays with a physicality far beyond his modest frame (a la Sr. LB Willie Garley), and while such effort is admirable, Gaines will need to bulk up this summer in order to withstand a full season of the punishment he administers. Asking him to scale back his style of play should not be an option.
Not sure if Beaty is married to the trio of Sr. Corbin Smiter, Jr. Randy Kitchens and RS So. Derek Clark when the Owls go 3-wide (with McGuffie and Jr. Tyler Smith as the two backs), but I've noticed that intriguing grouping before. With so many receivers available (11 on Thursday), the combinations are endless. It seems nearly impossible to whittle that number down to a working collection, but it's fun watching Larry Edmondson coach that group up. He gets after them hard, and I am confident that he'll find a handful of receivers that he can trust.
"Never, never, never give up."
That message seems simple enough, and in light of the tribulations currently experienced by the Owls on the diamond, The OG could not have picked a more pertinent statement to deliver to his weary team. The Owls have looked inept at varying times this season, but ardent observers would be hard pressed to find a game in which they failed so resoundingly in all three phases as they did on Tuesday night in Austin at Disch-Falk Field against No. 9 Texas
Offense? Two measly hits, none against Texas' second-tier arms Sam Stafford, Hoby Milner and Stayton Thomas. Defense? Two errors, including a costly two-base miscue that opened the sixth inning, a passed ball and three stolen bases allowed. Pitching? Six walks, three wild pitches, two hit batsmen and just one strikeout. Irony of ironies? Jr. LHP Abel Gonzales pitched splendidly in relief of Anthony Fazio, yet for his efforts he was saddled with the loss.
But let's be honest: None of what happened against the Longhorns was aberrant. The Owls themselves are quick to admit disappointment over their 12-10 start, and in many ways they are as flummoxed by their inability to get everything clicking simultaneously as anyone else. When the pitching is sufficient the offense scuffles, and when the offense succeeds the pitching stinks. The defensive liabilities of late are particularly troubling given the need for one phase to remain stout. It is akin to a vessel taking on water, with each gap plugged giving way to another leak elsewhere. There are only so many thumbs available for duty it seems.
Thankfully, The OG remains admirably optimistic. Ponder leaping off the bandwagon, and his words keep you aboard. Begrudgingly contemplate missing the final CWS at Rosenblatt Stadium, and The OG quickly points out the available talent on his roster. Now, that talent isn't delivering at the present time, but on Friday in Memphis the season begins anew for the Owls.OFFENSE
The numbers don't lie. Last season the Owls hits .320/.392/.490, and with every key contributor aside from 2B Brock Holt returning, expectations were that Rice would feature one of the top lineups in the nation. By any definition, .278/.374/.441 doesn't conjure intimidation.
Factors? Losing Diego Seastrunk (.290/.389/.419) for a dozen games didn't help. His switch-hitting bat is far too valuable to marginalize and, along with Jeremy Rathjen, represents one of two halfway legitimate options to bat cleanup (more on that later). The Owls might have won nine of 12 games without GDG available, but they certainly lost any opportunity to establish an offensive identity. Perhaps now that GDG is back to form, the Owls can begin to find their way.
However, reinserting GDG back into the order won't solve the issue of an All-American caliber shortstop batting .267/.333/.419 or two veteran all-conference candidates in the outfield batting .270/.303./349 and .205/.283/.241 with a combined one home run and 13 RBIs in 146 at-bats. When slumps are prolonged thoughts turn to introducing veterans to the bench. But that is a slippery slope, especially when those vets remain vital to the success of the team.
"That's the thing that managers always think over - whether it's better to sit a player for a game or two that you know you can't reach your goals without," The OG said. "I'm not sure that's good or bad. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, and watching it over the years I've got to say it really doesn't matter. You're just as well off letting them play through it as you are letting them sit through it because players do slump and they do come out of it."
For all the experience the Owls returned at the plate, two vulnerabilities regarding their lineup were evident during fall ball and preseason workouts. The Owls lack a traditional leadoff hitter, and aside from superstar So. 3B Anthony Rendon, they are bereft of a classic cleanup option.
Fr. 2B Michael Ratterree (.266/.412/.443) opened the season atop the order, and he has 15 starts there. But film has produced evidence that Ratterree performs better when he has had an opportunity to watch opposing pitchers work to hitters ahead of his spot in the order (Ratterree has also hit third, sixth and seventh). His on-base percentage is sufficient for the role, but Ratterree has appeared more comfortable when he hits down in the lineup. The OG has tinkered with Jr. RF Chad Mozingo and Sr. 1B Jimmy Comerota (.246/.333/.410) atop the order, but neither has hit with the authority to earn ceaseless chances. The search continues.
"Ratterree is about as good as we've had in terms of his numbers, but his numbers don't tell the tale," The OG said.
And for all of the clamoring to elevate Rendon (.344/.570/.813) one spot in the order, who is deserving to bat cleanup and provide protection? RS So. LF Michael Fuda (.360/.441/.517) and his nation-leading 32 strikeouts? Rathjen (.294/.333/.627), who is tied for second on the club with 16 RBIs but has 17 strikeouts in 51 at-bats? Options are limited, although GDG may fit the bill should he settle in and hit at a clip similar to his sophomore season (.353/.393/.504).
"The only cleanup hitter you've got is him," The OG said of Rendon, who paces the Owls in RBIs with 23 despite being walked an unfathomable 33 times (by comparison, Rendon walked 31 times in 61 starts while posting a .461 on-base percentage as a freshman). "You don't have anyone else that even comes close to functioning in the cleanup spot. The best hitter to hit behind Rendon right now is Seastrunk, and to me that's not even conjecture."PITCHING
Yeah, what Denny Green said
No one pulled the wool over your eyes. It was no secret that the Owls' pitching would be serviceable at best, terrible at worst and, unlike the offense, the pitching has met expectations. The staff has been mediocre, albeit some of the numbers and results are a tad perplexing.
So. LHP Taylor Wall has a .227 BAA and
a 5.97 ERA. It might take Bill James a lifetime to find such an odd statistical pairing, numbers that showcase how well Wall has pitched in spots and how poorly he's pitched with runners on base (20 of the 38 batters who reached against Wall via hit, walk or HBP have scored). The WHIP (1.26) is manageable, but when runners reach they score, as evidenced by both of his home runs against Cal being of the three-run variety. Jr. RHP Boogie Anagnostou has been solid, but for a pitcher with strikeout stuff, 12 Ks in 30.2 innings won't cut it. Given how shaky the defense has been of late, allowing nearly every opposing batter to put the ball in play is a risky proposition, and the 18 free passes don't help.
Sr. RHP Jared Rogers has been hit hard (.292 BAA) but has minimized the damage with just five walks. He's the Bizarro
Taylor Wall. Jr. LHP Tony Cingrani (1-0, 7.52) has been pulled from the weekend rotation and is undergoing a complete overhaul of his arm action, a la Bryce Cox. His WHIP (1.77), bloated ERA, inability to hold runners, and general wildness (three wild pitches, two hit batsmen, two balks) warranted the move. The bullpen has been better than expected, with Fr. RHP Tyler Duffey (2-0, 3.12), Jr. LHP Doug Simmons (1-0, 1.69), Fr. LHP Holt McNair (1-0, 1.80) and Gonzales (2-3, 3.31) excelling. If Fr. RHP J.T. Chargois continues to come on, Sr. RHP Mike Ojala regains his command coming off Tommy John surgery, and RHPs Matthew Reckling and Mark Haynes uptick just a tad, the bullpen will be set. At this point, the rotation requires some TLC, but everyone realized that before the season opened.DEFENSE
The Owls have been officially charged with 24 errors, but The OG believes at least five more should be on their ledger. The outfield defense, touted before the season began, has been poor, with dropped/grossly misplayed balls in right costing the Owls at least two games. Misjudged or cautiously played balls in center and left have resulted in runs for the opposition, and given the speed of the four outfielders in the rotation, such miscues are hardly acceptable.
Ratterree had played well at second before a recent rash of errors in San Diego, but Hague has struggled making routine throws for most of this season. It's hard to quantify the pressure draft prospects are burdened with, particularly elite prospects such as Hague. It's easy to stand on the sideline and proclaim that players in his position should block out said pressure, but in some cases millions of dollars ride on every performance. Not only is every at-bat scrutinized, but every throw and foot shuffle is subject to ridicule and scorn. That's difficult.
"You've got right now six or seven players, maybe more, with advisers," The OG said.
Opponents have swiped 23 bases in just 27 attempts, but that burden doesn't belong to the catchers alone. Besides, GDG has made just two starts behind the plate, and with his anticipated return on defense this coming weekend, his arm strength might make a difference.
"Our defense should have been our strength. It should have been great," The OG said. "We basically have not played defense at any level - catching, infield or outfield - that we expected, but that could (turn) too. Any optimism is based on the fact that you know the talent is there."
That fact is irrefutable, as is the truth that of the Owls' 10 losses, three have come by only one run and four by just two runs. Even the most recent setback against Texas included a fluke frame where four runs were allowed to score without the benefit of a base hit, so all told the Owls have been hammered only twice in 22 games. Put that number in perspective as you roll over in your mind everything that has gone wrong up to this point, and consider the recovery.
With Memphis and the rest of C-USA on the horizon, are the Owls' prospects truly that bleak?
"For everybody going into conference it's a new season," The OG said. "You obviously feel like with the level of talent we have and with it being a new season. and that's the way we'll treat it, everything up to now was training. All up to now was exposing your warts and trying to get rid of them. Now is the time to focus and trust yourself and get in a state of heightened awareness and play ball. And enjoy it."
Hard to fathom a first-time offensive coordinator hailed as the savior of a football program, but when the assistant is as beloved as David Beaty and the program is desperately in need of resuscitation, the appointment is greeted with clanging church bells and plumes of smoke.
What was past for Beaty - he spent two seasons with the Owls as a respected receivers coach before leaving for Kansas to fill that same role - is slowly slipping into irrelevancy. David Bailiff handed Beaty control of his sputtering offense with the hope that Beaty could make proper use of the Owls' disjointed collection of skill talent. Beaty seems to possess the perfect combination of personality and purpose, an ideal blend of affability and ambition. His players like his enthusiasm and Bailiff appreciates his creativity. Beaty aims to put the pieces in place.
Q: You've worked as a head coach in high school and a position coach in college, but this is your first coordinator job. How does the melding of your experience prepare you for this role?
A: I've been blessed enough to work around some great guys that I've learned a lot from: Tom Herman, Major Applewhite, David Bailiff, Blake Miller - guys that I've worked with here before that have shaped me. And then going up to Kansas and being around Coach (Mark) Mangino and Coach (Ed) Warinner and all the guys that I worked with up there. I've tried to do in my college career exactly what I did in my high school career which was take from guys that know what they're doing and try to build your philosophy from there. That's how it's been shaped.
Q: Did your past experience here and your familiarity with some of the players on the roster aid your transition as you readied for spring practice and evaluated the offensive depth chart?
A: I had a little bit of an advantage because I did know a number of kids on the team. I did have a little bit of an idea of their skill set prior to coming here, which is good because it allowed us to make some personnel decisions with regards to positions pretty easy and quickly. Now in terms of implementing our program, a lot of the things that we are doing are very similar, but there are some things that are very different so that's going to take time. The kids are wrapping their minds around it. They're very smart kids and they're picking things up quick. The quicker we can get everything in, the quicker we can start fine tuning this and then using all the tools that the offense has available.
Q: David Bailiff has harped on the need for the offense to establish a quicker tempo. Why does the staff believe that a hastened pace will be advantageous for the Owls in 2010?
A: Coach Bailiff's philosophy has always been that we have a quick tempo in our practice. One of the things that we always talk about is if we move around fast enough in practice, our conditioning should take care of itself. And that's one of the things that we're stressing to our kids is that they have urgency every day. When we play with urgency and we're able to control the tempo of the game, we're at our best. We understand that, and that's something that we're trying to get across to our kids and make them understand that the speed at which we play allows us to control the game. That's one of the things that we focus on and try to drive home to our kids.
Q: What's been your process in sorting through the glut at quarterback, tailback and receiver?
A: It's a good problem to have. We've got some talented kids ... (and) the biggest thing for us is just evaluating their skill sets and what they can do, and at the same time try to get these guys taught our offense and getting them familiar with all facets of it so we can operate effectively. For us right now it's an installation process, and we're almost done with that. From that point we can go back to working on execution and fine tuning what we do offensively.
In terms of dealing with the kids that we have, it's easy. We tell those kids that the best players are going to play, and there's a healthy competition every single day. You're only as good as your next play, your next day, and we want them to feel that urgency. That's when we're at our best is when there is good competition.
Q: When you gained a clear view of the versatility of certain players at particular positions, how did it alter your view of ways to structure your offense?
A: Each year you go through you have different skill sets at different positions, and you obviously want to build your offense around ways you can get your playmakers the ball. Here, with us having great running backs - and we have talented receivers and we have talented quarterbacks - we feel that if we can get this offense installed and get those kids on base with what we're doing offensively, now we can start focusing on matchups and getting those guys in position to make plays.
Q: Is there an efficient plan for evaluating the three-way quarterback competition, and what is the best method for choosing between Nick Fanuzzi, Taylor Cook or Taylor McHargue?
A: For us at quarterback it's very simple, and I've told those guys this from Day 1: the guy that can manage this offense and can move this team and can make good decisions is going to be the guy that wins the job. That's the thing that we're focusing on right now is trying to find out who can do that the best. We've got three very talented guys and, at this point, we're still in a competition and we will be every day. Is there an efficient way? You'd like to have a starter and be able to move him with the 1s all the way through. Nick is the incumbent and he's taking reps with the 1s primarily, but those other two guys are getting reps with the 1s as well ... so we can get a fair comparison. In terms of being efficient, it's as efficient as it can be.
The big thing for us is that we identify who that guy is that can manage this offense.
After watching the film from the Owls' first of three scrimmages this spring, David Bailiff realized that his defense didn't play that poorly. Some of the blown assignments and misalignments came courtesy of younger players attempting to make pushes for spots on the depth chart. In the final analysis Bailiff lauded his defensive line, and singled out the efforts of safeties Paul Porras and Joe Leary, both of whom played with a physicality the Owls desperately need on defense.
At this point it appears as though Porras, a redshirt freshman, and Leary, a converted cornerback who missed the 2009 season with a hamstring injury, will earn spots in the rotation. Despite the glut of returning players the Owls welcome back in their secondary, the inconsistency at safety is worrisome. The Owls could use some toughness at the position, too, a fact that creates opportunities for Porras and Leary to seize. If Porras and Leary keep ascending, perhaps some veterans will wake up. Bailiff would embrace that development.
On Thursday, it was difficult to not notice RS Fr. DT Hosam Shahin (6-3, 275), who should be up to 285 pounds by the start of the season. He was active thanks in part to his growing trust of his instincts and his improved technique. Shahin was a raw athlete when he arrived from Canada, but he needed direction. A full season of learning seems to have served him well, and with the Owls intent upon moving Sr. DE Scott Solomon inside, the depth at tackle will only improve if Shahin continues to grow into his athleticism. With So. DT Alex Lowry and Jr. DTs Michael Smith and John Gioffre, the Owls will have the numbers inside to complement their quality options at end where Solomon, Sr. Cheta Ozougwu (who has had an 'amazing' set of spring practices), Sr. Kramer Lucio (solid as always) work as veterans and RS So. Jared Williams, So. Cody Bauer (out this spring - knee) and RS Fr. Josh Skinner enhance the depth.
The receivers have been maligned, but Bailiff was happy with the physical blocking of Sr. Corbin Smiter and RS So. Denzel Wells. RS Fr. Andre Gautreaux continues to improve and work his way into the mix, but there are miles to go before the rotation at receiver is settled.
RS So. OL Eric Ball has made his intentions clear: he plans on being a starter at guard.
A word to the wise: When the Owls hold their Spring Game on March 27, attend. The only thing more exhilarating than the threat of So. RB Sam McGuffie
breaking loose into the secondary is McGuffie actually breaking loose into the secondary. His speed is breathtaking, but his wiggle is vastly underrated. An uncanny ability to maintain an advantageous angle on a defender was revealed on Tuesday, yet another facet of his athleticism worthy of admiration.
While it was refreshing to watch McGuffie work with the knowledge that he will be available to the Owls this fall, his flash of talent wasn't surprising. Of greater intrigue for the Owls and their aspirations for an improved product on offense was the continued emergence of RS Fr. RB Turner Petersen and the steady development of 'The Taylors' - QBs Taylor Cook and Taylor McHargue. The Owls have a glut at both tailback and quarterback, meaning scrimmages offer observers the opportunity to produce evaluations of those contending for starting positions.
"I was very pleased with our quarterbacks. I was very pleased with our running backs. It was a shame Charles Ross has a virus and couldn't play," Owls coach David Bailiff said. "I was very pleased with the offensive line; I thought they competed very well. We used different combinations at times and we're going to find the five best. We've got great competition."
The offensive line wasn't impressive in the early stages of the scrimmage, for the unit struggled to provide adequate protection for the quarterbacks to get the ball downfield. But as the snaps accumulated the line tightened and kept Scott Solomon, Cheta Ozougwu, Jared Williams and Hosam Shahin at bay. With a clean pocket the quarterbacks repeatedly worked the ball to the talibacks and So. TE Vance McDonald, another indication that a definitive leader at receiver has yet to emerge. Bailiff opened the scrimmage with Corbin Smiter, Derek Clark and Randy Kitchens packaged together, but substitutions were sweeping and frequent.
Bailiff was rather displeased by the erratic performance of his defense, particularly the veterans guilty of misalignments and blown assignments. McDonald snared a scoring pass from Nick Fanuzzi while back peddling into a vacant spot in the back of the end zone, and the tailbacks were repeatedly left unchecked coming out of the backfield. The defense played without Jr. FS Travis Bradshaw, but that fact didn't excuse the miscues that irked Bailiff.
"We've got to get a toughness over there," Bailiff said of the defensive side of the football.
Breakout performances on defense were tough to come by, but one player who remained active to the point of garnering attention was Williams
, who seems to have settled in at end. After being toggled back and forth between end and linebacker, Williams appears to have found his niche as a rush end in passing situations. His growth allows the Owls to further maximize their depth at the position, with roles for contributors coming into clearer focus.
For Williams, that means bulking up a little while accepting the fact that he won't be a 260-pound defensive end and embracing the techniques of being a speed rusher off the edge.
"I was feeling comfortable last spring, but then we made the move (to linebacker temporarily) and there were a lot of moves from there," Williams said. "All offseason I've been working at D-end, so I'm feeling more comfortable.
"I'm just focusing on D-end right now. If any (position) changes come, that'll come."
Change has already come for Cook
, whose transition from the scout team to the competition for the starting job is complicated by the Owls' turnover in offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach from Ed Zaunbrecher to David Beaty, and their philosophical shift to a faster tempo. Cook participated in spring football with Miami, Fla., last year but this experience at Rice comes following his transfer and a full season of inactivity and watching from the sideline.
As was to be expected, Cook needed a few practices to settle in. His consistency was lacking last week, but those moments where he darts passes to open receivers showcase his arm strength and accuracy, and they legitimize his candidacy as the Owls' quarterback for 2010.
"The offense I came into I wasn't around much except for a few meetings because I was on scout team," Cook said. "The tempo is a lot more fun. The very last drive we had the tempo was fast, and I think that's going to be good. And then Coach Beaty's enthusiasm is good.
"I started off kind of slow the first week and then I picked it up (Monday) and got it going (in Tuesday's scrimmage). A lot of it is just getting comfortable with the system, which I am now."
worked up a lather that was, from the perspective of a senior who had lost one game in three season to injury, a long time coming. He spent most of Monday afternoon swinging a bat with unrestrained determination, and by the time he finished completing situational hitting drills with several members of his hitting group, Seastrunk was drenched in sweat. After spending 12 games sidelined with a strained left oblique, he wasn't complaining.
"It was frustrating for sure," Seastrunk said of the injury. "We've been struggling a little bit and I haven't been able to help the team out, so I've been feeling pretty helpless about that. I've had to put on a different hat and be a cheerleader and help these guys out between innings when they might not be paying attention. I just tried to help the team out any way I could."
Seastrunk should have a more tangible impact in the immediate future against either Texas on Tuesday or San Diego this weekend. Before pinch hitting in the seventh inning of Sunday's 7-4 victory over California
, Seastrunk was cleared to bat from the left side of the plate. The Owls' switch-hitting catcher will be limited to that one duty for at least another week, with Seastrunk hopeful that he might return behind the plate and to hitting against southpaws by the time the Owls reach Memphis for their Conference USA opening series next weekend.
Seastrunk was batting .400/.500/.600 with one home run and three RBIs through four games before pulling a muscle in his side while warming up for the Owls' game against Elon on Feb. 26. The Owls actually won nine of 12 games without Seastrunk, who struck out in his plate appearance on Sunday, but they certainly missed his presence at the plate and behind it. Down one catcher, the Owls were forced to thrust freshman Geoff Perrott into a more active role behind sophomore Craig Manuel, and the loss of an experienced lefthanded stick meant more at-bats for another rookie, Chase McDowell, who has served as a designated hitter.
When Seastrunk dug in against Cal righthander Brian Diemer on Sunday, he was justifiably anxious. He poked fun at his eager approach but welcomed what the at-bat represented: a step toward rejoining the starting lineup and resuming what was a strong start at the plate.
"My swing feels fine," Seastrunk said. "This whole year my swing has felt the best it's felt since my freshman year (.304/.338/.388 with one home run and 42 RBIs), and I'm just trying to keep a steady pace and keep working to get back in the lineup. I just need to get more reps.
"I'd like to be able to get back in the groove. With us rattling off 26 runs this weekend (in Saturday's win) and me just being able to sit and watch that, I want to be a part of that again. I want to get back behind the plate and lead these pitchers to exactly where they need to be."
By the time Seastrunk resumes his backstop duties, Sr. RHP Mike Ojala
should be several outings into his return from midsummer Tommy John surgery. Ojala was cleared for full participation by Dr. J.P. Bramhall on Sunday, and while he doesn't quite have his velocity back (Ojala was topping out at 88-89 mph while facing live hitters last week), his curve ball is sharp and his control pinpoint enough that he should be able to retire the limited batters he will face.
"It's good enough to get guys out right now," Ojala said of his stuff. "My arm is feeling great, so I need to get my feet wet. I want to get past that stage where the beginning (of the comeback) is over and I'm really helping the team again. It's pretty exciting knowing that I'm available."
Ojala (12-0, 3.52 ERA in 36 career appearances) will face only a couple of hitters in his season debut, and the coaching staff will gradually increase his workload out of the bullpen. Ojala had originally targeted the Owls' series against Houston for his return, but his rehab unfolded without a hitch and Bramhall made the surprise announcement over the weekend.
"I just want to get him out there," The OG said. "If you keep rehabbing a guy when he's ready for competition you're making a mistake."
The staff could use the addition. The Owls (4.99 ERA, .260 BAA, 1.39 WHIP, 6.4 Ks/9 IP) have been erratic on the mound, and a healthy Ojala (10.3 Ks/9 IP as a two-year starter) not only provides dominant stuff, but a steady hand for an inexperienced staff seeking an identity.
"I'm excited to test myself and see what's going to happen, but at the same time I have a great amount of confidence just because I was able to pitch with less stuff than I have now last year and get people out," Ojala said. "I feel ready. I really want to pitch on Tuesday (against No. 5 Texas) but I know it may not happen because Dr. Bramhall wants me to get into a lopsided game for my first outing so I don't try to throw too hard. Hopefully we kick the crap out of them so I can get out there."
The reaction is the same from those who were previously familiar with the program and have taken in one of the Owls' five practices thus far this spring. The energy on offense is palpable, and the renewed vigor with which the Owls participate is obvious. Whether it's David Beaty or John Reagan or David Sloan or Chase Clement, things just feel differently on the offensive side, and for a unit that lacked enthusiasm as 2009 mercifully drew to a close, change is good.
But to an extent intangibles won't cut it. The Owls must improve statistically as well as psychologically on offense, a chore that will be made easier when a starting quarterback is revealed, the depth at tailback is sorted, leaders are established at receiver, and a rotation on the line is determined. David Bailiff will begin to solve some of those pressing issues on Tuesday when the Owls don pads for the fourth time this spring and conduct their initial scrimmage. The pre-scrimmage depth chart is not etched in stone, but roles will be shaped by performances at HRS, with the incremental development of depth enabling Bailiff to hold accountable veterans who were elevated up the depth chart despite their persistent lethargy.
The signal callers - Jr. Nick Fanuzzi, RS So. Taylor Cook and RS Fr. Taylor McHargue - will generate the most attention, and rightfully so. Fanuzzi has approached this spring with a vets' swagger and an enhanced since of commitment, but 'The Taylors' are pushing him hard. Both Cook and McHargue have improved their accuracy and understanding of the offense, and are providing Fanuzzi with the pressure he quite honestly needs to maintain a sharpened focus.
The three proven commodities at tailback - Jr. Tyler Smith, So. Charles Ross and RS So. Sam McGuffie - have been bolstered by the surprising Turner Petersen, whose size (6-2, 210) belies his breakaway speed. No player has been more eye catching on offense thus far, and Petersen might have the most to gain with another exceptional performance in the scrimmage.
With So. TE Luke Willson and Sr. WR Patrick Randolph out with injuries, Bailiff is looking for several receivers to break free from the cluster. Fifth-year Sr. Corbin Smiter has the inside track if he wants it, while Sr. Pierre Beasley and Jr. Randy Kitchens are intriguing options. So. TE Vance McDonald seems sure to excel while RS Fr. WR Donte Moore has the speed to thrive. Can RS Fr. WR Andre Gautreaux force his way into the mix? Will RS So. WR Denzel Wells pick up where he left off last preseason before being sidelined by a shoulder injury?
Settling on a tight rotation of receivers will advance the stated goal of playing at a hastened pace on offense. Bailiff spoke of working at a speed that no defense would want to match, a process facilitated by the quarterbacks quickly uncovering a set of trustworthy receivers. Whoever meets expectations will maintain previously earned spots on the depth chart or will swipe what's available. The competition should be fiercer than any time in recent memory.
Donate blood and support your Rice Owls baseball team. Come out early
to the Rice-Texas baseball game on Tuesday, March 16 between 1:00-5:00 p.m., and
donate blood at the Rice Athletics Blood Drive sponsored by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and the Methodist Hospital System. Please note it must be at least 56 days since you have last donated
blood to be eligible. Those who participated in the January blood drive
will need to wait until the April 8 blood drive. Opportunities to be
swabbed to be matched with a bone marrow transplant will also be
The event will take place in Fox Gym prior to Rice-UT. T-shirts and refreshments will be provided
to donors. For more information, please contact Angela Wo at firstname.lastname@example.org
, a senior swimmer and co-president of SAAC: "SAAC has participated in a variety of community projects including a
food drive and a cell phone drive, but this is our first year hosting a
blood drive in conjunction with the Methodist Hospital System. It
gives us an opportunity to host an on-campus event that integrates our
students, faculty, staff, and fans. In addition, this blood drive allows us to be able to do good for the citizens
Houston area who are in need of donated blood. The Methodist Hospital System has been a great
supporter of Rice Athletics and we are pleased to be able to collaborate
Google searches relay only so much information. They display the bullet points on a résumé, detail personal failings and public accomplishments, and yield opinions that run the gamut from adulation and deification to aggravation and denigration
. Google searches are powerful, influential tools, shaping the image of the researched when a simple handshake might suffice.
At first blush Rick Greenspan is more than what Google revealed. The depth of his character extends beyond the Kelvin Sampson fiasco he governed at Indiana, and his personality isn't fully defined by the loathing he inspires from John Feinstein
. Greenspan cultivated a reputation as a skilled administrator at multiple institutions of higher learning, most notably at West Point and in Bloomington. He isn't wholly identifiable by his impressive fund raising credentials nor by his dealings with Sampson
. If his introductory press conference
proved anything, it revealed a man content with his legacy, anxious to build at Rice, and unafraid to discuss his downfall at Indiana. Greenspan 'won' the press conference by being unabashed in his showcasing of himself to the assembled at The 'R' Room, an honest revelation that doesn't usually accompany a Google search. Greenspan proved that he is a multilayered individual.
"In a public position you really can't necessarily control some of the parts of your image because I don't know that some of those that make that instant analysis are as conversive with why, how and when decisions are made," Greenspan said. "While we all love to be adored and cherished by our public, the most important thing to me is the opportunity to serve our president and serve these students, and do it with great dignity and success. And then the record tends to speak for itself."
Greenspan was the athletics director at Illinois State (1993-99), West Point (1999-2004) and Indiana (2004-08) before resigning his post on the heels of Sampson doing the same following his making impermissible phone calls. Greenspan described the past 15 months away from intercollegiate athletics as a 'sabbatical' that helped stabilize his health and feed his voracious appetite for reading. But after spending three decades in athletic administration, Greenspan was drawn to the chore of advancing the Rice athletic department. This challenge is unique.
One thing that made Greenspan so attractive to Rice president David Leebron was his background. What Rice presently needs is an administrator capable of managing the job while juggling the myriad responsibilities of being in the lead chair at Tudor Fieldhouse. That job description required a candidate with the proper mix of gumption, guile and grit, someone extensively versed in the profession but eager enough to push on walls resistant to pressure.
"Rice is a challenging place to be an athletics director, and we're about to enter a challenging time for NCAA athletics," Leebron said. "That experience, that diversity of experience, and the fact that a combination of a school like West Point, which is a lot like us in many respects, and Indiana - both have a high level of ambition and a commitment to the scholar. The things he talked about from the very beginning, here is a man with a lot of experience to draw on and very genuinely identified the Rice job as the kind of job he really wanted. The values, the role of the student-athletes and what our student-athletes do, he was very passionate and persuasive about not just wanting to be an athletics director again, but why on the basis of all his experience this was really the job he wanted.
"Looking out at the whole world, things that are going to happen and what we need to achieve, we thought that we would be in a great position to draw on Rick's experience and his proven ability at raising funds and building facilities and continuing the trajectory of Rice."
Leebron could not have been more transparent. Chris Del Conte erected buildings and hired coaches, but Greenspan will be asked to take the athletic department several steps further during an anticipated transition. With so much at stake in the immediate future, Rice could ill-afford to bypass a candidate with Greenspan's administrative acumen and experience.
"Navigating this future, navigating a potential conference realignment, generating the enthusiasm of our fans, getting our students involved - not just our student-athletes involved, those are the questions we asked every candidate," Leebron said. "What is your success in getting folks in the stands? What is your marketing success? What is your fund raising success? What is your facilities success? Do you know this environment in a way that, very potentially within the next year, Rice will have to position itself forcibly in that environment?
"We have to watch very carefully as this landscape changes in college athletics."
Rice was especially careful in reviewing the details connecting Greenspan, Sampson, and the 'failure to monitor' infraction that ultimately led to his resignation at Indiana. Leebron tackled that topic with fervor, and Greenspan did not sidestep the perceived blemish on his résumé or the damage done to his reputation as a man of impeccable character who stands on principle.
"We learned a lot about the details of what happened at Indiana," Leebron said. "I'm not going to comment on anything that happened at another school, but we talked to people at West Point, we talked to people Rick has really worked with closely, we started to understand the details of what had transpired, and we did a lot of due diligence. No one was getting past the door if we had any doubts whatsoever on that issue.
"Based on our knowledge of the situation we have confidence in Rick's integrity, and based on that confidence in the facts that we understood we are certainly willing to give him a chance. We think he is going to be a great leader of Rice athletics, and people will see very quickly that he's going to be a leader of Rice athletics who shares Rice values and executes his job with great integrity."
Said Greenspan, who again intimated that the Sampson hiring was not his decision: "If you're a person that treasures your integrity - and for me I always said I don't want to do anything that makes my two children who are involved in athletics anything but proud of me - that was my greatest concern, that they would look at me and say, 'Dad, what did you do?'
"I'm not an excuse maker and I'll never make excuses. I was the athletic director at that point in time, and that's what happened."
Beyond the raging controversy at Indiana and a track record that stretches back to the late 1970s, Greenspan and his union with Rice represents something supporters of the athletic programs have spent ages clamored for: a true commitment to athletic excellence. Rice could have easily taken the path of least resistance, made the safe hire in naming a successor to CDC, and gone about its business of incrementally developing its athletic department. Instead it chose Greenspan, whose past isn't without blemish, but whose demeanor is reflective of a leader accustomed to winning. Greenspan doesn't come across as an individual apt to acquiesce to adversity or prone to pouting over what can't be done. He will push and prod Rice to be greater than it has ever been, to strive for levels of excellence previously unfathomable, and to preach accountability both in the classroom and on the playing fields.
That Rice opted to name a veteran athletics director with a relative amount of baggage speaks to its desire to ascend. Those days of straddling the fence of commitment to Division I intercollegiate athletics appear over. Greenspan has succeeded, raised funds and graduated student-athletes everywhere he's been, and Rice seems willing to let him to do the same here.
"Having him as athletics director reflects a clarity of commitment," Leebron said of Greenspan. "It's very important that as we go through this period that people understand that we are committed to Division I-A athletics. We brought in (an athletics director) who can help us fulfill that commitment at the highest levels within the context of how Rice does things.
"We're not going to do things the way a lot of other universities are, but we're going to be forceful competitors in Division I-A, proud members of our conference, and when we look at athletics directors, one of the things we're certainly looking at is we wanted the appointment of the new athletics director to reflect the clarity of our commitment."
Tuesday's haphazard blending of spring football and Owls-Bearkats
in an addled brain might have something to do with the forced correlation between Jr. LB Justin Allen
and Jr. LHP Doug Simmons
, but the parallel is plausible. For both Allen and Simmons, illimitable glory rests on a platter within reach, waiting to be snagged and clutched with the ferocity of a willful competitor.
These are the early stages of Spring Football 2010, but a quick perusal of the Owls scrambling about revealed truths that likely won't change over the remaining 13 practices. David Bailiff has amassed quality depth at every skill position on offense and, through careful and strategic recruiting, has done the same at defensive end and in the secondary. Because of the glut of productive players at end - Scott Solomon, Cheta Ozougwu, Kramer Lucio, Jared Williams, Cody Bauer and Josh Skinner - Bailiff can afford to shift Solomon inside on occasion to mask his shortcomings at tackle. Despite the relocation of Sr. SS Willie Garley to the front six, Bailiff can not significantly bolster his quality at linebacker with veterans. Enter Allen.
Newly minted linebackers coach Darrell Patterson has a motley crew at his disposal. Sr. Justin Hill was serviceable in his first full season at linebacker, and Jr. Matt Nordstrom performed admirably as a walk-on. Tanner Shuck, Aaron Williams and Ronnie Lillard spackled cracks when the defense started to leak, and So. Trey Briggs just might have a bright future ahead. But stardom has eluded them all, and if the Owls hope to avoid remaining a sieve up the gut of their defense a bell cow must emerge, someone with the instincts for the job and the track record for excelling at a position Bailiff has struggled to fill with capable, or healthy, options.
With no clear-cut No. 1 dominating the depth chart and armed with the reputation of being a tackling machine during his pre-Rice days with Idaho, Allen should stake his claim as a starter this spring before freshmen Cameron Nwosu and James Radcliffe arrive this summer. If the experience and moxie are present as purported, Allen needs only to capitalize on this chance. If he can lead vocally and
by example like the last linebacker to wear No. 31
, all will be well.
Simmons could enjoy instant gratification is he so chooses. After opening the season with two wildly ineffective outings against Stanford and Lamar, appearances in which he produced two wild pitches, a balk and a hit batsman, Simmons showcased the stuff against Sam Houston State that had everyone buzzing last fall. His curve ball to lefthanders was exceptional, and his change-up to righties effective. When focused, Simmons can throw breaking and off-speed pitches that make batters gasp, but he must be zeroed in on the task at hand to pitch ably.
The OG caught Simmons' attention by making him wait 12 days between appearances. When he took the mound against the Bearkats, Simmons did so with a vengeance and he pitched with purpose and poise. One truth is obvious: When Simmons believes in his stuff, he can overwhelm; when he doesn't, his lack of control is equally breathtaking. The Owls desperately need for a second southpaw to emerge from their bullpen (behind Abel Gonzales), and Simmons was given another opportunity to claim the job Tuesday night. When the phone rings and his name is called the next time, it would behoove Simmons to respond accordingly.
Doug Simmons provides crisp mop-up duty with two scoreless innings, and the Owls lower their ERA to 1.91 over their last nine games. The Owls are 8-1 in that span following their 8-1 win over Sam Houston State at The Reck.
Owls lead 8-1 in the middle of the seventh after Haynes gets an inning-ending double play to clean up a mess of his own doing. A pair of singles to open the seventh got the bullpen stirring, but Haynes recovered to induce a foul pop up to Comerota before starting the 1-6-3 double play, with Cometora making the stretch to snag the low throw from Hague.
Fazio was pulled after walking a pair of Bearkats in the sixth, but he allowed just one run on three hits and three walks over 5.2 innings. Considering he opened this game with an ERA of 67.50, his performance represents a giant leap in the right direction. Back slaps all around.
Mark Haynes allowed one inherited runner to score, but stifled the rally. Owls 7-1 in the sixth.
The swing is so sweet when the ball meets the aluminum, and it appears so pure that the skills are indisputable. When Rick Hague regains his stroke, perhaps this is what will come to fruition.
His two-run home run to left-center in the bottom of the sixth revealed his capability. The strikeouts have been troubling, but at times those difficulties seem so temporary. Tonight is one of those moments, with the memory of his titanic blast fresh in the minds of all at The Reck.
Owls lead 7-0 in the sixth.
The homer and triple over the weekend were a welcome touch, but let's be honest: Jimmy Comerota earns his keep with the leather. The play he made in the top of the fifth to save Hague an error was emblematic of his defensive might, a diving stop of an errant throw that pulled him off the bag and dropped him to his knees. What did Comerota do in that situation? Merely apply the tag to Bearkats 3B Kevin Miller as he attempted to run behind the prone Comerota. Putout.
Fazio: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB 3K. Owls lead 5-0 in the fifth.
The first five Owls reach in the bottom of the second and, by golly, all five scored. No baserunning blunders, just a steady stream of patient and productive at-bats from Anthony Rendon (his 18th walk) to base hits by Chad Mozingo (single), Craig Manuel (two-run double), Steven Sultzbaugh (RBI double) and Michael Ratterree (RBI single). Efficient and effective.
Owls lead 5-0 in the third.
What can two scoreless innings do for you? How about lowering the ERA 50.62 points. RS Fr. RHP Anthony Fazio struck out the side in the top of the second inning after surrendering a single, looking every bit like the pitcher who threw strikes and dazzled the coaching staff last fall.
No need to mention the Owls giving away an out on the basepaths in the bottom of the first. Nah.
If I have any difficulties staying awake tonight during Rice-Sam Houston State at The Reck, all I need to do is take a glance at the Bearkats' socks. If I stare too long, I might go into seizure.
I'll chime in via The R tonight because that allows for some reader participation, unlike RiceOwlsdotcom
. After missing Day 1 of Spring Football, I played a little catch-up with David Bailiff and Co. There will be plenty to cover in the coming weeks, but brief notes are in order:
No true read as of yet on how So. RB Sam McGuffie will be utilized, but the excitement is palpable whenever he touches the football. Twenty touches per game sounds like a reasonable benchmark, but how he generates those touches is key. Can't wait to see how that situation unfolds. ... Jr. DB Joe Leary has been moved to free safety, due in part to the staff's confidence in the young corners. If Leary can keep his cranky hamstring in check he'll be a huge asset, even with the position switch. He ran with fluidity on Tuesday afternoon. ...
The ball seems to explode out of the right hand of RS So. QB Taylor Cook, but it's far too early to determine a leader in the three-way battle at quarterback. Jr. QB Nick Fanuzzi has the clear edge in experience, but Cook and RS Fr. Taylor McHargue will challenge him for the starting role. Watching all three work, it's almost an embarrassment of riches at signal caller. ... The renewed energy on offense is obvious. David Beaty, John Reagan, David Sloan and Chase Clement will undoubtedly make a difference. How much remains to be seen. ...
Just like last spring, there are a ton of options at receivers to sort through, but it's good to see RS So. Denzel Wells back in action. The hands looked as sure today as they did last fall before he was lost to a shoulder injury. The depth at receiver will manifest positively as long as the tight ends are properly utilized. Sophomores Vance McDonald and Luke Willson are far too talented to play bit parts in the offense like they did last season. ... Writing of Willson, he is one of a half-dozen or so Owls who were unavailable: Jr. P Kyle Martens, Jr. DB Travis Bradshaw, Sr. OL Scott Mitchell, Sr. WR Patrick Randolph, Jr. S David Falgout and RS. So. RB Shane Turner. ... P Mark Brundage is no longer with the program. Position changes include Jr. Brian Stacey to OL, RS Fr. Nic Hammett to TE and RS Fr. Turner Petersen to RB.