Opportunities Abound

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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.

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Matt Evers?

Bee - Sigh ... - MK

Whoa, Willie Garley moved to LB? Is he going to be big enough to take the abuse up there?

Russell: That, too, is my concern. Let's hope that he holds up the entire season. - MK

Nice to have you back MK. Hope the newly-expanded family is doing great.

As for Garley, I doubt he will be on the field every down. I would guess he'll mostly see passing situations.

Hey MK, off topic, have you heard anything as to when Diego might be able to get back into the lineup? Craig Manuel has done a solid job picking up the slack the last 3-4 games, but it would help to have his bat as an option. Those oblique injuries can be tricky though.

Russell: I'm not sure. I got a non-committal response when I asked whether GDG would be available for the San Diego series, and that left me to assume that he's at least another week or so away. When I watched the team work out on Wednesday, GDG did not participate (unless I missed him earlier during the workout). - MK

Yikes, hopefully we can get him back for the game @Texas or the start of conference season. Not good. We need other guys to get going to pick up the slack.

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