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Spring Practice Complete; Resting Slick

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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.

OFFENSE

QB - 'The Taylors'
RB - McGuffie
TE - So. Vance McDonald
LT - Mitchell
LG - Jr. Jake Hicks
C - Jr. Keshawn Carrington
RG - So. Eric Ball
RT - Jr. Tyler Parish
WR - Sr. Corbin Smiter
WR - Jr. Randy Kitchens
WR - So. Derek Clark

DEFENSE

DE - Sr. Kramer Lucio
DT - Solomon
NG - So. Alex Lowry
DE - Ozougwu
LB - Sr. Justin Hill
LB - So. Trey Briggs
CB - So. Phillip Gaines
CB - Jr. Chris Jammer
SS - Sr. Chris Jones
FS - Leary
KAT - Bradshaw

SPECIALISTS

P - Jr. Kyle Martens
DS - Sr. Brandon Long
PK - RS Fr. Chris Boswell
HLD - Jr. Brent Hotard
PR - So. Kevin Gaddis
KR - 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.

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3 Comments

So who is our slot receiver in that lineup? How about Wells, Erickson or Geautreaux in that role?

Kitzbuhel: Kitchens was in the slot with that formation. - MK

It's been a disappointing season so far for the Owls but there will be years that champions have losing seasons. I have faith they will bounce back the second half and finish the year with a winning record. I think the biggest surprise has been the play of Rick Hague. I don't think he has had this many errors in his entire career, high school included, as he has this year. Not only Hague, but even Fuda who has played flawlessly in the past two years has a bobble or two. But, they are still champions and as champions they will rise to the occasion and have a successful season.

Feeling good about our offense, although a little concerned about the lack of much downfield passing in our scrimmages (from what I've read..). This offense has always been more geared toward the short passing game, but it excels when deep threats can open things up underneath.

I was hoping the state of our offensive line would be more advanced than we seem to be right now. That said, in 2008 one of our strongest plays was the pocket collapsing and getting Chase out of containment to beat teams with his feet, so things could work out just fine with a similarly adept QB.

Hopefully this is the year the D puts things together. On paper it looks like a decent enough unit. I really like Bauer's speed, so I'd put him over Lucio at the end opposite Ozougwu. Everything seems to hinge on what we'll get from LB and S.

At Ease: Regarding Lucio and Bauer, the staff loves Lucio because he is dependable. He'll be where he is supposed to be and do what he is asked to do with regularity, and that makes him an asset. Bauer might have been in line to challenge for a starting slot had he not torn his meniscus earlier this spring. Those reps he missed will hurt because he was ascending with the quickness. - MK

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