The Owls really need to reel of 3-4 wins to end the season. They need it for confidence as a team headed into next year. That extra rep in the weight room will be a lot easier with the knowledge that they put things together at the end of the season. They also need it for recruiting. It's a lot easier to sell a program headed upwards. Things have got to start clicking for this team now - starting today.
I'm really excited about several freshmen and red-shirt freshmen for next year. Here are a few:
Scott Mitchell - "Captain Canuck" came to Rice as a late signee but he may end up being one of the most important recruits in the class. He gets a start today after working so close with Rice OL coach Blake Miller all season that he probably knows how many fillings Coach Miller has. Mitchell has seen increasing duty in the past several games. His progress at the position has a big impact on the team: it secures the all important left tackle position for seasons to come, a position that is hard to recruit. If Mitchell can continue to progress, and with Kody Emmert toiling away in the weight room as another candidate for that position - the Owls can possibly use a scholarship on a player at a different position in the 2008 class, rather than on an offensive tackle. The Owls already have two outstanding pledges for the interior offensive line - Clay Hebert and Eric Ball.
Wide Receiver - not just one player but the entire group looks to be solid for the coming years. The position is much better with Jarett next year, we'll se what happens. Beyond JD, Michael Fuda is taking a redshirt year. Walk-on Jaimin Shah looked really impressive in August workouts. Jarett Dillard is a junior, Toren Dixon has been a solid contributor this year. Pierre Beasley is athletic and learning the position; he brings a big target at 6-4 220. The Owls lose Joel Armstrong, but Tommy Henderson will be back at the slot next year. Rice has a commit from an exciting reciever out of the D-FW Metroplex: Arlington Bowie's Roddy Maginot. He's cat quick and brings exciting return skills. I like the strength of this group next year.
The Man They Call Thor - how could I discuss the future without mentioning James Casey. You know you're valuable and extremely talented when internet boards and blogs devote long threads on where you'd impact your team the most. I'd like to see Casey at linebacker - but hey, the guy has played everywhere this year and could impact the team in any number of positions. Thor is like lightning in a bottle - I'll leave it to the coaches to figure out where he'll strike next. Casey is one player that has the ability to make any team much, much better - having to account for him makes the other team use their coaching schemes and resources to stop him.
Scott Solomon and Cheta Ozougwu - neither of these guys probably dreamed of having to start this year but both have flashed big play potential and will anchor the defense coming back next year. With another year in the weight room, and with the seasoning the two have gained this year the Owls will have their first true bookend pass rushers in a very long time coming back next year.
Tanner Shuck - not much has been said about Shuck. He was one of the Owls most heralded recruits though. Lest you forget he was the Oklahoma 6A Defensive Player of the Year. He has uncanny pash rush skills having played defensive end in high school. He give the Owls another much need weapon on defense next year. If not for a season ending injury in August he would have played this year.
The Owls will face a defense today that has been giving up 550 yards a game (mirror, mirror on the wall...). If the Owls can click on offense and play 4 quarters they stand a good chance of notching win #2 on the season. That will start up front as Jimmy Miller gets his second consecutive start at center today in place of the ailing Austin Wilkinson. The defense will have to stop RB Marcus Thomas who's averaging 127 yards a game, 8th nationally. I don't make prediction much but I have a good feeling about the game today.
Today is a glorious day for football - see you at the stadium...GO OWLS!!!