Hope Springs Eternal

Rice went right to work on improving when the 2007 season ended. They added a great recruiting class and worked hard in the offseason program, breaking several records along the way. That work continues this week when the Owls begin Spring Drills...

In spite of a 3-9 season in Coach David Bailiff's first year, the Owls have (and are) doing plenty to give the Owl faithful cause for hope.

If the fact that the Owls only had about 50 players for Spring 2007 Drills or that they were struck by a rash of injuries last season weren't enough to put the season in perspective, one need only look at the 2008 Football Signing Class for optimism. It was long on speed and potential difference makers. Granted, that won't help until August so how about what the current Owls did in the weight room in the offseason? A unit looking to improve, the 2008 Owl defense will have some of the strongest players on the team starting on that side of the ball - Chris Ptaszek, Brian Raines, Andrew Sendejo, Scott Solomon, and Cheta Ozougwu to name a few. Still not enough? How about the fact that several players that missed the 2007 with injury are back at full speed for drills this spring. More? Speaking of spring practice, Rice will have about 70 players this time around for Spring Drills. All of these are reasons to believe the 2008 Rice Owls will be much improved.

But possibly the most encouraging, energizing, motivating, and hope inspiring force eminating from South Main this March? Confidence. Confidence that 2007 wasn't what will be. Confidence that recruiting will change the complexion of the team in the future. Confidence in the strength and conditioning program. Confidence that when the team is no longer playing freshmen because it has to, that the schemes in place will be good enough to win in C-USA. The Rice football team and it's coaches just exude a confident mindset, and it's contagious. It's not over-confidence, but one of determination and suredness. A simple projection that better days are ahead and that a plan is in place. That plan continues today, and I'm on board to see where it takes us...

Spring Drills - Big Picture

Obviously, the defense will need to play better in 2008 for the Owls to win more games. The interior defensive line will need to find a pair of new starters. At Noseguard, Chris Ptaszek has the top Bench Press on the team. At Defensive Tackle Cameron Thompson weighs in at 290 and is very quick. Todd Mohr is a another very strong player with experience. Davon Primus will get a look on defense after starting out on offense last August. Chance Talbert played Tight End last year and just finished basketball but actually came to Rice as a defensive lineman. Both he and Primus could really solidify the interior if they are able to pick up their new positions quickly. Victor Brooks is a tall player that weighs only 265, but could makes strides after missing last spring with a foot injury. The Owl linebackers should be healthy for the start of drills and are an athletically talented group when they are. Tanner Shuck will join Brian Raines, Vernon James, Robert Calhoun, Terrence Garmon, and Brandon Tolbert as a very heralded addition to an already gifted group. The secondary has an explosive group of safeties returning, led by Andrew Sendejo and Bencil Smith coming back from injury. At Cornerback, Coach Jason Washington's bunch is thin but will receive a boost from former Safety Joseph Leary's move to the position.

The 2007 Rice Owl Offense really clicked last November. With virtually every skill position player returning, the Owls will look to expand the playbook somewhat. Chase Clement is obviously a weapon by himself, but Jarett Dillard, James Casey, and Justin Hill are all potential game changers. Taylor Dupree has made great strides in the weight room and will be given a return opportunity at Running Back. Michael Fuda and Patrick Randolph bring speed to the receiving corps. At Tight End, Kody Emmert will line up at his high school position and should be a strong blocker as well as a big target in the Red Zone. Speaking of blocking, the Owls would love to improve their running game and return Scott Mitchell, Austin Wilkinson and a healthy David Berken. Freshmen like Jake Hicks and Tyler Parish will add talent to the group and should push for playing time.

Some interesting position moves to watch:

Joseph Leary at cornerback...

Davon Primus at noseguard...

Chance Talbert at defensive tackle...

First looks:

Stefan Nazar at offensive tackle...

Brent Hotard at safety...

Jeramy Goodson at running back...

Kody Emmert at TE...

And First Looks in a While:

Michael Fuda at wide receiver - ok, not a first look, but we didn't see much before he got hurt last August...

Jonathan Arceneaux at linebacker - since 2006...

Jake Hicks at offensive guard (missed most of August with illness)...

Tanner Shuck at linebacker/defensive end (missed a lot of the fall with a leg injury)...

A Guy I Wouldn't Want to Block...

Scott Solomon. He already had good pass rush skills, he's now 265 and his weight room numbers were just off the charts.

A Guy I Wouldn't Want to Tackle...

Justin Hill. Already a slashing runner at 200 pounds last season, Hill is another Owl who made huge progress in the offseason program. Now weighing 220 pounds, he's maintained his 4.4 speed in the 40, and measured 40" in the vertical jump to go along with a 400+ pound Bench Press.

We'll have frequent Spring 2008 updates to let you know how players are developing...


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