2008 Season Preview: Position Battles

One sign of success in any football program is competition for starting jobs. The Rice Football program will probably have more competition for more spots than at any other time in recent memory. This is a good thing – and a sign of progress for the 2008 Owls. As the season approaches we'll begin to look at some of these position battles. This week it's the Defensive Tackle position…

When George Chukwu completed his final year of eligibility this past season the Owls lost a 4 year letterman at the Defensive Tackle spot. Chukwu was a blue-collar type of player who gave steady effort each week. Looking to replace Chukwu, Rice will have several candidates vying for the job. Owl Digest takes a look at each and what they bring to the competition.

The Prototype : Chance Talbert

If you're looking for ideal size, the Arlington Oak Ridge junior has it. Talbert is currently around 6-6 290 and probably in the best shape of his life. He's always had potential, but has been moved from Defensive End, to Offensive Tackle, to Tight End, and now back to Defensive Tackle so he's never really been able to settle in at a position. He likes to play defense so maybe he's found a home.

Strengths: Size, reach, quickness, footwork. Has worked hard this summer on getting stronger and improving flexibility in his hips. Has also greatly improved his ability to change direction.

How he can win the job: Learn to play with lower pad level, pick up where he left off in Spring drills.

Spring Practice Report: Missed the first couple of weeks while finishing the season on the Owl Basketball team. Came on strong in when he arrived. Finished drills as Co-starter.

The Baby Bull: Cameron Thompson

Thompson's baby faced appearance belies the fact that he's a very good lineman. Listed generously at 6-0, Thompson has worked hard to put 295 pounds on his compact frame. The Sophomore was slowed by a knee problem in August last year but came on later in his freshman season to play very well in spots. Had 10 tackles in limited play.

Strengths: Low center of gravity, explosion, and quickness. Thompson is also in great shape and has lost a lot of the baby fat he came to Rice with. Played on Cedar Hill's basketball team and can dunk a basketball.

How he can win the job: Must rely on his quickness and leverage. He can get engulfed by bigger blockers, due to his lack of height. He needs to utilize his hands and quick first step to keep leverage advantage.

Spring Practice Report: Thompson had a solid Spring effort and finished drills as the Co-starter with Talbert.

The Gamer: Will Moss

Moss' injury marred career was thought to be over after missing the spring with complications from a lingering foot injury. He's decided to play this fall, which is a testament for his desire to compete.

Strengths: Athleticism. Moss came to Rice from Bonham High School as a Tight End that ran exceptionally well. He's gained almost 50 pounds since arriving at Rice, and is currently a very strong 6-4 290 pounds. He's worked very hard in summer conditioning and is Bench Pressing 430 pounds.

How he can win the job: If Moss' body can hold up he possesses the size, strength, and athleticism to be the starter at Defensive Tackle. He's missed a lot of reps due to injuries so he will have to put everything together early in August.

Spring Practice Report: Missed Spring Drills

The Lean Machine: Victor Brooks

Brooks has struggled to gain weight while at Rice but has been consistent and versatile playing both Tackle and End for the Owls.

Strengths: Brooks is also a former basketball player and is very rangy. He gives the Owls depth at both outside Defensive Line positions. Has a long wingspan and has gained a lot of playing time at Rice, his experience is also an asset for the younger players on the team. Has been durable and versatile as an Owl.

How he can win the job: The Gregory-Portland junior must prove he can handle the physical aspect of playing inside. He's quick for a tackle, but is also tall and lean - gives up weight in one-on-ones usually. Technique is critical for him on every play.

Spring Practice Report: Played Defensive End due to injuries and lack of depth at that position.

The Newcomer: Michael Smith

The Bay City freshman came to camp last summer and blew away coaches with his explosive moves. He could not be blocked by anyone at the camp and his performance led to a Rice offer and commit. Coaches have been anxiously awaiting his arrival ever since.

Strengths: Very explosive player who also threw the Shot Put in track. Has worked hard in the summer conditioning program and is a solid 6-1 290 pounds heading into August drills.

How he can win the job: As a freshman, you'd like to redshirt Smith and don't necessarily want him to beat out every one ahead of him on the depth chart – but if he proves to be unblockable this August he will be hard to keep off the field.

Spring Practice Report: N/A

Next week we'll take a look at the Cornerback position.

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