Owls Break Camp With Final Practice

The Owls held their final practice of August "camp" this morning. Coaches put the team through 24 periods of demanding work, with extremely positive results...

The Rice Owls closed the book on August "camp" practices this morning with a two and a half hour practice at Rice Stadium. Owl players will get tomorrow off then they will shift to regular season practices Monday as they continue preparations for next Friday's opener against SMU, which will be June Jones' C-USA debut and first as SMU's head coach.

The Owls are hoping for a good turnout. After Practice I visted with Owl Head Coach David Bailiff about Friday's game and other thoughts about the 2008 Owls. He said he didn't have any idea what attendance would be but that he thought "the Athletic Director and marketing staff had done a fantastic job of getting tickets sold."

I also asked Coach Bailiff about his thoughts on his team as the season opener lurks less than a week away.

"Well we made it through camp much healthier this year for starters. I looked at our injury report from last August and compered to ours today and was amazed at how beat up we were."

Adding to that Bailiff was impressed with the improvements made one year later.

"Chuck (Owl DC, Driesbach) and I were talking the other day, you know everywhere we've been the second year has been a big improvement, Especially on defense. We've made such great improvement in positioning and proper alignment. We're getting ourselves into the right places to play good defense. Last year that alone was a big challenge."

Several freshmen have played themselves into position to help this fall. The big difference from last year is that a lot of freshmen had to play, some had to start (ready or not) because of the aforementioned injury situation. This group will see action because they've proven they can make the team better and provide depth -but none are counted on to start at this juncture.

Cameron Thompson sat out practice this morning with a sore ankle. His absence last year may have put everyone in a panic.

"Last year if Cameron missed practice today we'd be a little concerned. Today we've got two or three other guys that stepped in and we didn't miss a beat. We've got a couple of freshman that can go right now if needed. Our depth situation is much better," said Bailiff.

I asked him about the possibility of some of those freshmen seeing action this fall.

"What we have with them is a "taxi squad" not so much a group of guys who will redshirt. A lot of them better be ready to play when called upon because they have shown us they are good enough to help. (Chris) Jammer and Arnaud (Gascon-Nadon) are guys that had some great practices. Mike Smith and Gioffre too."

The Offense will be bolstered as well.

"There's been a lot of competition on Offense this August. Which is a good thing. A couple young guys that have done some good things are Shane Turner and Roddy Maginot, they are a couple of very quick guys that may see some time."

It looks like the Wide Receiver position will be a strength on this team. Two players in the group received lofty praise from the head man in particular for their play.

"Patrick Randolph and Corbin Smiter have really come on this fall. They are probably the Offensive MVPs of this camp and have made big improvement. You know we weren't really sure we would even have Corbin, and he's a come back with a great camp."

The Receivers group was already a bright spot - with All American Jarett Dillard, James Casey, Toren Dixon, and the shifty Tommy Henderson returning. Hearing that the group has gotten better is quite encouraging for an Offensive Unit that performed quite efficiently late last season.

Coverage of Rice - SMU Game Week begins in earnest tomorrow with analysis of the Mustangs and what they bring to next Friday's big game.


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