|'07 spring practice page
May I have this dance?...
Corbin Smiter (R), Justin Abt get all tangled up with each other in battle for pass as the
Rice defense gave the offense everything it wanted in Saturday's spring game (Mark
Defense outshines offense
as new staff shows off wares
Three last-gasp sacks tip scales for 'D'
Rice running back C. J. Ugokwe powers for yardage in Saturday's spring game (Mark
HOUSTON (April 15) Just when it appeared that Chase Clement
would lead the offense to another stirring, last second victory, as he did so many times
last fall, the Gray defense stepped up with three consecutive sacks to ensure a 26-18 win
in the 2007 version of the Rice football Blue-Grey spring game.
This really wasn't a so Blue-Gray game, but rather a contest pitting the
offense against the defense. Rices first team offense squared off against the
starting D, while the second offenses and defenses played against each other.
This game employed a modified scoring system that awarded the defense points for sacks,
tackles for loss and turnovers, while the offense could earn point for explosive plays in
addition to the traditional methods of touchdowns and placements.
The D had some advantages, as all you had to do was touch the QB (no injuries
allowed there), while the offense couldn't run all their plays. But whenever a reverse or
other trickery was tried there were defensive players staying at home and making plays.
James Casey, a 6-4, 230 pound defensive end, playing for the first time after
spending three years in minor league baseball, looked impressive to the approximately
2,000 onlookers. Owl defenders Robert Calhoun, Terrance Garmon and Vernon James all made
plays from their linebacker spots. And Andrew Sendejo, who started as a true freshman last
year, looked ready to continue to vie for All-Conference honors.
Rice head coach David Bailiff readily concedes that his teams deepest
position is wide receiver. Owl fans already know what Jarett Dillard can do, but Corbin
Smiter and Toren Dixon looked good catching the ball Satruday, as well. . Joel Armstrong
is a proven commodity, as is Tommy Henderson. Pierre Beasley is still learning the ropes.
Andrew Novak didnt dent the box score, but he could also be a factor.
As expected, Chase Clement looked to be the team leader, but John Shepherd looks
much more mature with a year under his belt. He isn't ready to take Chase's job, but he
should be much more refined than what we saw last fall. Clement was 17-27 with one
interception, throwing for 188 yarda and a touchdown, while Shep was 5-for-10 for 39
The game-deciding sacks came on consecutive plays after Chase Clement had driven
the Blue offense 46 yards to the Gray 22 in the final two minutes. Chase completed four of
five passes on that drive, including three in a row to Joel Armstrong for 39 yards.
Clement led the offense to its lone touchdown midway through the scrimmage. He
completed seven of nine passes on the drive, including three for 45 yards to Toren Dixon.
He found Corbin Smiter in the end zone for a nine-yard scoring strike to cap the drive.
The Rice offensive line has some injuries and wasn't quite up to par. There were
several false starts, and not a lot of holes opened up. Still Marcus Knox was able to rush
for a game-leading 68 yards on only five carries, including a beautiful 49 yarder that set
up a 19-yard Clark Fangmeier field goal. Knox seems to be the front runner for the
starting tailback job, but is being pushed by C.J. Ugokwe and Bio Bilaye-Benibo.
Fangs chip-shot field goal staked the Blue to a 16-13 lead, but the
defense took the lead for good one series later when Robert Calhoun grabbed a deflected
Clement pass for an interception, good for four points.
It was a cold, windy day, but the die-hard fans present braved the weather to
get a glimpse of the 2007 Owls. THey saw that there's stilll a lot of work left to be
done, come two-a-days, and many freshmen will need to come in and add some depth to the
ranks. To start compiling a list of ifs IF the Feathered Flock
gets some of the injured healed up, and get back a couple of others who missed the spring
semester, expectations loom high for an exciting fall for Rice fans.
By Mark Anderson
Last year, the offense dominated the defense in the Spring Game. Evidently, the
defense hadn't forgotten and issued a little payback in this year's version.
The defense was lead by this writer's co-MVPs on defense for the game, Robert Calhoun
and Chris Douglass. Calhoun flashed some of that potential all knew he had by intercepting
a Chase Clement pass intended for Joel Armstrong, and by leading the way on defense,
playing a very physical game.
Chris Douglass, on the other hand, made the defensive play of the day against
All-American wide receiver Jarett Dillard. Dillard and Douglass leaped for a pass in the
corner, and it was clearly in Dillard's hands.
That was before Douglass' arm came up between Dillard's, popping the ball in the
air, and Douglass had the ball in his hands until Dillard returned the favor. Douglass
stepped up his game in the absence of Brandon King, and showed that he may well be a force
to be reckoned with in September.
Offensively, Chase Clement led the offense to their only score on a pass to
Corbin Smiter. Clement Smiter caught one other pass on the day, an acrobatic one-handed
catch with Justin Abt covering him like a blanket.
Torren Dixon led all receivers with five catches for 55 yards, while Joel
Armstrong had four catches for 41, with at least two of those coming late in the game.
Dillard, seeing limited action, caught only one pass for 10 yards.
Clearly, the offense was limited in what it could and could not do on this day,
some by design of the coaching staff, and some by design of the defensive players on the
other side of the ball.
In last year's spring game, the running backs ran like wild hogs. This year, the
defense was so smothering of the running game it seemed like defensive team picture time.
Last year, Bio Benibo (if memory is right) ran for over 150 yards. This year,
the new 4-2-5 defense held him to a grand total of 20, and almost brought him down in the
end zone for a safety on top of it.
The bright spot in the running game was Marcus Knox, this writer's offensive MVP
for the day. Knox had 5 carries for 68 yards, including a 49 yard run that had shades of
Tony Dorsett written all over it. He also caught two passes, including a 22 yard pass down
the sidelines that was a very difficult catch.
'I can't hear you...'
Rice coaches put the audiometer on Owl defensive 'yell leaders' during Monday's workout (PTH
Focus on fundamentals
Senior offensive lineman David Perkins works on his blocking technique as
the Owls spent extra time on the basics in Wednesday's workout, followed by seven-on-seven
drills aimed at the short passing game (PTH photo)
Owl tight end Taylor Wardlaw hauls in pass amid two Rice defenders during Monday's workout
Owls whoop it up,
staff gears down
in Monday workout
Tight end Will Schoppa hauls in pass and runs like a Deere in Monday's workout (PTH
HOUSTON (April 9) The Rice Owls conducted an enthusiastic
full-pads workout on the Rice Stadium turf here Monday afternoon, as the team and coaching
staff began to gear down for Saturdays upcoming spring game.
The Owls have their last full-pads practice Tuesday, and then Thursday will work
out in shorts and helmets before winding up the 15-session spring regimen with
Saturdays noon kickoff.
"It must be the weather or something, but today was probably our best
practice," Rice head coach David Bailiff told us afterwards. "They continue to
come out with a good attitude, but with the cool weather today, you saw a lot of
personality expressed out there on the field, and you heard a lot of chatter."
The first part of the workout was devoted to making additions to the playbook on
both sides of the ball. The Owl receiving corps installed some wrinkles to their downfield
blocking schemes some moves that should please Owl fans when they see them put into
effect, come September.
Suffice it to say that the new blocking schemes and short pass routes involve
some nifty deception, misdirection, and screening. If the game were basketball, youd
have to whistle the Owls for a moving pick. But this aint basketball.
"Were still continuing to improve; were still continuing to add
things both offensively and defensively," Coach Bailiff said.
"Theyre absorbing them, and coming out on the field and taking in what
theyve learned in the classroom."
"I've got 13"
On the defensive side, Rice assistants exhorted their charges to get vocal. In
fact, at one point, Coach Elliot conducted a screaming drill. "I want all
of you to yell out, just as loud as you can," he said. "And then get
The point was recognition, and then communication. When the offense showed a
particular look, the defenders had code words to yell out loud enough so all eleven men on
the field could hear it. And then the outside linebackers, or in other cases corners who
were cheating up, would have to yell out their mans number, as in "Ive
When the squad went 11-on-11, the emphasis was on the medium passing game.
Suffice it to say the Owl receiving corps, as a unit, is looking sharper than they ever
did during the 06 season.
This time around, it isnt a one-man show.
But that doesnt mean that that certain one man wasnt
putting on a show of his own on the field Monday. All-American wide receiver Jarrett
Dillard made a couple catches of the "I dont believe what I just saw"
variety as acrobatic as any he pulled down against Owl foes last fall.
And that was with Rices number one pass defender, JaCorey Shepherd,
hanging all over him. JaCorey and JD are best of buddies off the field, but really
go after it one-on-one when its time to run pass routes -- as they did Monday.
Joel Armstrong also made one phenominal, twisting touchdown reception that drew
hoots and backslaps from his teammates.
Gregs little brother, no longer
That blur is Tommy Henderson, going horizontal to catch errant pass while staying inbounds
Then there was little Tommy Henderson. Except dont call him
little anymore. In fact, dont even call him Tommy.
Frankly, somebody must be putting something into that boys chow
because hes been an animal out there this spring. Number seven stretched out prone
and flew several yards, several feet above the ground, to snag one pass right past the
first-down marker that looked totally impossible to haul in.
Hes put on a few pounds, and all of it is muscle. Its going to be
fun to see what he does Saturday when he gets his chances at the ball.
So while the running game is still a bit of a cipher, owing to the lack of
numbers at the running back position and the focus, this spring, on fine-tuning the
passing game, the Rice receivers appear to be clicking on all cylinders as spring drills
"Theyve had a great spring," Coach Bailiff said of his receiving
corps. "I think weve got six really quality receivers and thats
what its going to take."
"It's nice to have the different personnel packages that you can run in
with those guys, and it helps us to be multiple."
Defensively, one can simply say that the new, four-man alignment has Owl
defenders a lot more relaxed and enthusiastic.
"Were bringing in the same mentality and same aggressiveness that we
had last season, plus more," senior nose tackle George Chukwu said Monday. The
plus more part he alluded to apparently has to do with the teams
satisfaction over the shift from a three-man to a four-man defensive front.
"Everybody on the team is more comfortable with the 4-2-5," George
said. "You dont have to deal with those big gaps between the ends and the nose
guard," he added, which apparently was cause for consternation among not only the big
guys but the linebackers and d-backs as well, last year.
As for the kicking game, Clark Fangmeier was regularly banging them across the
goal posts from 40 yards -plus Monday, while Luke Juist, currently the teams number
one punter, was getting excellent hang time on his punts, as his coaches worked with him
on extending his distance.
'Its just going to be offense versus defense'
Saturday, Owl fans wont see two sets of offenses and defense on the field.
Rather, with the short numbers, the units wont split up into two teams.
"Its just going to be offense versus defense," Coach said.
"Well be able to keep score on the board, but the defense will score its points
by making stops."
"If they get a turnover, four points. If they tackle for loss, its
"We dont have enough numbers to go one versus one and two versus two,
so well stay with the units as they are and take some time-outs to keep the guys
It's mano a
The Rice offensive and defensive fronts go head-to-head
during Friday's controlled scrimmage (M.A. photo)
Each unit has its focus
in Friday's scrimmage
Owl slotback Tommy Henderson eyeballs his defender as running back takes the handle in
background (PTH photo)
HOUSTON (Mar. 30) The Rice Owls entered the back stretch of
their 2007 spring practice run with a controlled scrimmage in their ninth of 15 allowed
workouts on the Rice Stadium turf here Friday afternoon.
On the offense, the focus tended to be toward the intermediate passing game, while
on the defensive side, all eyes were on the Owl four-man defensive front, and the comments
were uniformly favorable on the DLs performance. Well, predominantly favorable,
Co-defensive coordinator Chuck Driesbach labeled Owl defensive overall effort
"sometimes good, sometimes bad."
Now, bear in mind that Coach Driesbach is sort of the football-coach version of
R. Lee Ermey-as-gunnery sergeant. But a quick look through his gruff exterior
revealed he, in fact, was quite happy with the work of defensive front in Friday's
"I was very, very pleased with our ones (defensive
tackles)," he said. "I thought they came out with a lot of purpose, and played
with a lot of enthusiasm and passion. And for the most part, other than the very first
play of the scrimmage, I thought the defense has been as good as its been since
weve gotten here."
Rice head coach David Bailiff explained that in his system, at least in the
spring, everybody who plays in front of the linebackers is a one. "We
rolled them on through," he noted. "Its not really a one and a
two everybodys a one."
Coach B was particularly pleased with performance of Rice defendsive end
Dietrich Davis. DD missed the first six practices of the spring, still
rehabbing from his season-ending injury last year, but came on strong this week, and
showed little sign of having missed a beat at all in Fridays scrimmage, Coach said.
"Its been nice to get Dietrich back," he noted. "Hes
a very explosive football player."
The Owls, too, have the services of former minor league baseball player James
Casey, the 6-4, 245- pounder from Azle. James transferred in, in the spring, and will be
23 his next birthday but is still a freshman for eligibility purposes.
Rice defensive line coach Darin Elliot admitted its been a rather steep
learning curve for Ol Case, but added that theres great potential in the
22-year-old, not to mention some added maturity.
"He has improved tremendously; he's gotten better with every
practice," Coach Elliot said. "He has a bright future here."
The Rice staff is mighty glad to have the big guy out on the field, owing to the
move from a three-man front to a four-man defensive line, positing the need for additional
One indirect benefit from the scant numbers is that the guys who are on the
field can get more action in, during the limited, 15-practice spring schedule, Coach
"Theyre getting better," he quipped, referring to his DLs
overall. "Our numbers are kind of low, but on the other hand that means were
able to get a lot of reps in practice. And were seeing improvement in every
Another first for Fridays workout was the initial opportunity
for quarterback-turned-wideout Pierre Beasley to be able to show his stuff on the
"It feels good right now," Pierre told us afterwards, "but
Im still really trying the learn the position, to learn more about the little things
that are going to make me a better receiver."
"Ive played on the offensive side since Little League, and its
good just to be able to get out there and handle the ball."
That, apparently, and the little matter of downfield blocking, which was a big
focus during Fridays scrimmage as well.
"Were doing some good things, but we still are going to have to do a
much better job with our blocking," wide receivers coach David Beaty said afterwards,
"and thats one of the biggest focuses we have in this offseason to
become better blockers."
Among the running backs, Marcus Knox took advantage of some that that downfield
blocking, turning some heads with both deft moves and exhibitions of tough running.
But if one had to award a win to one side or the other this day, it
probably had to go to the defense, but Coach Bailiff said the respective performances of
the two units were basically a wash.
"It was a scrimmage where we got better; you saw that the offense had some
big plays and then youd see the defense bow their necks," he noted.
"Theyre still learning our offense and learning our defense but each unit is
Ready, set, go....
Members of the Rice offensive line work on agility drills in spring practice action last
week (M.A. photo)
Owls get into physical
in first full-pads outing
The action gets hot and heavy downfield as the Owls continued to hone their skills in full
pads last week (M. A. photo)
By Mark Anderson
HOUSTON (Mar. 19) -- The Rice Owls hit the practice field on Saturday
afternoon, strapping on the pads for the first time this year. As practice was about to
start, Offensive Coordinator Tom Hermann reminded the Owls of one word at the bottom of
their workout schedule: physical. "We're going to set the tone of the season
today," he told the team.
The Owls did exactly that-- they got physical.
Ask Andrew Novak, who took what might have been the hardest hit of the day, or Bio
Benibo, who was separated from the ball on a clean hit by Terrance Garmon. Ask the running
backs who lined up in a one-on-one blocking drill, with the goal of bringing them down.
Sometimes they got through but sometimes they didn't. And usually when they didn't, it was
due to a hard lick laid on them by the defender.
The wide receivers seemed to have an exceptional day. While the coverage was often very
good, the receivers, led by Jarett Dillard, ran clean, crisp, routes. Those crisp routes
gave them just enough room to make the catch in many cases.
One player who changed positions (again) is Gary Anderson. He is playing cornerback,
and the one thing he brings to it is speed to burn. "I ran a 4.28 on the track field
earlier this year," Garry told us. While he's still working on technique, he stayed
with many of the receivers in coverage.
Another player to switch positions is senior Bubba Heard. Bubba lined up as a tailback
on Saturday, and did a good job both running and receiving. Bio was simply outstanding at
tailback, both running and receiving. Marcus Knox also pleased his coaches in both areas
on Saturday as well.
Offensive coordinator Tom Hermann said he was pleased with the first practice in pads.
"Well, I think for day one in pads, we accomplished what we wanted to
accomplish," Hermann said after practice. "We had the mentality that we were
going to come out on day one in pads and be physical, and we were going to set the tempo
for the '07 season today, and have a physical offense, and I think we did that."
Hermann was very happy about one aspect of practice. "We've got a lot of polishing
to do," he said, "but the big things I think we took care of today, like being
physical, protecting the football, and adjusting to the first day in pads pretty
Coach Baliff also appeared pleased. "You know what, let's watch the video, but it
looked like we've got pretty good team speed," Coach Baliff said after practice.
"You saw them run around some, guys took great angles to the football, and the
linemen sustained some blocks."
Up close and personal...
Owls face off and pop pads in Friday
scrimmage (Mark Anderson photo)
A matter of priorities
Establish order, then forge program
11th-hour entrance not the first time for new Rice head man
By Mark Anderson
New Rice coach David Bailiff readily accepted challenges presented by small, academically
elite school (PTH photo)
HOUSTON (Mar. 11) When David Bailiff took the head coaching
job at Rice in late January, he walked into a situation that had gone through considerable
up- heaval the week before he arrived. All of the former coaching staff, with three
exceptions, had taken jobs at Tulsa. Because of that, recruiting was up in the air. It
seemed to present a difficult ordeal for anyone who came to Rice as the head coach.
That was the situation when Rice Athletic Director Chris DelConte stepped to the
microphone and introduced David Bailiff as the new head coach on January 19. Our
publications headline at the time, proclaimed "Order in the Court." It
turned out there was more truth to that headline than we could have realized that day.
Coach Bailiff indeed came to Rice to establish orderin recruiting, among the
players, and by establishing a program. One thing you can take to the bank with you about
David Bailiff is thishe did not come here to lose. He came to establishing a winning
programin fact, in time, a top 25 program. Well get to that later in the
However, theres something that needs to be pointed out about
Bailiffs hiring at Rice and his hiring at Texas State University. There are some
very common threads in both stories.
In fact, its almost "deja vu all over again" for Bailiff.
David Bailiffs ascent to the head coaching job at Rice has an interesting
parallelhis being named head coach at Texas State University on February 5, 2004.
Bailiffs predecessor, Manny Matsakis, and the athletic director, Greg LeFluer, were
abruptly fired one week before national signing day by Texas State president Denise
Trauth. After Bailiff was hired, a great majority of the recruiting class stood by Texas
State, and Bailiff went on to established a winning program.
Now hes looking to do the same thing on South Main.
So how did he do it in San Marcos?
New head man not one to make predictions
Lets start by talking about what he didnt dohe didnt
make predictions. And he wont make predictions about the 2007 season, either. His
coach while he played at Southwest Texas State was Jim Wacker. "Ill tell you
one of the great things Coach Wacker did teach me", Bailiff told us Thursday. "I
was sitting in a press conference, and they were trying to get him to predict the future.
He told that sports reporter, Ive noticed that those who predict the future
live in crappy houses. Bailiff added, "For some reason, that made an impression
This doesnt mean Coach Bailiff does not have a vision for Rice, both this
year and in the future. Clearly, he does. "But I know were going to put a
product out on the field that is going to work hard, be passionate about Rice, and do all
the right things," he said. "Were going to build on last years
Another part of that vision is to transform the Rice football program into a top
25 program. For many, if not most, that may seem like a pipe dream. But dont try and
tell Bailiff this team cannot become a top 25 team. "I think if we all do this
together, we can turn this into a top 25 program," Coach Bailiff said. "We need
to continue to do things the Rice way." One way Bailiff pointed to that could bring
this about was "let these young men know what a Rice diploma can do for them for the
next 50 years." Dont accuse Bailiff of not having vision.
That vision began taking shape the day he signed with Rice. The first thing
Coach Bailiff did after signing his name on the dotted line was to go through orientation.
That very night, he met with many of the recruits. And he shared some things about Rice
that he had learned to share with them. When Bailiff was hired, he had already learned one
thing about Riceeverything cooked in campus was made from scratch by chefs. He
pointed out that was a great selling point for Rice football, because it meant the players
would be fed well.
The second thing Bailiff did was go on a fact-finding mission. When the recruits
had left campus, Bailiff called a staff meeting. It wasnt a short one that
Sundayit was a ten hour meeting, attended by all the coaches, as well as AD Chris
They started sifting through some important information that day. One of those
pieces of important information was which recruits were still out there. The biggest help
that day, according to Bailiff, was none other than DelConte. He burned a path in the
carpet that afternoon between the staff meeting room and his office to gather information
for Coach Bailiff, Coach revealed. That information became crucial as Bailiff and the
coaches worked tirelessly to recruit young men who fit the Rice profile.
The third thing Coach Bailiff did was begin sitting down with the players left
in the wake of what had just happened to them. "They were hurt," Bailiff said.
Cell phone a godsend when time's at a premium
He met with the players position by position first. He then sat down with each
player individually. His cell phone has also been put to a lot of useand will be in
even greater use this week, he said. "So far, all the coaches have called the
parents," Bailiff said. "This week, Im going to call their parents at
"We want the parents involved. I didnt get the opportunity to sit in
their house and recruit them, but I want them to know their son is important to me."
Bailiff understood what needed to happen in his first days at Riceand he
made it happen quickly.
When you see Coach Bailiff on the sidelines this coming season, you will no
doubt see a game plan with him. But a closer look at Coach Bailiff shows he has a game
plan for every day. He is organized, and every detail is important to him. When he coached
at New Mexico State, he did so under Coach Dennis Franchione. It was Coach Fran who taught
Bailiff the importance of being detail-oriented, the Rice mentor said. "Fran taught
you how to be extremely detail-oriented in everything you do," recalled Bailiff.
"There is no such thing as a small detail." While each of those small details
may seem insignificant to the casual observer, Bailiff understands that just as Rome was
built brick-by-brick, so also is a program.
With David Bailiff, there is one thing that sticks out: he does bring order and
organization into this situation. Hes done it before. Now, he has the opportunity to
do it at Rice, and establish more than a winning seasonhes here to establish a
winning program. Hes going to build on the momentum of last season and get all Rice
alums and fans on board to move forward with him to create a winner at Rice.
Can history repeat itself in Coach Bailiffs career? Theres ample
reason to believe it can.
Putting sweat in the bank....
Senior Owl defensive lineman George Chukwu shows his stuff in agility drill as he pivots
around blocking dummy in Monday's action (PTH photo)
Owls go through basics,
run pass routes in spirited
first workout of season
Rice first-team All-American WR Jarett Dillard (R) is so smooth he can fake a man out with
his eyes, as seen here during Monday's workout (PTH photo)
HOUSTON (Mar. 12) -- The Rice coaching tenure of David Bailiff began
in earnest here Monday afternoon as his Rice Owls opened spring drills in
anticipation of next fall's football campaign. The Feathered Flock was methodical but
enthusiastic as the group began the day with the most basic of conditioning exercises but
ended their two-hour workout with a spirited seven-on-seven passing drill.
Some 53 players were dressed out and ready to play, but several other Owls are
currently nursing injuries and will not be practicing, at least for the opening workouts
of the spring regimen.
The new Rice head man cautioned Owl fans not to sweat it about the low total of
upperclassmen strapping on the pads for spring practice.
"Really, were fine," Coach Bailiff told us afterwards. "We
picked up three guys from track, so were up to 53. Were fine, really.
Theyre good, hard-working guys and were going to just practice smart
and make sure everybody gets through all 15 practices."
"We had a lot of fun today. The first 30 minutes was all about getting on
the same page, but it was a lot of great work, a lot of enthusiasm, and a lot of
passion," Coach Bailiff also told us. "We came out here today with the edge, and
we wanted to get better and I think thats what we did."
The Rice staff had two players with yellow quarterback jerseys on, Chase Clement
and Pierre Beasley, but a third man-under, John Thomas Shepherd, had the day off in sick
bay. "Weve got a bug going on, so Shep is tragically in the
dormitory today," Coach said with a wink. "The doctors sent him home. But we
expect him to be back Wednesday."
The running back spot was a bit on the thin side as well, as Bio Benibo,
whos expected to see significant action next season, will be sitting out the first
couple of weeks of drills completing his comeback from an injury. Marcus Knox took most of
the play reps at running back during the seven-on-seven, but this first day was not about
anything dealing with the running game.
On the other hand, the Rice staff immediately had the receivers and slotbacks
jump right in and start working on their pass routes with defensive backs covering.
"You saw how we ran the last three periods of practice, how we wanted
rapid-rep, high-intensity," Coach Bailiff said.
Those two terms aptly described at least three of the Owls receiving
weapons. The first one well, no need even to mention his name. Number 81 was
cruising the Rice Stadium turf Monday as if he owned it. And of course he does, still.
But Joel Armstrong, now sporting number 1, and Tommy Henderson both looked as
slick as greyhounds as they ran their routes Monday, Tommy short and Joel mostly
deep. Both appear to be in the best playing conditions of their careers.
And Chase Clement was accurately zipping the ball with authority, showing no ill
effects from his season-ending cracked collarbone last November.
Among the linebackers, Brian Raines was dressed out but did not participate in
drills, instead sporting a clipboard and acting as yet another coach on the fyield,
aligning his younger defensive cohorts and shouting instruction and encouragement.
The offensive and defensive lines spent virtually the whole practice on blocking
dummy variations, in each case emphasizing quickness and the ability to shift direction
and cover ground quickly, rather than brute force.
Among the DLs, Chris Ptaszek and George Chukwu both were noteworthy in their
ability to move their ample avoirdupois and shift and change direction with relative ease.
As for further reports on line play, Coach Bailiff said well all need to
wait and see how they perform in pads before much can be said of their progress.
"Once again, youve just got to be smart," he said, alluding
again to the relatively depleted numbers. "Well be able to put everything in.
It wont slow us down at all."
"I really feel good walking off this field today," he added.
"Its really fun when you see the hard work of the coaches and players starting
to come together."
After all, Monday was the first time the Rice brain trust got to see any of
their charges handle a football. "It was the first time, really, that we got to see
Jarett catch a ball and Chase throw the the football and Pierre throw the ball,"
"Thats fun to watch for an old coach, you know. And it will get
better in three days when were able to put the full pads on."
The Rice staff did not plan on installing any scheme on Monday. Rather, it was a
day for evaluation. "First we want to make sure we know where everybodys the
best fit," the former Texas State coach said. "Were implementing
what some of the standards are to these players right now."
"Were going to break them into classes and talk to each class;
thats one of the ways were going to break things down," Coach Bailiff
The Owls work out again in shorts and helmets on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m.
and Owl fans are invited to come out and view the proceedings.
hoot, Coach talks it over, after first workout of spring....
Bailiff era begins next
as Owls report for spring drills
"Ive never gone through spring training with
50 players before"
"Competitions what makes you great. Everyone out there
theyre all important pieces of the puzzle. Everybodys just a different-sized
"We are going to install a totally new defense, in the 4-3, and therell
be a learning curve there"
HOUSTON (March 8) The Rice Owl gridders are all set to strap
on the pads for yet another season, once again with a new helmsman at the tiller for the
second year in a row. The Owls first day of spring drills is Monday, March 12, and
that will begin an important evaluation process for new Rice head coach David Bailiff and
Once you count out the red-cross players, Coach Bailiff said he expects only
slightly north of 50 healthy bodies out there on the practice field, come Monday.
Thats an almost unprecedentedly small group for a Division 1A program.
"Ive never gone through spring training with 50 players before," Coach
Bailiff told us Thursday. "And so were going to have to alter a lot of what we
like doing, as far as heavy contact and drill days are concerned," he added.
With the roster size being more akin to an NFL team that an enormous college
squad, the new Rice head man consulted a friend of his who works a couple of miles down
"Weve actually talked to Gary Kubiak about dealing with our
numbers," Coach said. "We got some good help from him; he mainly emphasized the
importance of keeping players healthy while still getting in the necessary amount of
Owl fans who visit the spring workouts and they will be open to the
public, Coach Bailiff emphasizes may see some truncated activity going on, out on
the Rice Stadium turf.
"Were going to have to do a lot more half-line, a lot more I
guess three and a half--three and a half, instead of seven-on-seven," Coach quipped.
"Not to run the receivers and defensive backs to pegs. So its going to be short
bursts of intensive effort. Because the most important thing is to get these young men
through all 15 practices healthy."
"Theres a lot of talent and a lot of speed, but were just short
in numbers, so weve got to continue the growth of the numbers in this program,"
The short numbers doesnt mean there wont be a battle for positions.
Basically, every job is on the line, the new Rice mentor said.
"Everything will be open," he emphasized. "Competitions
what makes you great. Everyone out there theyre all important pieces of the
puzzle. Everybodys just a different-sized piece."
The first few days of the regimen will focus on installations, especially on the
defensive side, Coach Bailiff said.
"We are going to install a totally new defense, in the 4-2, and
therell be a learning curve there," Coach Bailiff said. "Its
language, and the guys are going to have to learn our language; once they get that, it
The Rice staff expects to have three controlled, but what Coach Bailiff called
"get-after-it" scrimmages, with officials, before capping of the spring workouts
with the annual Blue-Grey Spring Game at noon on Saturday, April 14th.
That will be a big day for Rice football, as the 2007 Spring Junior Owl Clinic
will be held Saturday morning at Rice Stadium prior to the Game. The Junior Owl Clinic
will open to kids of all ages; it will start at 10:00 am and will run until 11:00.
Following the clinic there will be an autograph session with the players and an ice cream
social. The Junior Owls will be encouraged to stay for the Spring Game which will begin at
12:00 noon. Parents of prospective Junior Owls can call the football office at
713-348-6900 with any questions about participation in the proceedings..
After the game on Saturday night the staff will be hosting the Annual Football
Banquet to cap off spring formalities. The Owl seniors will be honored at the event, to
which the public is invited. Tickets are available online at RiceOwls.com, and there will
be a silent auction starting at 6:00 p.m. wherein Rice football memorabilia and related
items will be up for grabs by the attendees.
Well report regularly on the goings-on from Rice Stadium between now and
April 14, with twice-a-week brief interviews with Coach Bailiff, assistant coaches and
players. Well get photos of the proceedings a couple of times a week as well, and
generally try and keep Owl fans apprised of the progress this years team is making
under its new tutelage.
So stay tuned.
||Head Man on spring
'Every one of those guys out there is going to be an important piece of the puzzle...'
"Misalignments, missed assignments get you beat faster than
''We're going to have a blue-collar work ethic out there..."
Oh, no, ya don't....
Rice wide receiver Jarrett Dillard breaks up what looked like
a sure interception in the hands of defender Chris Douglass a
mere split-second earlier in spring game action -- guess that's why JD's been named to
at least one pre-season first-string All-American
team (Mark Anderson photo) Click here for more
Spring Game coverage...
All tied up at the moment....
Rice defender Justin Abt and Owl receiver Corbin Smiter
fight for the ball in this scene from April's spring game (Mark Anderson photo)