|'04 Rice player features
Short takes: Thadis Pegues
"Good just to get that first one off our backs"
HOUSTON (Sept. 13) Thadis Pegues is a local guy, having graduated from
Clear Brook High School, near Friendswood. Hes soft-spoken, but intense, and a
conversation with him belies the passion which he brings to the game in fact, that
he brings to just about anything that he takes on.
He redshirted his freshman year, played enough to letter as a redshirt frosh, but then
sat out last year to get some personal matters straigtened out. Those things have been put
past him, and, to the delight of his coaches and fans, Thadis has matured into the solid,
intense football player that everyone hoped he would turn out to be.
In the season opener with the U of H, Thadis was everywhere on the field, hot in
pursuant of UH quarterback Kolb. Even though his numbers werent all that gaudy, his
two credited tackles were both sacks, and he was in on a bunch more.
"It was definitely a big win," he said. "It was good just to get
the first one off our backs so we wont dwell on it and can concentrate on the rest
of the season.".
During the spring, Thadis said, he and his teammates started focusing on picking
up where theyd left off in 03 and coming out strong this season. "We
tried to have fun with it," he added.
He was sanguine about the overall Owl effort against UH. "The defensive
played really well; the offense played really well, although we werent able to
capitalize on a couple of things," he noted. "But mistakes are going to be made
in every game; the thing to do is work on them and learn from them and do a better
job the next time."
The Owl defense looked liked it had cranked up into yet a higher gear, out on
the field with Houston. The speed and quickness of the Riced defenders, even the big guys
like Thadis, was apparent to onlookers.
"Yeah, we have worked on our speed this spring and in August," he
said. "Its a combination of effort and speed. In fact, it has more to do with
making the effort than it does with natural speed."
All things being equal, Tahdis said hed have preferred not having the week
off he was ready to go again last Saturday. But he realized, he added, that some of
his cohorts appreciated a little extra down time.
"I definitely wanted to play this week. I prefer the off week to come,
like, after the third or fourth game. But it did come in handy this week to have the bye
because weve got several guys who were pretty banged up and they needed some time to
The Owls open with three, tough opponents to start the season in Houston, Hawaii
and Texas. But Thadis said he wouldnt want it any other way. To be the best, he
said, you have to play the best.
"I enjoy the challenge," he observed. "Id prefer to play
somebody really tough and take it on as a personal challenge. Then we can just see the
chips fall where they may."
Short takes: Cotey-Joe
Weve got a great shot at winning the WAC
'Things are looking up because were just working hard'
HOUSTON (Sept. 1) "Im well. Its nice to be back,
Understated words, indeed, coming from a young man whos had his share of
adversity to overcome in the past couple of years in order to take his place on the front
line of Rices offensive unit.
Cotey-Joe Cswaykus has had to overcome a skein of personal tragedies, a major ankle
injury which shelved him for the entire year in 03, and a long, tedious
rehabilitation period, but, ever the optimist, hes survived it well, and now stands
to be a major contributor this season as a key member of Coach Hatfields "Road
After spending what seemed eons being able only to slowly jog around the
perimeter of the practice field while his fellow lineman slugged away, now the Midland
High grad says hes back full-speed and ready to do some damage out there
with the help of his fellow seniors.
"Im definitely pleased with the way the line has looked during
practice," he told us. "All the seniors, all six of them, have done a great job
stepping up, really leading the O-line. Things are looking up because were
just working hard. I think weve got a great shot at winning the WAC."
Cotey-Joes teammates know what hes had to go through, and his
never-quit attitude and his cheerful disposition has been, literally, an inspiration to
them. But C-J shrugs it off. Its a matter of teamwork, he says.
"I think theres a real bond we have been able to develop as
teammates, of camaraderie amongst the guys," he said, speaking of his fellow
offensive linemen. "I think that works to really bind us together, so that if we all
work hard and all focus on our goals this year, well have a great chance to achieve
them. Right now, were really operating as a team out there; were not just a
collection of individuals and I think thats the driving force behind
Cotey-Joe and friend take in the Rice Football Banquet in
Last year, when Cotey-Joe went down in fall practice, and Mike Holman
wasnt able to come back from his previous injury, it placed a huge burden on
the Owl offensive line to come together. Those things just dont happen overnight.
But the players this year look to be solid enough, and deep enough that, if, heaven
forbid, something like that would happen again, Cotey-Joe said, thered be a solid
backup in each case to capably replace the injured guy.
"Our two-deep line has a lot of experience, coming back from last
year," he noted. "Theyre looking good and should have no problem filling
in for anybody who gets knocked out with an injury whether its for the whole
season, or a game or two or a play or two. Weve got a lot of depth and a lot
of experience, and I think well do really well up front."
Now its time to get a game face on, for the season opener. U of H is
tricky in everything tht they do on both sides of the ball, but for Rices OL,
its simply a matter of preparedness, Cotey-Joe said.
"Weve watched a lot of film, trying to get ready for whatever they
throw at us. But with the offensive line, its mostly a matter of just being ready to
He says he enjoys playing, from time to time, in the NFL atmosphere of Reliant
"I played there the year before against LaTech," he reminded us.
"I do enjoy it; its a nice stadium; its a nice break from the college
venues. It may be a touch slower than Rice Stadium but that would work both ways
for both the offense and the defense. I dont feel that that would hinder our game at
"Lets just go do it."
This is the fifth in a series of brief features on some perhaps
less-heralded -- but no less capable -- Owls who are expected to excel this year.
Scroll down for more Owl Short Takes -- and expect quite a few more to appear as the
season rolls along - Ed.
'Were going to have a great year this year'
|'Hang in there, man....'
Marcus Rucker gives his fellow running back Thomas Lott a
clap on the head during action in the Rice-Texas game last year
HOUSTON (Aug. 31) -- Rice has got a fine stable of running backs, and
Marcus Rucker is certainly not the least of them. Marcus looks better just standing still
than many college backs do, running full bore.
The 2003 graduate of Magnolia, Arkansas, High is a true sophomore, but played in all 12
games as a freshman, starting three of them. And he turned some heads while gaining over
300 yards on just 49 carries another one of those big yards-per-carry guys.
He stands to see plenty of playing time this fall as the backup to Thomas Lott
at the running halfback position. Last year in the season finale against LaTech, Thomas
and Marcus both had big days, one-two punching the Bulldogs until they collectively
resembled a punch-drunk prize fighter. And since Magnolia is only a short drive from
Ruston, Marcus had a big chunk of family and hometown friends in the stands to watch him
"Actually, I dont have family just in Magnolia were
really scattered all over the United States," Marcus explained. "But they used
that game as an excuse to get together back home, and there was a big group there. I hope
they got a little bit more excited about the team, after seeing us in that game.
Thats true for everybody I hope just everybody comes out and supports
"Were going to have a great year this year. We really believe in
ourselves and feel confident we can bring home the WAC championship."
The rotation thing is nothing that really bothers him, at all, Marcus told us.
Theres enough wealth out there to be shared.
"The backs have been looking great out there in fall practice," he
said, "and the coaches are speaking in terms of rotating us the key thing is
keeping us fresh, they say."
"One guy can go in and hit it hard, and then theres another guy
waiting to come right on in there and back him up. And we do have a great set of backs;
theres great talent out there. So we should be able to rotate like that without
there really being any kind of talent dropoff. Especially in the backfield.".
He explained that each of the guys in the running back corps are their teammates
strongest cheering section. "The thing is, were all a family. All of us are out
there, all of us get our reps, and that way all of us have been able to pick up at least
some degree of experience."
"We can feed off each others success. Thats what we want to do
'Were just going to stick with it'
David Carter: 'Weve just been focusing on what we know we can be successful
with - and what we have been successful with in the past'
David Carter gets emotional after big play against La
HOUSTON (Aug. 29) David Carter has already made Academic All-WAC.
Now his goal is to earn regular all-league honors, as well.
Perhaps it was a given that the former prep star from The Greenhill School
in Dallas was slated to earn academic kudos. But what has pleasantly surprised his
teammates, coaches and fans, alike, is the early and strong contribution hes made up
front as one of Ken Hatfields "Road Graders."
"David is one of those guys whos going to just keep filling out, more
and more," Coach Hatfield told us. "Hes six-foot-five. He played
basketball in high school, and so when we got him, he only weighed, like, 245 or 250
pounds. But he's a lot heavier now, and I think he has great feet; thats the
thing we liked about him when we recruited him."
The redshirt sophomore ably backed up all-league tackle Chris DeMunbrun for much
of last season, and, although hes once again set for a number two slot on the depth
chart behind Scott Mayhew, he figures to get significant playing time once again this
"The OL is solid, both in terms of depth and experience," Dave told
us. "Practice shown that to be the case."
"All of the line especially the five, starting fifth-year seniors,
and we have a reserve fifth-year senior, too are just dominant. Theyre really
looking good, and should be the foundation of a great running attack."
The bookish 285-pounder has no problem absorbing course work, but he said the
midseason shrinking of the Rice playbook last year was a turn for the better. Its a
matter of being able to concentrate and focus.
"Our playbook this fall has been really simplified," he said.
"Its a lot shorter. Weve just been focusing on what we know we can be
successful with - and what we have been successful with in the past. And were just
going to stick with it, and practice hard -- and see what we get."
Mike Falco: "I think the best way I can contribute
is just to do the best that I can on whatever the coaches ask me to do, on any given
Here, Mike hits the open spot for good yardage against
LaTech last November
Short takes: Mike
Now injury-free, versatile
back ready to go all-out
HOUSTON (Aug. 26) It seems like every time one takes a look out onto the
Rice practice field, Mike Falco is out there doing something different. First its
running play reps as the off-side back in the wishbone. Then its catching passes
coming out of the backfield. Then its practicing his downfield blocking. Then
its shagging punts or kickoffs.
No truth to the rumor hes going to take tickets and sell programs at Owl home
games, this year, as well. But the third-year sophomore running back from Scottsdale,
Arizona, is bound and determined to make a contribution wherever and however
Coaches like that old-school sort of approach, and tend to try to reward it.
"I think the best way I can contribute is just to do the best that I can on
whatever the coaches ask me to do, on any given day," Mike told us. "Whether
its catching punts, running down the field catching the ball, running the ball,
blocking Ive learned a lot of things from Coach Hatfield and Coach Brinson,
and I think just going full speed at all times and doing whatever is asked of me, will
allow be to be able to contribute this year."
"All I can do with two seniors playing the same position as me, is to give
my best effort, and show the coaches that I really want to get on the field and contribute
somehow and be a useful part of this team."
The former all-state running back at Scottsdale Horizon High had to make an
adjustment, moving from a desert environment to the humid hothouse Texas Gulf Coast. Rice
is really more like living in a small town than dealing with the cosmopolitan Phoenix
area. But again, those are small matters for Rices own Italian Stallion.
"So far," he said, "the main thing thats taken getting used
to was getting hurt last year. Man, I just wish that I hadnt gotten hurt."
Mike suffered a leg injury during two-a-days last fall, but doggedly
rehabilitated himself on the sideline until he reached the point where he could be a
factor in Rices season-ending, three-game win skein. By the time the Owls played
LaTech, last game of the season, he looked, well, say, 85 or 90 per cent, laying some big
blocks and picking up a 23-yarder on one of his handful of carries.
"When you break a leg the second day of practice," Rice head coach Ken
Hatfield remarked afterwards, "and youre back playin, thats
"It was good to come back," Mike said, "and be a part of that,
that huge finish that we had last year, and be able to play. I was glad I was able
to do at least a small part in developing all that momentum we gained that we need
to build on this September."
"It really was just minor contributions here and there, but it was enough
to really make me hungry for this year. The team, we look forward to nothing less than a
championship this season. We want to make a statement and go out of the WAC and into
Conference USA looking as strong as we can."
Falco played with a gimpy leg even in his late-season surge, but he says
hes 100 per cent this August, and it feels good. "Oh, yeah, it just feels so
good to be completely healthy," Mike said. "I can feel it in my muscles,
my bones. Everything feels like its where it needs to be, nothings rubbing the
wrong way and that just feels great when you go out on the field in that
Except for one thing.
"Except for the humidity," he remarked. "This is my third
year in Houston and I feel I just now am beginning to get a little bit used to it."
Short takes: Dustin
"Theres just a lot more competition"
HOUSTON (Aug. 22) With the Olympics resolutely pounding away in the
background, sports fans are constantly reminded of the value of picking oneself up after
an early fall. That was a lesson Rice cornerback Dustin Haynes earned early in his career,
as well, and hes profited considerably from his experience.
As a redshirt freshman in 2002, Dustin earned the starting punt returners job,
only to founder with two bobbles against Michigan State on a windy day in East Lansing.
The put him on the end of the bench, but he battled back, playing in all 12 games last
year as a sophomore and winding up the season as a starter and member in good standing of
the Owls "Young Guns" defensive secondary the entire membership of
which returns this year intact.
Rice is perfectly capable of picking up where it left off in last seasons
effective October-November run, Dustin told us. That goes for the team; that goes for the
"Actually, weve got a lot of depth this year and we expect to compete
well, back in the secondary," he said. "Last year, we went through a lot of
learning experiences, and I think we have a chance to be really good. The defense believes
in itself, and I think youll see us step up and make plays this year. Our goal is
nothing less than the WAC championship."
Dustin reels in Navy QB Craig Candeto in action last
Theres firm truth to the rumor circulating that Rices
practices are more intense this fall than theyve been in prior campaigns, he told
"The attitude has been very different this fall. Theres just a lot
more competition. Everybodys trying to get on the field and play and I think
thats helping out just a whole lot."
Playing against U of H last it, it was the first time anybody had seen Coach Art
Briles offense at the college level, he said. That obviously hurt the Owls
level of preparedness. Although the Coogs offense is formidable, it should be a
different matter for Rice defenders, come the Sept. 5 season opener.
"Last year, all we had to look at were high school films," Dustin
noted. "Now, weve got a better picture of what they bring to their offensive
game, and so were able to better prepared ourselves. Well be ready to prepare
for the diversity and trickery that Coach Briles brings to the game and Ill
think well be OK."
"This year, we have got to dominate on defense"
"Weve got a good schedule, and those first
three people are mighty good"
"That we played well for six straight weeks, ending the
season last year, was the best thing that weve got going for this team"
better equipped for
HOUSTON (August 17) "Three-and-0."
That was Rice head coach Ken Hatfield's immediate comeback when asked, last week, by
scribes what hed hoped to get out of the Owls first three games of the season
tough matches with Houston, Hawaii, and then at a little honky-tonk called Texas.
"Now, wait a minute you didnt ask me how, you just asked
me what would I LIKE to have out of it," he was quick to add.
"Weve got a good schedule, and those first three people are
mighty good. Youve got Houston coming off a great season, a bowl team three
bowl teams right away, all of whom had great success last year. With Hawaii, (senior QB
Timmy) Chang has a chance to be the all-time NCAA leader; he presents a tremendous
"And Texas? Texas has as good a talent as anybody in the country," he
admitted. "They play Arkansas up there two weeks before us. And then theyre off
a week before they play us. They even have two weeks to get ready for us, this
time. But they will be an outstanding team, I dont think theres any doubt
But thats they way a coach wants it, Ken Hatfield allowed, with scarcely a grin
on his face. "Two of em are non-conference games, and we hope to learn
something by playing that kind of competition. Thats why we schedule them. Because
if you DO beat em, youve done something great and I think it would add
in a lot of confidence to our picture."
This year, Rices photo pose is stacking up quite a bit prettier than it did last
fall, when four, experienced players fell out of the picture over the summer as academic
casualties and this, in a situation where the Owls were thin on depth to begin
The results were predictable Rice got pasted on the road against Houston, and a
couple games later got toyed with in Reliant Stadium by a vastly superior Texas team.
But the rest of the time, the Owls played their opponents on basically even terms,
getting stronger and wiser as the season progressed. The Owls were in all four of their
other losses on the season, and lost three of them literally in the last minute
against Duke, on the road in overtime; against Fresno, on the road on a last-play field
goal after dominating the whole game, and at home against Tulsa on a missed tackle after
So is this the year that it all turns around, that the breaks even out?
Winning close ones a factor of confidence, tradition
"You know, I think a big part of that is just a factor of confidence and
tradition," Coach Hatfield mused. "Once youve been there before, and
youve won before, and youve made a play or two in the fourth quarter to win,
its like anything else. Its kind of contagious."
"But the disappointing thing was, especially on the Fresno loss, is that we lose
on a last-second field goal to them, TWICE in a row, 31-28. I mean here AND there. And
they were as good a talent as there was in our league; they have been every year."
"With Tulsa, we come from behind, and we have a chance to win that game, and we
miss a fundamental tackle. They catch a three-yard route, and then the guy misses a
tackle, and the receiver goes 35 yards."
Fact is, when you have to rely on smarts and precision over sheer brawn, like Rice so
often does, then so often, too, it comes down to one play. "Were hoping that we
can get it to a situation where it doesnt come down to just one play," Coach
said. "But a lot of times we do."
Thats where the dreary grind of August practices can be rewarding, he added.
"Thats the fun part of practice weve got to get up the confidence
of our second and third teamers. You know, theyre liable to be the ones that are in
there on that last drive. And you know if youre on offense, and somebodys got
a weakness, youre going to go at him every time. So youve got to have good
depth. And thats what the great championship teams have. So thats kinda what
two a days are all about for us."
"But I think that we played well for six straight weeks, ending the season last
year, was the best thing that weve got going for this team."
Rices defense learned to take control of the game during that six-week skein. At
times, you could even call the Owl defense dominating. And it returns, basically intact,
"This year, we have got to dominate on defense," Coach allowed. "We are
starting off a lot better than last year, when we lost three starters right before the
season. Then in the middle of the season we started moving people around; we got people
into the positions that we thought was best for out team. And I feel good about the
"This fall, John Syptak and Jeremy Calahan are two big-play people up front;
weve got Adam Herrin back at the linebacker position, to provide the leadership
there. And then youve got Terry Holley, and Chad Price, and Andray Downs kind of
right in the middle all big-play type people."
"So when youre solid up the middle kind of like a baseball team
youve got a chance. And I think were solid up the middle, on our
The 18 Rice freshman again missed much of the Tuesday mornings workout with
orientation week activities. The full squad will continue work Wednesday and Thursday
mornings before shifting to Rice Stadium for Friday evening's "Meet The Owls"
Matt Musil returns to lead Owl
HOUSTON Houston sportscaster Matt Musil will return as the
football voice of the Rice Owls in 2004, associate athletic director Mike Pedé announced
Musil, a long-time sports reporter/anchor at KHOU-TV, replaces Matt Thomas in the
Rice play-by-play chair. Thomas, who called Owls football and basketball for the past
three seasons, will join the University of Utah broadcasts from his new base at KALL-AM in
Salt Lake City.
Musil, who previously called Owls football action from 1989 through 2000, will be
joined in the booth this season by former Rice defensive back Bobby Dixon as the
analyst and ex-Owl quarterback Chad Richardson as the sideline reporter for home
"While we're disappointed in losing one Matt (Thomas), we're thrilled another (Matt
Musil) is ready to step in to maintain the high-quality broadcast our fans have always
expected," said Pedé. "With two former players in Bobby and Chad delivering
their insights, we hope to increase the excitement of Rice football to the next
Dixon, who lettered for Owl coaches Fred Goldsmith and Ken Hatfield in
1992-95, won all-Southwest Conference honors on Rice's 1994 SWC co-champions. He was a
two-year member of the SWC's academic honor team and is now president of Kaos Sports
International, the fastest growing performance apparel company in the country.
Richardson moves to his new role as sideline reporter for home games after serving as the
analyst for the past three seasons. He quarterbacked the Owls during the 1996-99 seasons.
Musil's first game on the Owls' broadcast will not come until Sept. 18 when Rice hosts
Hawaii in the 2004 Western Athletic Conference opener. The Game for the Administaff Bayou
Bucket against Houston from Reliant Stadium on Sept. 5 will be broadcast on KBME, 790 AM
in Houston, with Tom Franklin, Dixon, Richardson and UH analysts Tony Fitzpatrick and
Chuck Brown on the call.
Musil's debut against Hawaii will be broadcast on KSEV (700 AM), and the last nine games
of the regular season will be on KPRC (950 AM).
Rice DL Jeremy Calahan: 'We were able to
finish strong, and we carried it through the off-season'
Owl OL Scott Mayhew: 'As the season went on, we
feel like we really jelled. Were really good friends'
John Syptak: 'Were deeper than weve ever been, in any of the years that
Ive been here'
The year of the
Owl heavy equipment
set to move some earth
HOUSTON (Aug. 10) Some of you greybeard Owls out there whore even
more venerable than this writer may remember the old, 50s cigarette jingle that started
out, "Its whats up front that counts. If you havent got it there,
you havent got it."
Its been a lament that Owl fans, coaches and players have joined in, pretty much
year in and year out, for it seems eons. What with the Institutes academic
restrictions, style of play, and, well...academic restrictions, it's been a well-nigh
impossible task to assemble a stringer full of 300-pound-plus linemen who could fly like
an eagle and strike like a hawk and stay eligible, to boot.
But not this year. Finally... not this year.
Although the Rice roster may still provoke a few yuks from opposing fandom who
observe the lack of 335-pounders, close observers say that head coach Ken Hatfield has
assembled a solid, deep group of athletes, many of whom, indeed, tip the 300-pound mark on
the scales but can fly, and can hit, and can block and are plenty smart, as well.
The Rice offensive and defensive fronts still often may be outweighed by a few
pounds to a man. But Bear Bryants and Darrell Royalls lines always did, too.
Rices assistant line coaches were about as animated as you might ever find
such big ol boys, during Mondays opening practice, for they saw big, strong,
fast linemen stacked like huge chunks of cordwood, and nary a limp or a gimp in the bunch.
"Everyone looks good," Rices senior defensive line anchor John
Syptak told us. "Coach Youngs been very happy. Were very excited this
Cynics among us may ask: sure, weve got most everybody returning on the
lines, but they werent exactly world-beaters last year. That view, however,
discounts the role the big boys had in Rices second -half resurgence that saw a
defensive coalescence and offensive rushing records fall.
"Obviously, the last six games of the season the offense put up some pretty
awesome numbers," senior OL Scott Mayhew told us. "I mean, its not any fun
for us when the teams not putting up any rushing yardage. All we do is block, but we
like to see some results, and for us that means big-time rushing yardage."
"The last half of the season, last year," he added, "we started
putting up some great numbers. One thing built on another; we were really excited when we
could spring the running back and hed run for 20 or 30 yards at a pop. Thats
fun for us. Thats all we really need to see, to make it all feel really
Inspiration, Accumulation, Perspiration
Take that magical element, momentum, and add in three catalysts: Inspiration.
This group of Rice linemen, both on the offensive and defensive side, took a
great deal of inspiration from last years season-ending success and spent a
good part of the summer collectively working on improving themselves physically.
It was the most productive summer the group has had in the four years hes
been at Rice, senior DL and team spark plug Jeremy Calahan told us.
"This summer, we were coming in and working harder than weve ever
done since Ive been here," Jeremy said. "The whole time, there were 10 to
15 of us coming in to the weight room every morning at 6:30, four days a week. And we had
at least that many people coming in the evenings."
In the past, Jeremy said, people tended to scatter for the summer and work out
wherever they were. There didnt appear to be that much coordination. Thered be
a few guys here in Houston, but not nearly so many as stayed around this summer.
"I think that did spark us the way we finished the season
last year," Jeremy said. "We were able to finish strong, and we carried it
through the off-season; we carried it through the spring."
"And then, in April, May, Coach Hatfield didnt really push it, but he
let us know that if we wanted to stay, let us know -- and we can help you look for a job
or look for a place to stay. And so the buzz got around, and everybody made their best
effort to stay. Some people just couldnt stay, and they had good reasons, to do with
family, or financial, or whatever. But everybody who could stay, did stay. And there was
more of an urgency to stay and relate and work out and spend time together as a team. So
it worked out really great."
And when players come in, redshirt, play for four years, largely avoid injuries,
and graduate, then even with the scholarship restrictions, it gives a wily old coach like
Ken Hatfield the opportunity to quietly begin stockpiling a few Weapons of Mass
Last year's Lone Ranger has plenty of Tontos
During the entire Hatfield era, Rice always has seemed to be able to find one,
superlative defensive linemen in any given season you know who they were. But the
most recent of them, former Bellville Brahma John Syptak, says those days of playing Lone
Ranger are over now, hes got plenty Tontos alongside him.
"Were deeper than weve ever been, in any of the years that
Ive been here," John told us. "That kind of depth is an asset to any team,
but its going to be particularly helpful to us, because weve had to struggle
so much with depth in the defensive line, seems like every year."
Hmmm, Kemo Sabe.
"And theres no doubt about it our backups are just as good as
we are. Or I guess another way of putting it is were no better than
His teammate and fellow go-to guy, Jeremy Calahan, elaborated a little.
"Seeing everybody come in yesterday, it was encouraging," he said.
"Were bigger than weve ever been. Our guys, compared to prior years, are
huge. DaJuan Cooper looks amazing. John Syptak put on 20 pounds and hes faster. I
put on about 20 pounds since last season; Im right at 300- even. Everybody just
looked great on the weigh in."
"Depth-wise were stronger than weve ever been. The second
string guys are just as good as the first string guys. And then weve got third
string guys who can really step in and make plays just as well."
But there are some red-shirt-sporting youngsters who drew quite a bit of
attention in spring drills, as well. For instance, theres....well, theres
future investment banker and current Man Mountain George Chukwu, whos just itching
to get in there.
"George is a great player; hes huge. Hes strong as an ox,"
Jeremy said. "Hes one of the strongest guys Ive ever seen, leg-wise,
coming in as a freshman. He was a strong as Mayhew, and myself and Greg, leg-wise, and
thats amazing. DaJuan Cooper, hes looking great; Jonathan Cary, is going to be
really good, plays the pass rush really well with his hands. William Wood picked up some
experience at the end of last season, and he plays hard every down."
"Were deep, man. Were very deep I didnt know what to do
when they told me I could sit out the spring game, because they were going to let the
young guys go. That was surprising, because the last two springs, Id played 80
plays, each scrimmage."
OL every bit as deep as defensive side
The news is good among those who Coach Hatfield refers as his 'road
graders' as well, all-conference candidate Scott Mayhew told us in no uncertain terms.
"Weve got some very good athletes on the offensive side of the
line," Scott said emphatically.
Size is one thing for an offensive lineman, but in Rices scheme, the heavy
equipment needs mobility and speed just as much as it needs horsepower, he added.
"Obviously we dont pass a lot. So mobility is a really necessary
thing to have. All the offensive linemen are mobile and theyre all pretty
big. Were all over 300 pounds all the way across the offensive line, and we all move
really well, so thats the combination you really need when youre running the
"All of us just have to be able to move with the
ball; we have to be able to pull, we have to be able to run. We seem to be able to do that
Scott ran through for us the penciled-in starting OL, position-by-position.
"On the offensive line right now we have all seniors," he noted.
"Ill be at left tackle. Then weve got Micah Meador at left guard, Ross
Huebel at center; Greg Wilson at right guard, Cotey-Joe Cswaykus whos really
a solid player, although he didnt have any playing time last year because he broke
his ankle. But were really looking forward to seeing what he can come in and do
because he didnt play at all last year. Hes a senior, hell get to start
at right tackle going into the fall."
"All of us myself, Ross, Micah and Greg we all played a lot
last year. As the season went on, we feel like we really jelled. Were really good
friends. Coty-Joe, too. So were really looking forward to going out there; we feel
like we work really well as a group."
That doesn't even mention some super subs waiting in the wings, such as Rolf
Krueger II, Corey Laxen and David Carter.
"Were confident," Scott said, referring to his understudies.
"We had a lot of guys last year in the spring get a lot of experience.
Weve got backups who are really good; and now theyre in a position to step up
and play the role if one of us goes down."
Syptak, Calahan say they need to be verbal leaders
If a senior leader is to be identified on the defensive side this year,
its got to be John Syptak. But John sees his role as being in tandem. Last year,
John led mostly by quiet example while Jeremy Calahan gave most of the pep talks. But
its going to take some verbalization by both of them to keep the crew on an even
keel this fall, Syp said.
"I think its going to be up to me and Calahan to try and be
verbal," he said frankly. "I try to lead by example, but there are going to be
times this year when its just going to be important to speak up and encourage
everyone. I think, with Jeremy, that splitting that job will make it a little easier to
One thing all three of our giants agreed upon, though Job One is to get
out there and be totally ready to play, come the Sept. 5 season-opener against Houston. If
the Owls play like they did in last years 48-14 blowout against the Coogs,
theyll be digging themselves a hole that theyd just as soon avoid.
"I dont want to put too much pressure on us to win right away,"
John Syptak said, "but I really think the key to the season the key to us
winning in October and November is for us to come out against Houston, and doing
our absolute best, clicking on all cylinders. Weve got to emphasize that as much as
possible, to come out and beat Houston."
Scott Mayhew agrees.
"Whats it going to take is to get out of the box fast
weve got two really important games to start out the season."
"What we need is to go out and have a really good showing in the first
game. Last year we came out thinking we were ready to go, but then we got down after we
lost big against UH. We need to go out and have a good showing against Houston and stay
confident going into our first WAC game, then, against Hawaii."
One may expect the Rice lines to uphold their end of the bargain, in that
scenario. And that puts the Owls ahead of the curve.
- Rice will undergo an unusual workout schedule this year during two-a-days, SID
Bill Cousins announced. Actually, this year, there wont be two-a-days at all;
rather, the team will practice once a day, in the mornings, normally from about 9:15 to
11:45. If the Owls win the WAC and go to a bowl this year, football players of all ages
all over the country will exult arguing that it just goes to show what a
counterproductive waste of time that the despised two-a-days are the Junction Boys
Paul T. Hlavinka