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HOUSTON (CBS-Houston) – NFL free agency is in a feeding frenzy this week with Mario Williams, Peyton Manning and others looking to make a big splash. But while the NFL is taking care of their business off the field, college football is already underway on the field for some, in particular, the Rice Owls.
Spring practice is alive and well on the campus of Rice University. Head Football Coach David Bailiff says he liked what he saw of his team on Monday during their first day in pads.
“I was really pleased with the effort and intensity that we had. The last couple of periods you could tell we lost focus which we have to work on. But, we got a lot of younger players out here that gained some very valuable experience today. So, I’m pleased walking off the field.”
Just taking a look at the players on the field, there are lots of new faces with big shoes to fill. Speaking of big, that is one of the most noticeable attributes of this team especially in the trenches, says Bailiff.
“You know the offensive line, if you look out there and it’s Jon Hodde and it’s Matt Wofford and they’re 6’6”, 6’7”, they’re 300-plus, very athletic. They made a couple of mistakes today, but Coach V. (OL Ronnie Vinklarek) got them ironed out. (They’re) very intelligent young men.”
Because of the mass, it was difficult to miss Jon Hodde, Matt Wofford, Christian Covington, Caleb Williams, Ian Gray, and Andrew Reue.
“So, I’m pleased with where we are there now for practice number three. They’re just so big and athletic and they can pull and move around. They’re a fun group to watch.”
It’s early in the spring. But, redshirt sophomore QB Taylor McHargue and freshman Driphus Jackson are looking to make early impressions.
McHargue looks confident throwing the football and has good velocity on every pass. But, so far he looks more sure of himself in the pocket and has no problem running when he can’t locate a receiver. Again, it’s early, but the poise is there. Bailiff can see that last season’s experience paid off for McHargue.
“Taylor’s got a lead on Driphus because he’s been there for so many more reps. But, I think we’ll have great competition there.”
For those of you who remember, Jackson has former Owls QB and Tampa Bay Buccaneer wide receiver Bert Emanuel type speed. Just observing, he’s quick to pull it down and run. It’s early in the college game for the freshman QB and he’s still learning to drive the offense as Bailiff noted.
“He’s very accurate. He’s got nice velocity. But, you’re talking about a young quarterback in day three? He’s going to make some mistakes that he won’t by next week.”
But, when he’s not throwing the football and does to decide to flee, he will pose problems with his speed and quickness for opposing defenses.
“When Driphus makes the plays, and pulls the ball, the ability he has with his feet, we’re going to let that play out – let those two guys compete and see where this ends up.”
However, both Jackson and McHargue have the speed and ability to help the Owls chew up yards against defenses, which is why Bailiff, once again, will have a difficult decision to make between the redshirt sophomore and the freshman – Jackson.
“When he pulls the ball, he looks like a running back. Taylor’s got good feet too. So, I think we have one quarterback that’s leading the way right now because of the experience he has playing in football games.”
Note: Houston Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiak stopped by practice to take in a few minutes and visit briefly with his son, Klein. Kubiak also visited with members of the coaching staff.
Former Owls QB Nick Fanuzzi is preparing for Rice Owls Pro Day and will attend an upcoming NFL Combine. Defensive tackle Michael Smith is also on the docket for Pro Day.
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