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Do-or-die time for Bailiff?

The Sports Xchange
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The summer is approaching. How hot might the seat under Rice coach David Bailiff be by the time the 2012 season kicks off?

With two years left on his five-year contract, Bailiff enters a crucial 2012 campaign as he tries to snap Rice's streak of three straight seasons with at least eight defeats. Carrying the banner will be a contingent of44 returning lettermen, headlined by the likes of quarterback Taylor McHargue and linebacker Cameron Nwosu.

The margin for error for Rice is definitely smaller in 2012. The good news is, the schedule is also easier. After facing four opponents from BCS conferences on their non-conference docket in 2011, the Owls face a lighter load this year.

At least Rice appears to have any potential QB controversy settled. McHargue left spring practice as the clear choice in the competition, with redshirt freshman Driphus Jackson earmarked as the backup.

That's all well and good for the offense, but all eyes are going to be on the defense when the season begins. Rice has ranked at or near the bottom of the statistical chart in points and yards allowed in each of Bailiff's seasons in charge of the Owls. Enter new coordinator Chris Thurmond, who was promoted from cornerbacks coach to replace Chuck Driesbach after the 2011 season concluded. Thurmond's defense demonstrated an extra level of aggression during the spring game.

"He wants us to have fun; that's just what he preaches every day; just have fun, make plays, and live carefree," cornerback Phillip Gaines said following the spring game. "We're playing more aggressively; we're not worrying too much about making mistakes; rather than making plays. We've just got to play with confidence; that's the biggest thing on defense."

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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