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August 15, 2013

Owens: 'Everything happens for a reason'



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South Carolina tight end Drew Owens believes everything happens for a reason. It isn't a view often held by third-stringers with two dynamic talents above them on the depth chart, nor one shouted from the rooftops by scholarship players who haven't played in either of their first two seasons.

But Owens, a well-spoken redshirt sophomore who missed last season rehabbing a knee injury he suffered on a spring game touchdown reception, is taking it all in stride. More than that, he's using it to his advantage.

"It definitely allowed me to step back and learn the game," said Owens, who stands at a brawny 6-foot-6, 244 pounds. "I think when I first got here I was just so focused on knowing what I had to do and knowing what I needed to get done, but now I know the whole grand scheme of football - what the receivers are doing, what the line's blocking, how the quarterback is reading the offense from left to right and right to left. So I kind of got smarter in the game and became a more educated ballplayer."

It's been three years since South Carolina's Most Improved Tight End of the 2012 spring stepped onto a football field for a real game, three years since the 2012 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll student snatched 25 catches out of Friday night skies for 524 yards and five touchdowns as a senior in a run-oriented offense at Ardrey Kell High School in Charlotte, N.C.

But Owens remains as optimistic as ever about his career at South Carolina, even this season with both Busta Anderson and Jerell Adams ahead of him on the depth chart. He said a big part of that is knowing his role on the team and how he fits into coach Spurrier's "grand scheme."

"I just have to go out every day and give my best in practice, show my skills and show my talents to coaches, and hopefully they'll have trust in me and believe in me so I can perform on the field like I know I can," Owens said.

Owens was getting an even split of the reps at tight end with Anderson and Adams at the start of fall camp, but he's seen an increased role over the past week as injuries have kept Anderson in a yellow jersey on the sideline. Owens lamented losing Anderson, but said he has worked to capitalized on his increased reps in practice.

"We'll definitely need [Anderson] for the upcoming season; we'll definitely need him to get rested up and get his hamstring ready to go, but [his injury] gave me an opportunity to showcase my talents," Owens said. "Everything happens for a reason, so maybe it was a blessing in disguise."

As Owens has gotten back to full speed from the knee injury that robbed him of his redshirt freshman season, his expectations for playing time have increased. The team is expected to move toward using more two-tight end formations, and Owens - an athletic, pass catching tight end - should reap the benefits if he proves to coaches this fall that he's strong enough to pass block. Getting stronger and adding pass protection to his repertoire has been among his primary areas of concern this offseason.

"The SEC is no joke, they have some of the biggest ballplayers in all of the country so you know you have to come with it with your hips and your arms, and everything has to be intact," Owens said. "But on top of that, I want to be able to synthesize information as it's coming to me and be able to read off of different coverages, play fast instead of hesitant."

If all goes well, Owens thinks South Carolina could have the best group of tight ends in the country. He said the coaches knew what they were getting when they recruited him, Adams and Anderson - athletic, agile, mismatch creators who can haul in passes with the best of them.

"I definitely think we have the potential to be [the best]," Owens said. "We have the athleticism, the size, the speed, the skill level, and we have the coaches that have our back. As long as just keep performing and getting better every day, we have the potential to be the best in the country and in our conference."

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