#99 Rice Football Preview

Rice Owls

Overall Rank: #99
#9 Conference USA

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2010 Record: (4-8, 3-5)
2010 Bowl: none
Coach: David Bailiff (19-30 at Rice, 19-30 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: John Reagan
Defensive Coordinator: Chuck Driesbach

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Sam McGuffie, RB, 819 yards
Passing: Nick Fanuzzi, QB, 1,681 yards
Receiving: Luke Wilson, TE, 425 yards
Tackles: Corey Frazier, S, 83
Sacks: Michael Smith, DT, 2
Interceptions: Travis Bradshaw, S, 2

Other Key Returnees: G Davon Allen, LB Trey Briggs, RB Jeremy Eddington, CB Phillip Gaines, DT John Gioffre, OT Jake Hicks, CB Chris Jammer, QB Taylor McHargue, WR Vance McDonald, DE Scott Solomon  

Key Losses: LB Justin Hill, S Chris Jones, DE Kramer Lucio, DE Cheta Ozougwu, WR Patrick Randolph

During the 2010 campaign Coach David Bailiff fielded a very young Rice team. The result was inconsistency on both sides of the ball. However, despite nobody really noticing, the Owls won their last two games, knocking off East Carolina 62-38 and UAB 28-23. The lack of success during the middle of the season was, in part, due to a plethora of injuries that plagued the team.

The most notable injury was to quarterback Taylor McHargue. He only played in four games as a freshman in 2010, but Rice won three of those games. McHargue suffered a shoulder injury in the second game of the season and returned for the last two big victories. In his limited action, the mobile McHargue completed 33 of his 58 pass attempts and six of those went for scores. His mobility is what makes him a potential big time player. And with a very experienced offensive line returning, led by guard Davon Allen and tackle Jake Hicks, McHargue should have time to look down field and then scramble when needed. The Owls still have signal caller Nick Fanuzzi on the team, but he will again be relegated to a backup role in favor of the much more mobile McHargue. The other major offensive weapon at Coach Bailiff’s disposal is former Michigan running back Sam McGuffie. The 6-0, 200 pound speedster rushed for 819 yards last year and is always a threat to break loose. Jeremy Eddington turned into the Owls goal line back and ten of his 59 carries went for a touchdown and that was just as a freshman.

When McHargue was moving around the pocket the offense was good. The defense was never very good during the 2010 season and it may not get much better. Eight starters return, but the key to the Owls poor performance was an inability to get any pressure into the opposing backfield. And now the team’s top two sack leaders, Cheta Ozougwu and Kramer Lucio are gone. Scott Solomon is back after missing last season, but he needs to stay healthy and have a huge season if the defense is going to turn around. The addition of Kyle Prater, a transfer from LSU, gives the group of two linebackers some potential. Despite running a 4-2-5 defense, the Owls got burnt deep on a consistent basis last season. Four of the five starters from the secondary return, but Travis Bradshaw and Corey Frazier cannot do everything. Even if they could, the lack of pressure up front puts the secondary in a tough position almost all the time.

The Bottom Line:
The one thing the Rice offense lacks is wide receivers. Tight end Luke Wilson is a superb player, although a broken foot during the spring has slowed his progress, and Vance McDonald is pretty much a second tight end even though he is now listed as a receiver. The third leading receiver last year was McGuffie. Rice has no deep threat receiver. They just have two good tight ends and an elusive rusher who can catch some passes out of the backfield. If the Owls hope to make some noise in the Conference USA West Division, a deep threat wide receiver better emerge. Former quarterback Taylor Cook is another big receiver who should be a threat in the red zone and Randy Kitchens has some experience, but the coaching staff may have to look for a younger player who can stretch the field vertically every once in a while or the opposition will have a much easier time stopping McGuffie and McHargue on the ground.

Projected Bowl: none

2010 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 159.42 (51st in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 215.92 (64, 10)
Total Offense: 375.33 (63, 7)
Scoring Offense: 28.67 (52, 6)
Rushing Defense: 145.17 (54, 5)
Pass Defense: 303.67 (119, 11)
Total Defense: 448.83 (107, 9)
Scoring Defense: 38.50 (114, 10)
Turnover Margin: -.58 (101, 10)
Sacks: 1.17 (105, 9)
Sacks Allowed: 2.25 (78, 9)

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