#81 Rice Football 2014 Preview

Rice Owls

Overall Rank: #81
#4 C-USA

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Coach David Bailiff has done amazing things at Rice and it culminated in 2013 with a Conference USA championship. The Owls went 7-1 in conference play and then beat Marshall 41-24 in the title game. The ensuing Liberty Bowl against Mississippi State resulted in a 44-7 loss, but Rice had proved their point. With some key pieces gone, another ten win season is highly unlikely, yet this is a program that is always going to compete for a C-USA title.

2013 Record: (10-4, 7-1)
2013 Bowl: Liberty Bowl vs. Mississippi State (L 7-44)
Coach: David Bailiff (40-48 at Rice, 61-63 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Larry Edmondson, Billy Lynch
Defensive Coordinator: Chris Thurmond

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jowan Davis, RB, 476 yards
Passing: Luke Turner, QB, 100 yards
Receiving: Jordan Taylor, WR, 848 yards
Tackles: Julius White, S, 67
Sacks: Christian Covington, DT, 4.0
Interceptions: Bryce Callahan, CB, 3; Malcolm Hill, S, 3

Other Key Returnees: QB Driphus Jackson, WR Dennis Parks, TE Connor Cella, LB James Radcliffe, OL Caleb Williams

Key Losses: RB Charles Ross, QB Taylor McHargue, LB Michael Kutzler, S Paul Porras, DL Cody Bauer, DB Phillip Gaines, OL Nate Richards, K Chris Boswell

The Rice offense was extremely effective in 2013, especially on the ground. But without Charles Ross and his 1,280 yards on the ground and 15 touchdowns, and quarterback Taylor McHargue, there are some concerns. Jowan Davis and Darik Dillard will attempt to take over for Ross. They each rushed for three touchdowns and averaged about five yards per carry. Behind an experienced and talented offensive line, the Rice ground game should be in very good shape. Driphus Jackson will replace McHargue as long as he can stay healthy. Jackson’s ability to use his feet is a perfect fit for the Rice offense and he has been around the program for a while now. Injuries have derailed his career so far, but the junior has a couple more years to make his mark. Jordan Taylor, a 6-5 senior receiver, and junior Dennis Parks are a couple quality pass catchers who will ease Jackson into the starting role. Taylor should be the go-to-receiver again this year after catching 55 passes for 848 yards and eight touchdowns.

It was not all about the offense last year. The defense ranked 42nd in the nation in scoring and the pass defense was in the top 20. The Owls defense has a knack for making big plays, yet some of those playmakers are gone, most notably end Cody Bauer who led the team with 5.5 sacks and Phillip Gaines who picked off four passes. The interior of the front four is in good shape with Christian Covington and Stuart Mouchantaf, but Rice does need to add some new faces to a pass rush that was not particularly effective as it was. Rice does return three of their five starters in the secondary. Bryce Callahan and Malcolm Hill are fine defensive backs, although the secondary is going to take a hit with a new corner and safety.

The Bottom Line:
The C-USA Western division appears to be a bit weaker than the East, so Rice has every possibility of getting back to the championship game. For that to happen, the new skill players eventually need to turn into consistent starters. That will not happen early in the year with road trips to Notre Dame and Texas A&M to start the season.

Projected Bowl: Heart of Dallas Bowl

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 227.4 (17th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 178.2 (103, 11)
Total Offense: 405.6 (68, 5)
Scoring Offense: 29.6 (62, 4)
Rushing Defense: 227.4 (17, 1)
Pass Defense: 202.7 (18, 2)
Total Defense: 364.1 (30, 4)
Scoring Defense: 24.4 (42, 5)
Turnover Margin: 0.5 (28, 5)
Sacks: 1.43 (104, 9)
Sacks Allowed: 2.64 (100, 11)

Madness 2015 NFL Draft Rankings:
#82 Christian Covington


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