CoogFans' Opponent Preview - Rice

If the offense plays like it did at the end of last season, Rice could surprise a team here and there. But the defense has to use their experience to get a whole lot better if Rice wants to think about a bowl game.

Rice Owls
Conference USA

2007 Record: (3-9, 3-5)
2007 Bowl: none
Coach: David Bailiff (3-9 at Rice, 24-24 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tom Herman
Defensive Coordinator: Chuck Driesbach and Craig Naivar

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Chase Clement, QB, 535 yards
Passing: Chase Clement, QB, 3,377 yards
Receiving: Jarett Dillard, WR, 1,057 yards
Tackles: Andrew Sendejo, S, 107
Sacks: Scott Solomon, DE, 4.5
Interceptions: Andrew Sendejo, S, 5

Other Key Returnees: G David Berken, WR James Case, WR Toren Dixon, RB Justin Hill, LB Vernon James, CB Brandon King, CB Joseph Leary, OT Scott Mitchell, DE Cheta Ozougwu, LB Brian Raines, TE Taylor Wardlow, C Austin Wilkinson

Key Losses: LB Justin Apt, WR Joel Armstrong, OT Lute Barber, DT Jonathan Cary, DT George Chukwu, G Robby Heos, P Luke Juist

The Rice offense began to show signs of greatness late last season. The team averaged over 43 points per game during the last four games of the year and two of those resulted in victories. Coach David Bailiff will depend on the passing game again, but finding a legitimate running threat is a must. Justin Hill and C.J. Ugokwe split carries last year and are both back, but they only combined for 584 rushing yards on the season.

Strengths:
It was quarterback Chase Clement who led the team with 535 rushing yards. And his ability to scramble makes the offense appear much more balanced then it really is. Clement threw for 3,377 yards and 29 touchdowns last year and big things are expected for his senior season. Those big expectations are in large part due to Jarett Dillard. The wide receiver is coming off of consecutive 1,000 yard receiving campaigns and has one more go at it in 2008. With fellow receivers James Case and Toren Dixon also returning, Rice should once again rank in the top 15 in passing offense. And with as much talent as they have, they should end up in the top ten. As long as the line, anchored by center Austin Wilkinson and sophomore tackle Scott Mitchell, can give Clement some time, the offense will be very, very tough to stop.

Weaknesses:
However, the offense was pretty tough to stop last year too and it only resulted in three wins. With a defense as horrendous as Rice's last season, it was surprising they won that many games. The team gave up nearly 43 points per game, ranking only ahead of North Texas. The total yardage given up was an astronomical 511 per game. Defensive end Scott Solomon had a solid freshman campaign, tallying 4.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss. The middle of the line has lost both starters and finding some replacements to clog up the middle and help bolster a run defense that gave up nearly 200 yards per game on the ground is very important. There are some other experienced players like linebacker Brian Raines and free safety Andrew Sendejo to build the defense around, but this is a unit that needs a drastic injection of talent before things can get much better.

The Bottom Line:
If the offense plays like it did at the end of last season, Rice could surprise a team here and there. But the defense has to use their experience to get a whole lot better if Rice wants to think about a bowl game. It is possible, but the Owls are probably at least a year or two away from having a decent defense…and by then Clement and Dillard will be long gone.

2007 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 110.92 (103rd in nation, 11th in conference)
Passing Offense: 293.08 (15, 3)
Total Offense: 404.00 (51, 8)
Scoring Offense: 31.42 (40, 5)
Rushing Defense: 198.42 (100, 9)
Pass Defense: 312.42 (119, 12)
Total Defense: 510.83 (118, 12)
Scoring Defense: 42.92 (118, 12)
Turnover Margin: -.17 (73, 6)
Sacks: 1.67 (88, 7)
Sacks Allowed: 2.50 (85, 9)


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