It took a while for the offense to begin to click this year but when they did the records started to fall. Chase Clement, stand up and take a bow, you are OwlDigest.com's Co-Offensive MVP for 2007. Clement set Rice records for touchdowns (29), completions (300), and for passing yardage (3,377). These are just a few of the records Clement broke this year. Taking nothing away from Jarett Dillard, but there's probably no player more important to the 2008 Owls than Chase Clement. If the two of them return, then we all have to feel real good about the offense next year. The Owls lose starters Joel Armstrong, Lute Barber and Robby Heos, and part time starter David Perkins from their offensive unit next year. Everyone else returns to the unit that set the Rice Owl season scoring record this year with 377 points in 12 games.
The Owls receiving unit returns almost entirely in tact, and welcomes two promising red shirt players next year – Michael Fuda and Jaimin Shah. The Owls lost Corbin Smiter to a foot injury for most of the year – he too returns next year.
At Tight End the Owls return everyone on the depth chart. Although none have prototypical "measurables" they bring an adequate set of skills to the offense. Taylor Wardlow still needs to add about 15 pounds to his frame. He has decent hands and caught 13 passes this year. Chance Talbert didn't see the ball thrown his way much but he had his first touchdown catch of the year Saturday against Tulsa. Unlike Wardlow, Talbert has an abundance of size. We can call James Casey a Tight End but he can line up anywhere on the offense and excel. Freshman Wil Norris played mostly special teams but did catch a pass this year and lined up as a fullback in the Owls' short yardage Jumbo running formations. At 6-1 ½ and 225, Norris is the prototype H-back player who does a little of everything.
C.J. Ugokwe, Marcus Knox and freshman Justin Hill return in the backfield next year. Knox and another freshman, Tyler Smith have struggled with injuries this year and both need time to recover, with Smith's injury being more serious. The Owls are now likely to sign a running back in the incoming 2008 class.
For all that the offense was it lacked the ability to run the ball well. They will have to improve this off season in order to have the balanced attack they would prefer. That will start up front with the offensive line. Although losing several seniors from the unit, the Owls welcome several red shirt freshmen to the fray this spring. That group includes players like Jake Hicks, Davon Primus, and Tyler Parrish. All will have the opportunity to fill spots at left guard and right tackle. Scott Mitchell has played himself to the top of the depth chart at left tackle this year and looks to get bigger and stronger in the off season. Jimmy Miller finished the last several games at Center after Austin Wilkinson had his season cut short with illness. Preston Thompson is a big player that will have to continue to make strides to fend off the freshmen - but could be a starter next year at right tackle after starting the season there this year.
The play calling got second guessed quite a bit this year but the proof was ultimately on the scoreboard, and in the record books for that matter. You have to feel good about this offense next year. If the Owls can get healthy in a few areas and improve slightly in others – like the running game – the 2008 Rice Offense could be potent.
Here's what the starting unit might look like next year:
WR 5-11 185 81 Jarett Dillard
LT 6-5 290 56 Scott Mitchell
LG 6-3 320 71 Davon Primus
C 6-3 305 60 Jimmy Miller
RG 6-4 300 63 David Berken
RT 6-6 300 67 Preston Thompson
WR 6-3 215 80 Corbin Smiter
WR 6-4 240 12 James Casey
WR 6-2 210 3 Toren Dixon
QB 6-1 210 16 Chase Clement
TB 6-0 215 5 Justin Hill
OwlDigest.com Post Season Awards
Co-Offensive MVP – Chase Clement
Co-Offensive MVP – Jarett Dillard
Offensive Newcomer of the Year – James Casey
Offensive Freshman of the Year – Justin Hill
Next up – Defense…