Comparing the Linebackers
Rice – Starters: Brian Raines, 6-1 222 Sr., 3 Letters; Vernon James, 6-1 220 Sr., 3 Letters; Depth: Terrance Garmon, 6-2 225 Jr., 2 Letters; Robert Calhoun, 6-1 225 Jr., 2 Letters; Tanner Shuck, 5-11 225 Fr.
SMU - Starters: Will Bonilla, 5-11 210 Sr., 3 Letters; Justin Smart, 6-4 230 Soph, 1 Letter; Jason Jackson, 5-11 220 Soph, 1 Letter. Depth: Pete Fleps, 6-2 220 Soph, 1 Letter; Alex Odiari, 6-0 235 Jr/OSU; Julian Herron, 6-0 210 RS Fr.
While Rice boasts one of the best Linebackers in C-USA in Brian Raines, the entire group has been susceptible to injury problems. SMU returns undersized Will Bonilla as one of its better defenders. Justin Smart is big and athletic and Oklahoma State transfer Alex Odiari is quite talented. Overall the Mustangs have more "horses" that can run at this position.
Comparing the Defensive Backs
Rice – Starters:CB Brandon King, 5-9 186 Sr, 3 Letters; CB JaCorey Shepherd, 5-11 195 Sr., 3 Letters; S Andrew Sendejo, 6-1 215 Jr, 2 Letters; S Bencil Smith, 5-11 203 Sr., 2 Letters; Willie Garley, 5-11 205 Soph, 1 Letter; Depth: CB Christopher Douglas, 5-9 180 Jr, 2 Letters; CB Chris Jammer, 6-1 175 Fr; S Travis Bradshaw, 6-1 205 RS Fr, S Chris Jones, 6-2 200 Soph, 1 Letter; S Max Anyiam, 6-2 210 Soph, 1 Letter
SMU - Starters: CB Derrius Bell, 5-10 165 Soph, 1 Letter; CB Bryan McCann, 6-0 175 Jr., 2 Letters; S Tyler Jones, 6-1 195 Soph., 1 Letter; S Rock Dennis, 5-10 175 Jr/JC; Depth: CB Tim Crosby, 5-11 170 Soph; CB Deyon McElroy, 6-0 179 Jr/JC; S Chris Banjo, 5-11 190 Fr; S De'Von Bailey, 6-2 200 Soph, 1 Letter
Considering both schools were statistically very poor last year this would seem to be a push. However, youth and injuries wreaked havoc on the Rice secondary last year. Bencil Smith was lost on the first play of the season. The Owls were also forced to play several true Freshmen. Andrew Sendejo had to learn a new position on the fly. This year smith is healthy, Sendejo has gotten all conference mention, and Rice returns two battle tested Cornerback starters who had the best off-season of their lives. SMU corner Bryn McCann is noted for the Ponies as being all C-USA caliber. Edge to the Owls.
Comparing the Special Teams
Rice - Punter: Mark Brundage, 6-1 175 Fr; Kyle Martens, 6-6 195 Fr; Kicker: Clark Fangmeier, 5-11 190 Jr, 2 Letters; Brandon Yelovich, 6-1 185, Fr; Kickoff: Brandon Yelovich; Kickoff Return:Brandon King; Jeramy Goodson, 5-9 180 Jr, 1 Letter; Punt Return:JaCorey Shepherd; Deep Snapper:Brandon Long, 6-0 230, Soph, 1 Letter.
SMU - Punter, Kicker:Thomas Morstead, 6-5 215 Sr., 2 Letters;Kickoff:Kellis Cunningham, 5-11 180 Jr, 2 Letters; Kickoff Return: Jessie Henderson, 5-9 170 Sr., 3 Letters; Quincey Whittington, 5-7 160 Fr.; Punt Return: Cole Beasley, 5-9 171 Fr; Deep Snapper: Jackson Taylor, 6-3 245 Jr., 2 Letters.
Morstead alone is enough to push the Pony Special Teams units ahead of the Owls. He's one of the best punters in the league, if not the best. He also kicks. SMU has dangerous return men in Henderson, Whittington, and Beasley.
Well there you have it – a complete look at units from both teams. While analysis of units is interesting, the game isn't always determined by which side has the most strength at any given position. Execution of game plan, eliminating penalties, and creating turnovers all can shift the scoreboard to one side or the other.
One thing's for sure, both sides are ready to play. And this game may be a good one tomorrow night – but with the two outstanding coaches leading either side, it should be great in a couple of years.
See you at the stadium…GO OWLS!!!