2009 Rice Owls Football Preview
2008 Record: (10-3, 7-1)
2008 Bowl: Texas Bowl vs. Western Michigan (W 38-14)
Coach: David Bailiff (13-12 at Rice, 34-27 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Ed Zaunbrecher
Defensive Coordinator: Chuck Driesbach and Craig Naivar
Rushing: Jeramy Goodson, RB, 69 yards
Passing: John Thomas Shepherd, QB, 78 yards
Receiving: Toren Dixon, WR, 598 yards
Tackles: Andrew Sendjo, S, 94
Sacks: Scott Soloman, DE, 4.5
Interceptions: Andrew Sendjo, S, 3
Other Key Returnees: S Travis Bradshaw, LB Terrance Garmon, OT Jake Hicks, CB Chris Jammer, S Chris Jones, OT Scott Mitchell, DE Cheta Ozougwu, WR Corbin Smith, DT Chance Talbert
Key Losses: TE James Casey, QB Chase Clement, WR Jarett Dillard, LB Vernon James, CB Brandon King, G Jimmy Miller, LB Brian Raines, CB Ja’Corey Sheperd, RB C.J. Ugokwe, C Austin Wilkinson
It only took Coach David Bailiff one year to turn around the Rice program. The Owls actually won a bowl game in 2008 and there is good reason to think that the Rice program is headed in the right direction. However, the Owls lose a lot of talent this year and there are some major holes to fill.
It is impossible for the offense not to take a step back after losing quarterback Chase Clement, wide receiver Jarett Dillard and tight end James Casey. It was those three who turned Rice into the fifth most prolific offense in the nation. There are options at quarterback. John Thomas Shepherd has the most experience in the program, but redshirt freshman Ryan Lewis has plenty of potential and Alabama transfer Nick Fanuzzi had a solid spring. Even without Dillard and Casey, the Owls have some quality receivers. Toren Dixon caught 50 passes last year and Corbin Smiter emerged as a big play receiver. The ground game should be better this year, especially while the passing game readjusts. Senior Jeramy Goodson only carried the ball 12 times last year and that has left the door open for Tyler Smith. Smith has had a great spring and could turn the ground attack into a formidable force.
The defense returns eight starters, but this was a unit that ranked 111th in the nation in total defense. Rice was extremely young on this side of the ball last year and they are not much older this time around. However, the year of experience should make the team better. However, how much better will they be? Without the offense putting up huge numbers, the defense will have to step it up. Safety Andrew Sendejo needs to turn into a leader right now and linebacker Terrance Garmon has to step up his production. Defensive ends Scott Solomon and Cheta Ozougwu are now upperclassmen and they will need to do a much better job getting into the backfield.
The Bottom Line for the Owls:
While the program is on the rise, the Owls will take a step back this year without all their offensive superstars. If the defense can pick up the slack and the offense can find a few new stars, Rice can reach another bowl game. It will be of the utmost importance that Coach Bailiff finds a new quarterback who can get the ball down field and avoid making mistakes. Any help from the ground game would make the offense that much better.
By Joel Welser
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