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2011 Rice Preview
Rice RB Sam McGuffie
Rice RB Sam McGuffie
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 13, 2011


CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview & Analysis - Rice Owls



Rice Owls

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By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: David Bailiff
4th year: 19-30
Returning Lettermen
Off. 25, Def. 26, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 15
Ten Best Rice Players
1. DE Scott Solomon, Sr.
2. RB Sam McGuffie, Jr.
3. P Kyle Martens, Sr.
4. FS Travis Bradshaw, Sr.
5. WR Vance McDonald, Jr.
6. LT Jake Hicks, Sr.
7. NT John Gioffre, Sr.
8. TE Luke Willson, Jr.
9. KAT Corey Frazier, Jr.
10. LB Trey Briggs, Jr.
2010 Schedule

Sep. 3 at Texas
Sep. 10 Purdue
Sep. 17 OPEN DATE
Sep. 24 at Baylor
Oct. 1 at Southern Miss
Oct. 8 Memphis
Oct. 15 at Marshall
Oct. 22 Tulsa
Oct. 29 at Houston
Nov. 5 UTEP
Nov. 12 at Northwestern
Nov. 19 Tulane
Nov. 26 at SMU

It’s official. The glow from the Owl’s 10-win 2008 season has completely burned out.

Rice is Rice again. And that’s not a good thing for the program. After catching lightning in a bottle two years, and riding the Chase Clement-to-Jarett Dillard connection, the school has reverted back to a familiar persona. The school has gone 6-18 over the last two seasons, slipping out of bowl-eligibility contention by the first week of November. The clear objective for head coach David Bailiff and his staff is to seize some momentum as quickly as possible because three straight losing seasons at this institution could drive it into a ditch for the next decade.

Hope for a rebound can be found with an offense that showed life toward the end of last season, and the return of the defense’s star player. Spearheaded by the return to health of QB Taylor McHargue, the Owls averaged more than 40 points over the final four games. The sophomore is back, as are versatile RB Sam McGuffie, a quality set of tight ends, and almost all of last year’s starting linemen. Rice is going to score, in part because it’ll have to in order to remain competitive. The D is once again among the weakest in America, floundering versus even average Conference USA attacks. For that reason, the program is ecstatic that all-conference DE Scott Solomon is back after missing all of 2010 with an injury. Yeah, there’s only so much one man can do, but he’s a special player who’ll make everyone around him a little better.

The Owls finished last season by beating East Carolina and UAB in impressive fashion. Can the feel-good vibe from those victories be carried into 2011? It’ll have to because in a city like Houston and at a school like Rice, it’s painfully easy to lose the attention of local fans and recruits in the region.

What to watch for on offense: Taylor’s swift. The coaching staff can’t say enough good things about young quarterback Taylor McHargue, the sophomore who provided an instant jolt of energy to the team in November. Not only is he quick with his feet, but he’s picked up the offense and his role within it in a hurry as well. Poised beyond his years and able to make things percolate in a dual-threat fashion, prepare for the inevitable comparisons to Chase Clement, one of the best quarterbacks to ever play for the school.

What to watch for on defense: Solomon’s return. No, one player won’t transform the leaky Owl defense, but the return from injury of DE Scott Solomon provides an immeasurable boost to the unit. A second team all-star two years ago, he plays with maximum intensity on every down. Built like a tackle at 6-3 and 280 pounds, he moves like a lighter player, beating opponents with his fundamentals and quick first step. With the NFL watching, he could surpass his 2009 production, 63 tackles, 10.5 stops for loss, and 6.5 sacks.

This team will be far better if … it can learn to play better away from home. Listen, no one expects the Owls to be road warriors, but 10 losses in their last 11 games outside Houston is cause for serious concern. After nipping North Texas, 32-31, last September, Rice went 0-for-4 the rest of the way, dropping winnable conference games against Tulane and UTEP. Any hope for a return to the postseason will require this school to be a little more consistent on the road.

The Schedule: The Owls have a rought start, but things start to ease up late. Getting Texas ad Purdue to kick off September won't be easy, and a week off might not help before going to Baylor and kicking off Conference USA play with Southern Miss. Missing UCF and East Carolina from the East should help, as well interdivisional matchups against Memphis and possibly Marshall. To have any hope of a winning season, Rice has to get hot in Novemeber with winnable games against UTEP, Tulane, and at SMU.

Best Offensive Player: Junior RB Sam McGuffie. While it took a year in the system for the former Michigan transfer to get comfortable, he’s now the focal point of the attack. The single most athletic player on the Owl roster, he led the team in rushing and receiving in 2010, accounting for 1,267 yards and nine touchdowns. Explosive in space, the coaching staff is open to suggestions on how best to get the ball in his hands and get him motoring past the first line of defense.

Best Defensive Player: Senior DE Scott Solomon. The single most important player on defense this season, he provides hope to a Rice defense in need of a lift. Returning after missing the 2010 season to an injury, he’s one of Conference USA’s top pass rushers and a stout run defender as well. His work ethic is second to none in Houston, and his versatility means he can be used either inside or outside. He’s a difference-maker, that rare Owl who can seriously dream of a career on Sundays.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Taylor McHargue. The quarterback’s importance to this program was on display late last year, when he led Rice to back-to-back victories. He’s a catalyst behind center, a multi-dimensional playmaker who can hurt defenses with his arm and his legs. The Owls are pining for an offensive leader, someone who can galvanize the troops and help make everyone a little bit better. The hope around campus is that McHargue can be that guy early in his career.

The season will be a success if ... the Owls can surpass last season’s mark of 4-8. It doesn’t sound like much of a stretch until the schedule is digested. It’s brutal. Rice has non-conference games versus Texas, Purdue, Baylor, and Northwestern, all likely losses, and face Houston and SMU as a road team. It might be favored at home against Memphis, UTEP, and Tulane, but that’s where the toss-ups end. Five wins would be exceeding expectations, and might require an upset just to get to that point.

Key game: Oct. 8 vs. Memphis. There’s a very good chance that the Owls will be 0-4 at this stage of the season, making a visit from the lowly Tigers a perfect antidote for a sluggish start. If Rice takes care of business, there’ll still be time to regroup and make an improbable run to bowl eligibility. If it stumbles, especially at home, the season will be sunk before it even gets a chance to get off the ground.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Sacks: Rice 14 – Opponents 27
- Touchdown passes: Rice 20 – Opponents 34
- First half scoring: Rice 155 - Opponents 284

- 2011 Rice Preview | 2011 Rice Offense
- 2011 Rice Defense | 2011 Rice Depth Chart
- Rice Previews  - 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006