2014 Rice Preview: What You Need To Know
Rice DT Christian Covington
Rice DT Christian Covington
Posted Jul 29, 2014

Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About Rice (Getty Images)

2014 Rice Preview

What You Need To Know...

- 2014 Rice Preview  
What You Need To Know About The Offense: The Owls have no reason to tinker with their standard ground-based offense … especially this season. Not only is Rice breaking in a new quarterback, sophomore Driphus Jackson, but the line generally does a poor job of protecting the pocket. Oh, and Jackson’s athleticism, combined with the running of Darik Dillard, Jowan Davis and Luke Turner ensures that the Owls will once again be one of the more assertive running teams in Conference USA. Jackson will be the key to the offense’s fortunes in 2014, as he takes his first stab at succeeding longtime starter Taylor McHargue. The 6-0, 205-pounder possesses all of the tools, physical and intangible, to quickly flourish as the point man of the attack. When Jackson isn’t scrambling for the sticks, he’ll want to take advantage of an underrated collection of hands that’s spearheaded by rising TE Connor Cella and receivers Jordan Taylor and Dennis Parks.

What You Need To Know About The Defense: The Owls are coming off a successful year on defense, generally playing well after the opener with Texas A&M. Maintaining last season’s results is possible, particularly if competent pass rushers can be mined during the summer. In Christian Covington, Rice boasts one of the better tackles outside the Power 5 conferences, so the interior of the line will again be stout. And the five-man secondary is going to survive the graduation of current Kansas City Chief CB Phillip Gaines with the return of three versatile and veteran starters. But the Owls will be vulnerable in 2014 against quality passing opponents if they’re unable to generate more pressure from the edge. Not only did the team produce just 20 sacks in 2013, but both starting ends have run out of eligibility. Now more than ever, coordinator Chris ThuJormond needs his seniors on the flanks, Zach Patt and Dylan Klare to lead by example in the fall.

Players You Need To Know

1. DT Christian Covington, Jr.
In just his second season of action, Covington moved closer to being one of his league’s top defenders, earning a spot on the All-Conference USA First Team. The son of Grover Covington, the CFL’s all-time sack leader, is proving that creating havoc runs in the family. The Vancouver native does a terrific job of shooting gaps in order to get to the backfield, amassing 59 stops, a team-high 11.5 tackles for loss , four sacks and a couple of blocked kicks.

2. CB Bryce Callahan, Sr.
Former Owl CB Phillip Gaines is beginning an NFL career. Callahan is hoping to follow his old teammate to the pros once this season ends. Callahan is arguably the league’s top returning corner, earning Second Team All-Conference USA in 2013. He’s smooth in coverage, with the hips and the smooth back-pedal to neutralize the opponent’s top receiver. The 5-10, 180-pound athlete broke up 10 passes a season ago, and his 11 career interceptions have him within striking distance of the school’s all-time career mark.

3. WR Jordan Taylor, Sr.
After back-to-back seasons of at least 50 catches and at least 800 receiving yards, Taylor is quickly rising up the Owls’ all-time charts for wide receivers. In 2013, he pulled down 55 balls for 848 yards and a career-best eight touchdowns to get recognized on the All-Conference USA Second Team. At 6-5 and 210 pounds, he’s a big target who’s especially tough to stop on jump balls and near the end zone. Taylor has soft hands and excellent body control, which increases his edge on smaller defensive backs.

4. QB Driphus Jackson, Jr.
The Owls’ talented dual-threat quarterback is next in line to replace Taylor McHargue behind center. Jackson’s skills mesh nicely with an offense that requires its quarterbacks to run as well as they pass. He’s also a confident leader, which was evident when he came off the bench to lead Rice to a win in the 2012 Armed Forces Bowl. Jackson was never fully healthy in 2014, and he was limited to just 16 pass attempts and 27 carries for 156 yards and a score.

5. OT Caleb Williams, Jr.
Three starters are back for an underrated offensive line. Williams is the team’s top tackle, while junior G Andrew Reue is the standard-bearer at guard. Williams started 14 games on the right side a year ago, earning honorable mention All-Conference USA honors for a second straight season. While only 6-3 and 285 pounds, he has the athleticism and light feet to keep the pocket clean for his quarterback.

6. S Julius White, Sr.
White does a little bit of everything out of the secondary, making him ideally suited to star in a defensive backfield that employs five players. He has two years of starting experience, which are going to help the younger players moving up in the pecking order. The 5-10, 195-pound White was not only third on the Owls with 67 stops, but he also picked off a pair of passes and broke up nine others.

7. S Malcolm Hill, Sr.
Hill once again brings experience and versatility to the Owls defensive backfield. He’s started 26 of the team’s last 27 games, contributing at both cornerback and strong safety. The 5-11, 190-pound veteran is a much better fit at safety, where he can roam the field with intensity. Hill notched 50 stops a year ago, while also picking off three balls and breaking up eight others.

8. WR Dennis Parks, Jr.
Parks took a made a huge stride in his development a year ago. Now the coaches are asking their 6-2, 190-pound greyhound to raise the bar even higher in 2014. Parks has lettered in each of his first two seasons on campus, catching a personal-best 29 passes for 508 yards and three touchdowns last fall. He’s Rice’s big-play threat in the passing game, as evidenced by his career average of more than 17 yards a grab. Deceptively fast, he’ll use a long and fluid gait to glide through the secondary and beyond the last line of defense.

9. RB Luke Turner, Jr.
There’s a lot that a staff can do with a player of Turner’s versatility. Rice will find out this fall just how valuable the 6-1, 230-pounder can be on offense. He’s a former high school quarterback, who has a strong arm and a terrific feel for the game. Operating out of the Wild Owl formation, Turner in two seasons has rushed for 310 yards and four scores on 74 carries, while completing 4-of-5 passes for 138 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Now there’s talk he could be a floating H-back the way Turner Petersen was used in 2013.

10. LB James Radcliffe, Sr.
Radcliffe is the veteran of the linebacker corps, beginning the season with 19 career starts. At Rice, he’s the prototype at the position; he’s only 6-1 and 220 pounds, but he plays the game with outstanding range and a great motor. Radcliffe stood fourth on last year’s team with 63 tackles, adding a sack, a forced fumble and four pass breakups.

- 2014 Rice Preview