Rice Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
Rice Owls
Posted Aug 7, 2006

Rice Owls Preview 2006 - Rice Owl Further Analysis

1st and Ten – Clement-cy for Rice’s QB – The arrival of head coach Todd Graham and offensive coordinator/former University of Texas golden boy Major Applewhite signaled the end of the flexbone option offense at Rice University for the foreseeable future.  And, with that appointment, the focus of Rice football turned to QB Chase Clement.  As a redshirt freshman in 2005, Clement took over for Joel Armstrong and was a more effective pass/run combo QB than Armstrong.  The youngster from San Antonio threw for 1,800 yards and 12 touchdowns, in addition to his 582 yards rushing, finishing second on the team behind talented RB Quinton Smith.  So, on the surface, he would seem to be a perfect fit in the new spread scheme that Applewhite and Graham wish to use.  Add in the fact that this was the scheme that Clement used in high school at Alamo Heights High School and it would seem that this is a marriage seemingly made in River Oaks heaven.  Right?  Right?!?  Although indoctrinating a young QB into a new offense is difficult enough, with a coaching change, it might be the best time to do so with a rookie QB.  Enter Westfield’s Pierre Beasley, one of the hottest and most wanted recruits in the greater Houston area, who Graham snagged in February.  If there’s a guy who can put pressure on defenses with his ability to run and throw in a spread scheme, it’s Beasley.  Known throughout the city of Houston and the state of Texas, Beasley is arguably the most talented QB that Rice has seen since, well, former NFLer Donald Hollas.  Maybe he’s the reason that Graham has continued to say that the QB job remains open, although Clement had a strong spring in the new scheme.  Maybe not.  Perhaps it’s Graham’s way to ensure guys don’t getting complacent.  Only Graham knows for sure, but the challenge that Beasley will present for Clement is real and viable. 

2nd and Seven – Safeties supreme – With a new staff comes a new defensive scheme, but what will stay constant for the Rice defense this season will be the safety duo of Chad Price and Andray Downs.  Downs is the teams leading returning tackler with 58 and is the guy who keeps it all together in the secondary.  He’s not a huge guy by any means, but he’s the leader in the secondary and is a physical presence, even if he’s only 5’9” and 185 pounds.  Price is an ultra-talented, hard working and hard hitting star from one of the best areas for football prospects – Bay City, Texas.  The redshirt senior had 52 tackles last season, but he also added 9.5 tackles for a loss.  In the 3-3-5 scheme, he can be a linebacker/safety hybrid in the manner that Mike Lorello was for West Virginia last season in the exact same defensive scheme.  These two will have to combat the on-the-job training they’ll receive from new defensive coordinator Paul Randolph, but at least Randolph has two solid leaders to keep the defense ‘safe’.

3rd and Three – The spotlight shines brightest on the hogs – When a team changes offensive schemes, the first question asked is how well the quarterback is ‘taking to’ the change.  However, the first question that should be asked is how the offensive line is adjusting to the different offensive package.  Of all the positions on the field, the offensive line is typically the one area that is recruited in accordance with the offensive scheme that a team has installed.  When Bill Callahan took the West Coast offense to Lincoln, the offensive line had more problems than any other unit/player on campus.  Now, take Rice’s situation.  Going from the flexbone option to the spread is like changing from rapping like LL Cool J to singing country like George Strait.  Four starters return to the Rice offensive line, but how well this unit adjusts to being in a spread attack will determine how well this offense will ultimately perform in 2006.  When you consider how much has changed for this quintet, it seems almost as daunting a task as could be faced by any unit on this team or any other in this situation.

4th and One – “Greetings and Salutations, Coach, how about this schedule to start your career” – Imagine that you’re Todd Graham.  The man is handed an opportunity of a lifetime.  A program coming off some hard years, looking to establish a foundation and a future in the CUSA.  Graham was pretty much handed a blank canvas and told to rock on.  It doesn’t get much worse than 1 and 10, which is how the 2005 season concluded.  But, oh yeah, by the way, Coach, it’s not real pretty the first four games of the year.  Bayou city rival Houston starts off the season as per usual, which is going to be a tough task given the returning talent in Art Briles’s stable of athletes.  Then, on consecutive weeks – UCLA in LA, Texas in Reliant Stadium and then a trip to Tallahassee to face the Florida State Seminoles.  Oy vey.  Not the Saginaw Technical Academy State University (STASU to you and me) fluff piece that most teams open with.  After that four game stretch, it doesn’t get much better with five of the next six on the road.  Hey coach, good luck, pal.  You’re going to need it.  Yikes.  The good news is that 2007 will be right around the corner.

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