What you need to know ...
Rice intended to mess with a version of the spread offense last
year, but it never really happened as the offense finished dead
last in the country in passing and 115th in pass efficiency. New
head coach Todd Berry and offensive coordinator Major Applewhite
have their work cut out for them as they try to make all the
pieces fit. Fortunately, they're coaching players smart enough
to figure out what they're supposed to be doing and should still
be able to use the running abilities of the old days. The big
key will be efficient play from QB Chase Clement right away, but
he only completed 43% of his throws last season. RB Quinton
Smith will be the featured player early on working behind a
Passing: Chase Clement
53-124, 582 yds, 5 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: Quinton Smith
140 carries, 902 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: Jarett Dillard
35 catches, 524 yds, 5 TD
Star of the offense: Senior RB Quinton Smith
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore
QB Chase Clement
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Tommy Henderson
Best pro prospect: Junior OT Lute Barber
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Smith, 2) WR Jarett
Dillard, 3) OT Rolf Krueger
Strength of the offense: Running back, quick receivers
Weakness of the offense: Quarterback, passing game
The offense was supposed to run more passing plays last
year, but it went back to its old running ways with Joel
Armstrong, now a wide receiver, the top playmaker. Chase Clement
got plenty of work in combining with Armstrong, and now it's his
show to run in the new spread offense. He has to be a quick
decision maker and has to make big plays down the field after
showing this spring that he can handle the shorter routes.
Redshirt freshman John Shepherd will get a crash course this
summer as the number two man under quarterback coach Major
The key to the unit: Accuracy. It'll take a while for
the passing game to scare anyone deep, so the quarterbacks must
prove they can at least keep the chains moving and make plays.
Quarterback Rating: 4.5
- Chase Clement, Soph. - 53-124, 43%, 582 yds, 5 TD, 6
INT, 65 carries, 32 yds, 0.5 ypc, 1 TD
Clement finally has a coaching staff to fit hit talents. The 6-1
sophomore was always a decent runner, but he wasn't the typical
Rice option quarterback. His combination of mobility, throwing
ability and smarts should eventually make him great for the
spread offense. He threw for 3,243 yards and 28 touchdowns as a
high school senior and threw for 371 yards and three touchdowns
against the second string in the spring game.
- John Shepherd, RFr.
A decent all-around quarterback like Chase Clement, the 6-1,
180-pound Shepherd is an equally strong runner and passer. He
has the makeup to run the spread attack, but he needs time to be
more confident pushing it downfield.
Running backs aren't an issue for
Rice with several talented options where were brought in to run
the old ground attack. Quinton Smith is a talented all-around
back who should thrive as long as he can stay healthy. John Wall
is a strong fullback, but he'll have competition as a power
runner from Trey Hopson. Bio Bilaye-Benibo has the speed to grow
into a top producer if he can become a consistent receiver.
The key to the unit: The backs have to carry the
offense until the passing game comes around.
Running Back Rating: 6
- Quinton Smith, Sr. - 140 carries, 902 yards, 6.4 ypc, 5
TD, 7 catches, 40 yds, 5.7 ypc, 1 TD
Expect the coaching staff to do everything possible to get him
the ball and make him the focal point of the offense. He's a
fast back who tears off yards in huge chunks when he gets in the
open with a
career average per carry of 6.5 yards. He can be a workhorse
running 24 times for 154 yards and a touchdown against Navy and
20 times for 143 yards and a 58-yard score against Tulane. Able
to stay healthy last year, durability will be an issue after
having problems earlier in his career.
- Fullback Trey Hopson, RFr.
At 225 pounds, Hopson is bigger than incumbent fullback John
Wall and took over the starting spot after spring ball. While
not an elite talent, he showed he could handle the new offense
and will be more than just a runner.
- Bio Bilaye-Benibo, Jr. - 21 carries, 74 yds, 3.5 ypc
It'll be a shock if he doesn't turn into a big producer with his
combination of speed and skills. A sprinter for the Owl track
team in the 100 and 200 meters, he needs to grow into a
game-breaker and a key receiver on short routes. With his
quickness he should be able to bust off several big plays if he
gets a little room to move.
- C.J. Ugokwe, RFr.
A strong 200-pound runner who's more built to go north-south
than be a quick back on the outside, Ugokwe will get plenty of
work in the running game and will be groomed to be a major
factor next year.
- Fullback John Wall, Jr. - 109 carries, 538 yds, 4.9 ypc,
Wall went from being a hopeful backup to a key runner finishing
third on the team in rushing and leading the way with seven
scores after tacking over the starting job late in the year. He
has surprising speed and is a good power runner with a 75-yard
dash against Tulane to his credit. He has to prove he can catch
on a consistent basis to play a bigger role in the new attack.
The Owls have to put some square pegs into
round holes to fit the offense, but the former coaching staff
got the ball rolling by bringing on several young targets to run
more of a passing game. Until they're ready, it'll be up to
former quarterback Joel Armstrong and several former running
backs to be top wide receivers. Jarett Dillard is one of the
team's few D-I caliber receivers and should thrive at the X
The key to the unit: Turn short plays into long ones.
There are several quick running back-type receivers who have to
use their talents to make plays on the move.
Receiver Rating: 4.5
- Jarett Dillard, Soph. - 35 catches, 524 yds, 15 ypc, 5 TD
Dillard will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the new
offense after spending last year as the team's one true wide
receiver threat. Out of high school, he was offered chances to
play at several big-time programs and now should shine as one of
Conference USA's breakout receivers at the X position. Able to
be a deep threat as well as a reliable medium range target, he
should flourish not that he's not the sole focus of the passing
- Joel Armstrong, Jr. - 149 carries, 555 yds, 3.7 ypc, 6
TD, 36-85, 42%, 554 yds, 4 TD, 6 INT
A quarterback, a running back, a wide receiver, a quarterback,
Armstrong has done whatever has been needed over his career. A
great option quarterback, he'll now take over as a key receiver
at the inside F position. He'll also be used as a runner as well
as a quick playmaker on short passes.
- Tommy Henderson, Soph. - 29 carries 128 yds, 4.4 ypc, 1
TD, 22 catches, 189 yds, 8.6 ypc
A small, quick receiver who started out at quarterback before
moving to running back and an H Back role. He has good open
field speed and can cut on a dime; he'll be used in a variety of
- Gary Anderson, Jr. - 1 catch, 2 yds
The former defensive back and the son of the former Arkansas and
NFL star running back by the same name, he has some of the best
wheels and most athleticism on the team with the potential to
also be used as a kick returner. He'll start out at the Z
position and needs to stretch the field.
- Tight end Will Moss, Soph.
A big target who ended up missing all of last year, he should
quickly become a nice fit for the new offense when it needs a
tight end. At 6-4 and 255 pounds, he'll be a big blocker as well
as a physical receiver.
- Mike Falco, Sr. - 12 carries, 60 yds, 5 ypc, 8
catches, 208 yds, 26 ypc, 1 TD
The 220-pound senior has been a physical running back and a
tight end-like receiver moving to H Back last season. He'll be
on the inside as a stronger, bigger backup behind Joel Armstrong
at the F position. He showed off a little bit of his potential
as a receiver with a three-catch, 120-yard, one touchdown day
-Dustin Hufsey, RFr.
He might not be huge at 5-10 and 185 pounds, but he has the
speed to be a factor on the X behind Jarett Dillard.
- John Welch, RFr.
A nice athlete with good size to handle the inside Z position,
the 6-2, 183-pound redshirt freshman should eventually be a bit
of a game-breaker when he gets the ball on the move.
- Tight end Scott Austin, Jr.
A center so far, the 265-pound
junior will be used only as an extra tackle and a big blocker.
It'll be a shock if he ends up catching any passes.
Can the run blockers effectively do what's needed to make
the spread go? It's an experienced group with enough smarts to quickly
understand the complexities of the attack. However, there's not a lot
big-time talent outside of the tackles. Rofl Krueger has been a rock at
right tackle for a year and a half, while big Lute Barber has the
potential to be a top pass blocker. There are enough quick talents to spring several big plays
The key to the unit: Can the run blocking talents
translate into better pass protection?
Offensive Line Rating: 5
- OT Lute Barber, Jr.
Limited by a knee injury earlier in his career, Barber ended up seeing
time in nine games last season and will be the key blocker right off the
bat getting the start at left tackle tacking over for Robby Heos, who
moves inside. Barber has filled out his 6-7 frame getting up to 300
- OG Robby Heos, Jr.
Heos started out last year expected to be a backup guard and turned into
a starting left tackle. He held on to the job the entire season, and now
the 6-3, 300-pound junior will move over to Lute Barber.
- C Austin Wilkinson, Soph.
A bit undersized last year at 265 pounds, Wilkinson started ten games
and turned out to be one of the team's steadier blockers. Now he's up to
275 pounds with the size to play guard if needed.
- OG David Perkins, Jr.
The athletic junior saw a little bit of starting time at center and was
a key reserve behind Austin Wilkinson after getting over a knee injury.
Now he'll take over the job at right guard until David Berken is ready
to get back in the mix.
- OT Rolf Krueger, Sr.
The team's top blocker over the last few seasons, the 6-4, 290-pound
senior will anchor the line on the right side after starting every game
last year and with 15 career starts.
- G James Miller, Soph.
At 6-4 and 310 pounds, Miller is the biggest lineman in the mix
looking for time behind Robby Heos on the left side. He saw time in ten
games last year looking like an emerging run blocker.
- G David Berken, Soph.
The starter in every game at right guard as a redshirt
freshman, but he came out of spring ball buried on the depth chart. Once
he's 100% he'll be pushing for time again along with David Perkins as a
bigger, stronger option.