Rice Preview 2006 - Offense
Rice Owls
Posted Aug 7, 2006

Rice Owls Preview 2006 - Rice Owl Offense

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 decent line.

Returning Leaders
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 Applewhite.
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

Projected Starter
- 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.

Top Backups
- 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
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

Projected Starters
- 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.

Top Backups
- 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, 7 TD
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 position.
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

Projected Starters
- 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 attack.

- 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 ways.

- 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.

Top Backups
- 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 against UCF.
-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.

Offensive Linemen
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 downfield.
The key to the unit: Can the run blocking talents translate into better pass protection?
Offensive Line Rating: 5

Projected Starters
- 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 pounds.
- 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.

Top Backups
- 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.

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