2008 CFN Rice Preview
Rice WR Jarett Dillard
Rice WR Jarett Dillard
Posted May 13, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Rice Owls

Rice Owls

Preview 2008

By Richard Cirminiello

- 2008 CFN Rice Preview | 2008 Rice Offense
2008 Rice Defense | 2008 Rice Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Rice Preview | 2006 CFN Rice Preview 

Head coach: David Bailiff
2nd year: 3-9
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 24, Def. 27, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 18
Ten Best Owl Players
WR Jarett Dillard, Sr.
2. QB Chase Clement, Sr.
3. FS Andrew Sendejo, Jr.
4. LB Brian Raines, Sr.
5. DE Scott Solomon, Soph.
6. WR James Casey, Soph.
7. RG David Berken, Sr.
8. CB Brandon King, Sr.
9. LB Vernon James, Sr.
10. WR Toren Dixon, Jr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 29 SMU
Sept. 6 at Memphis
Sept. 13 at Vanderbilt
Sept. 20 at Texas
Sept. 27 North Texas
Oct. 4 at Tulsa
Oct. 18 Southern Miss
Oct. 25 at Tulane
Nov. 1 at UTEP
Nov. 8 Army
Nov. 22 Marshall
Nov. 29 Houston

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record: 3-9

Sept. 1 Nicholls State L 16-14
Sept. 8 at Baylor L 42-14
Sept. 15 Texas Tech L 59-24
Sept. 22 at Texas L 58-14
Oct. 3 at So Miss W 31-29
Oct. 13 at Houston L 56-48
Oct. 20 Memphis L 38-35
Oct. 27 at Marshall L 34-21
Nov. 3 UTEP W 56-48
Nov. 10 at SMU W 43-42
Nov. 17
Tulane L 45-31
Nov. 24 Tulsa L 48-43

While the returns of QB Chase Clement and receivers Jarett Dillard, Toren Dixon, and James Casey mean the Owls will again fly high on offense, they need more to compete in Conference USA. More from the defense, more from the running game, and a whole lot more from the special teams. 

Rice never found its footing last year, sinking back to reality after being the league’s feel-good story of 2006. Head coach David Bailiff is back for his second season in Houston, determined to make the Owls more than just a one-dimensional outfit that relies exclusively on Clement’s ability to make plays with his arm and feet. Of course, if the defense doesn’t do an about-face, Rice won’t have a choice but to air it out 50 times a game in desperation comeback modes.

After playing its best football of the season in November, Rice is hoping to build on last year’s 2-2 finish. With the passing game in capable hands, the Owl staff spent the entire offseason trying to revamp every other area of the program in an effort to make the school more competitive on Saturdays. 

What to watch for on offense: A run-pass mix that looks an awful lot like last season. While the Owls’ desire for more balance sounds good in theory, it won’t be possible unless the running game makes a quantum leap and the defense makes a stop once in a while. Keeping defenses honest is an admirable quest, but if Rice is constantly trying to erase huge deficits, it’ll be bombs away once again for Chase Clement & Co.        

What to watch for on defense
: More pressure the old fashioned way. Rice would like to use jail breaks to get after the passer, but too many blitzes will leave an already horrible secondary naked. Instead, the Owls will pin their hopes on a group of sophomore defensive ends to get penetration without having to move linebackers or safeties too far from their comfort zones. Leading the way will be Scott Solomon, who had a smashing debut and looked even more disruptive in the spring.

This team will be far better if
…the defense improves. No one is expecting a rags-to-riches type turnaround, but a few more takeaways and late-game stops could be the difference between a winning or losing season. After being home to arguably the nation’s most feeble defensive unit, some progress must be made if the Owls have any hope of surging past last year’s 3-9 mark.        

The Schedule: Rice can't take anyone for granted, but it has a few winnable non-conference games against North Texas and Army at home, while it has a puncher's chance at Vanderbilt. Forget about showing up at Texas. In C-USA play, the Owls get a good Southern Miss team from the East and a mediocre Memphis squad, and Houston technically is a home game. They don't leave the Houston era after traveling to UTEP on the first. The Tulsa game is a likely loss, so it might as well be on the road.

Best Offensive Player: Senior WR Jarett Dillard. No one took Dillard seriously when he was coming out of high school in San Antonio. They certainly do now. One of the nation’s most productive wide receivers over the last three years, he’s a dynamic playmaker within 10 touchdown receptions of the NCAA career mark held by former Louisiana Tech great Troy Edwards. While only 5-11 and 190 pounds, he has good jets and the bounce in his step to elevate like a 6-3 receiver.

Best Defensive Player: Junior FS Andrew Sendejo. From his spot in the secondary, Sendejo patrols the field like a warden, looking for any unsuspecting opponents to punish. At 6-1 and 213 pounds, he can really pack a punch, yet led the Owls with five interceptions and has continued to make strides as a pass defender. Rice’s leading tackler as well in 2007, he’s ready to assume a spot on the All-Conference USA defense.           

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore LT Scott Mitchell. Rice isn’t going to beat anyone this year with defense, so it’ll once again be up to the offense to keep the program competitive. The one thing that can slow that offense down is if the line doesn’t give Chase Clement time to locate his bevy of talented receivers. Enter Mitchell, a talented young blocker who’ll be making a steep step up in responsibility in his second season.     

The season will be a success if ... Rice reaches .500. The Owls need to show signs of progress under David Bailiff, or else all of the equity from the magical 2006 season will be gone. September trips to Memphis, Vanderbilt, and Texas mean it’ll likely take a strong second-half kick to win a sixth game for just the second time this decade.  

Key game: Aug. 29 vs. SMU. Sometimes, a season can go either north or south based on how it starts. Last year, the Owls lost to FCS Nicholls State in the opener, and never recovered. This August, they’ll get June Jones and the rival Mustangs in a potential springboard game that’ll receive more national attention than Rice is accustomed to getting.  

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Penalties: Opponents 92 for 880 yards – Rice 67 for 524 yards
- Rushing yards per game: Opponents 198.4 yards – Rice 110.9 yards
- Net punting average: Opponents 36.8 yards – Rice 31.7 yards