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What's the deal with Rice?

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Nobody really knows.  Rumor and various reports indicate that they're scrapping the wishbone, or that they're incorporating the shotgun into it, or whatever.  But the number one rushing team in the country last year is going to change it's offensive scheme a bit.  That's not to say they won't run the ball, but the approach will be different.

Pete Fiutak of CFN previews Rice thusly:

Rice has always followed the beat of its own drummer running the option on the way to the nation's best running game while flirting here and there with winning seasons and bowl games over the years. But now things are changing with a move from the WAC to Conference USA and the emergence of a Utah-like spread offense. However, don't expect too many changes with the option to still be the main form of transportation.

There will be a little bit of shotgun used and more passing, but all option teams say they want to throw the ball more. For Rice, anything more will look like the fun 'n' gun after finishing 117th in the nation in passing.

Like I said earlier, it sounds like they're going to try the Spread Option, such as Urban Meyer used at Utah.  (His Florida scheme is tweaked; Meyer's offense is more of a combination of other systems than a true philosophy).  Here's an SI article on the Urban Meyer Spread Option:

The philosophy: "You want to force the defense to defend the whole field," says Meyer. "All things being equal, anybody can stop the run and anybody can stop the pass. But can you stop both?"

The system: Meyer's 12-0 Fiesta Bowl team at Utah last season lined up almost exclusively in the shotgun with either one or no running backs and four or five receivers. Players shifted and went into motion prior to the snap on almost every play. The base play was a "zone read" in which, after reading the defense, the quarterback could either hand off to the tailback on a counter or keep it himself. The unique scheme mixes spread passing -- with an emphasis on short, high-percentage throws -- and old-school option football, including a modernized "triple-option" play in which the quarterback runs along the line and either pitches to the motion receiver or tosses a forward shovel pass to the tailback or another receiver.

Interesting, but as others have wondered, do you need a first round NFL QB for it to be succesful?  (At Florida, though, he has one in Leak.)  Rice, I think, doesn't.

They may throw more than all this indicates, as the Houston Chronicle reports that the WRs were the stars of the scrimmage.

Coach Ken Hatfield has had an interesting career.  Remember him?  Does this help?  Hatfield coached at Arkansas in the 1988-89 year, when the Razorbacks lost to the Bruins in the Cotton Bowl.  Here's his career.    After coaching at Air Force, Arkansas (with a lot of success), and Clemson (where he fell out of favor) he landed at Rice.  Hatfield has a 167-130-4 career record (.561 better than KD!)

OFFENSE

Here's the depth chart (pdf) from the official site.  

CFN thinks soph QB Joel Armstrong is the Owls best offensive player, but he will be sharing the QB role with Chase Clement.  

Here is CFN's Offensive Preview.  Mike Falco has since moved to a receiver position as well as returning kickoffs and Henderson is starting at the "H"

"A" Quinton Smith
FB Andrew Cates
"H" Tommy Henderson
TE Will Moss
SE Jared Dillard

OL
Five of the two-deep OL are freshmen, including three true freshmen.  Rice's number one rushing attack last year had six seniors on the OL. However, CFN says "Only two starters return, but it should be a typically solid Rice line with good size, decent depth, and enough overall experience to pave the way for another big rushing season."
T Robby Heos
G Corey Laxen
C David Perkins (injured, questionable)
G David Berken
T Rolf Krueger

DEFENSE
Returns seven starters and three other lettermen.  Only three seniors are starting, the fewest in the nation in DIA.  

CFN says:

The Owl defense was more than fine at preventing long drives finishing 50th in the nation, but it was killed by lousy field position and couldn't do anything when offenses got within scoring range evidenced by finishing 104th in scoring defense. Enough experience returns to hope for a better season with a good front line, a deep group of linebackers and some excellent safeties. The problem is the overall size in the back seven and the lack of a true shutdown corner.

CFN thinks DE John Syptak is the best defensive player.  Syptak specializes in pass rushing.  The Riverside Press-Enterprise reports that Syptak is the Conference USA preseason defensive player of the year, even though the Owls are new to the conference.
DT DeJuan Cooper
NG William Wood
DE Courtney Gordon/Rob Daniel

CFN runs an interesting 4-2-5 scheme with two strong safety-type players called "bandit" and "rover" and a strongside and weakside linebacker.
SLB Buck Carson
WLB Adam Herrin
Bandit Chat Price
Rover Matt Ginn
CFN thinks CBs Jon Turner and Lance Byrd are the keys to the season, as the rest of the defense is supposedly pretty solid.  So will the Bruins WRs finally break out?
FS Andray Downs

What does Karl Dorrell have to say?

"We don't know exactly what they are going to do, but what scares you about Rice is they were the No. 1 rushing team in the country last year and that's not a good thing when we had those struggles (against the run) in the past."

Great.  Dorrell is scared of Rice.  Where's his media guy?

Rice should be a walk, CFN predicts Bruins 40, Owls 13.  Don't be scared Karl.