Rice football wants to close out its 2019 season on a high note. The Owls haven’t slowed down as the work through Thanksgiving week to prepare for UTEP.
It’s hard to believe we’ve almost reached the end of the Rice football regular season. Be sure to check out the game preview and this week’s podcast. Here are some of the most notable takeaways from practice this week.
Development of the offense and game-planning for the second half
The emergence of Brad Rozner has been crucial over the last month of the season. Being able to throw the ball up to him on third down and watch him win one-on-one battles has changed the Rice offense. “[Rozner has] really given our offense another threat that we didn’t really know we had early,” wide receivers coach Mike Kershaw admitted. “[Rozner has] really helped us … stretch the ball down the field, flip the field.”
Rozner’s growth has been a boon to the rest of the receiving corps as well. Austin Trammell had more than six receptions for just the second time this season in the win over North Texas, including a wide-open 31-yard gain on third down in the second half.
The Roost Podcast | Episode 19 — North Texas recap and UTEP Preview
Trammell has noticed the added space, saying “It’s nice having more options and be able to make plays down the field.” Even still, the team captain has higher aspirations for himself and this offense. “We just can’t get complacent,” he said of the second half scoring droughts, which by the time the team takes the field against UTEP, will have grown to 35 days without a point scored after halftime.
As for new wrinkles, we might see against UTEP, the speed of Zane Knipe should get more opportunities to flash. Kershaw called him “a different type of weapon,” adding that, “that’s rare to have a guy that has that type of speed [at Rice].”
Bloomgren confirmed during his Tuesday press conference that Tom Stewart would remain the starter for the final week of the regular season. He has taken the majority of the reps with the first team early in the week and performed well. His deep ball continues to be an asset to his game and he’s proven comfortable in the offense.
As good as Stewart has been, there’s a good chance we still see JoVoni Johnson on Saturday. The reps Stewart hasn’t gotten with the one’s have been held for Johnson, who’s worked primarily with a read-option and more run-centric packages.
The running game with Johnson seemed to be the best thing the offense had going for it before the bye. Instituting some of those plays, particularly during any second half stalls could be extremely beneficial. Two quarterbacks shouldn’t be the norm, and I think Bloomgren and his staff will be judicious about how and when they employ their second signal caller against UTEP. They’ve had plenty of learning opportunities.
Rice has already begun to shuffle in some of their younger players as the season has progressed. There wasn’t a sudden deluge of new faces when Rice reached the last four games of the year, rather the staff has done a good job of getting many of the freshmen experience in meaningful moments.
These players have played in their allotted four games. I wouldn’t expect we see any of them on Saturday: Jacob Grams, Kebreyun Page, Cole Garcia, Josh Pearcy, Joshua Landrum, Miles McCord, and Brandt Peterson.
As for those who have played in fewer than four games, there should be several players who get into the game in some form or fashion.
On offense, keep an eye on the aforementioned JoVoni Johnson as well as running back Juma Otoviano (game time decision), wide receiver Zane Knipe and walk-on offensive lineman Isaac Klarkowski. On defense, Chike Anigbogu and Izeya Floyd were both singled out by members of the coaching staff this week as players who could see bigger roles.Become a member and join The Roost. Stay plugged into the latest happenings in Rice Football with practice notes, player interviews and recruiting updates. We are your No. 1 source for Rice Athletics News.
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