Rice Football finds itself in the midst of another quarterback conundrum. Here’s the latest entering the final three-game stretch of the season.
It’s not groundhog day, but it sure feels like it when the Rice football quarterback situation is brought up. With a week and a half until the Owls take the field against Middle Tennessee, here’s what we know:
1. Tom Stewart is close to “100 percent”
Stewart has been practicing in full and doesn’t appear to be hindered by his back issue. He’s looked good throwing the deep ball both last week and Sunday and is moving around reasonably well. Offensive coordinator Jerry Mack said last week was the first time he’s “felt 100 percent” since injuring his back. He’s expected to be fully available for the game.
2. JoVoni Johnson is nicked up
Johnson left Saturday’s game against Marshall after taking a hit following a big run. He was in a walking boot early last week but has since shed the protective gear and resumed practicing. He’ll be well enough to play.
The bigger question is how the injury will impact his effectiveness. Bloomgren called him “a step slow” in his return to the field, but noted that they’ll monitor him closely this week. A hobbled Johnson wouldn’t pose nearly the same threat as a fully healthy one. Whether or not some percentage of Johnson is better than 100 percent of someone else remains to be seen.
3. Evan Marshman could be an option
Marshman has gotten some reps in practice. He’ll have a package of plays ready should the Owls decide to go in that direction. I don’t get the sense that’s going to be the primary direction at this point, but the staff is going to turn over every rock in their quest to turn this offense around. Whereas Wiley Green is working with the scout team now, Marshman is getting some snaps with a version of the first team offense.
4. The redshirt situation
I contend the offense looks much better with Johnson and the helm than it has with anyone else who’s stepped under center this season. Of course, Bloomgren would prefer to redshirt Johnson and have him for another full season, but the importance of stacking up some wins and giving the team something to build on for the future is a very real motivator.
“All we’re worried about is this week right now,” Bloomgren said. “We’ve definitely had those conversations. We’ve had those conversations with JoVoni as well, but we’re not at a point to make that decision and luckily we don’t have to.”
To some extent, Bloomgren is correct. Johnson has played in three of his allotted four games. Saturday against Middle Tennessee would be the fourth. If Johnson plays this weekend and does well, the likelihood of him redshirting this season would drop exorbitantly.
For what it’s worth, Bloomgren called the offense “anemic” once JoVoni went down against Marshall. A healthy Johnson continues to look like the best option.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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