Rice football made waves when they hired former Stanford offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren as their new head coach. Is he the difference maker the Owls have been waiting for?
Change spurs progress. That’s what Rice Owl fans have hung their collective hats on entering the 2018 season. For the first time in more than a decade the Owls have a new face at the helm of their team, Mike Bloomgren, the former offensive coordinator for the Stanford Cardinal. He’s been tasked with restoring a proud team to relevancy. The embers of hope have been jostled. Now it’s up to Bloomgren to fan them into flame.
Bloomgren brings an impressive track record to Houston. After beginning his coaching career in 1999 as a graduate assistant at Alabama, the well traveled coach has made stops at Catawba College, Delta State, the New York Jets and Stanford. In his most recent stop with the Cardinal he served as the offensive coordinator for one of the most consistent offenses in the country.
Under Bloomgren’s direction the Cardinal offense tallied a school record 2,904 rushing yards in 2013, his third year at Stanford and his first year as the offensive coordinator. He coached up Heisman contenders Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love. The Owls witnessed how lethal a Bloomgren’s offense can be first hand, watching Love rush for 180 yards on just 13 carries in their season opener in Sydney, Australia last season. The architect of an elite, dynamic rushing scheme, Bloomgren brings an abundance of potential to the Owls’ offensive attack.
Raising the talent level immediately
The success Bloomgren has found hasn’t been limited to the football field. He’s one of the best recruiters in the nation and promises to raise the talent profile at Rice. Faced with similar academic standards at Stanford, Bloomgren’s Cardinal finished outside the top 50 recruiting classes just once, frequently climbing into the top 20 classes in the nation.
His best class came in 2014. Headlined by Solomon Thomas, Christian McCaffrey and Keller Chryst, the 2014 unit was ranked No. 13 in the nation. In 2014 Rivals.com named Bloomgren a National Recruiter of the Year. He received a similar designation again in 2016, being named a top 25 recruiter by again that season. Some guys understand how the game works, and that’s a skill that will translate from the Pac-12 to Conference USA.
To put things further into perspective, the Owls haven’t finished inside the top 100 classes since 2014 and it’s not because schools outside of the Power 5 can’t recruit at a high level. At least one school from outside the Power 5 conferences has finished with a top 50 recruiting class in five of the last nine seasons with some teams climbing as high as No. 42 overall, South Florida in 2014.
All it takes to crack the top 50 are a handful of blue chip recruits (players rated 4-stars or better). Bloomgren averaged seven such players in his six years as the offensive coordinator at Stanford. He’ll already be among the best recruiters in Conference USA if he can get one or two blue chip players to campus a season. Bloomgren has proven that he can get the big names.
The future starts now
Why not Rice? There was an era of college football not too long ago where football powerhouses controlled the sport. It’s true that the heavyweights still hold sway over much of college football today, but the gap is closing quickly. UCF completed the only undefeated season in 2017, besting SEC West Champion Auburn along the way. In their first year back from the dissolution of their football program, UAB tied for second in the Conference USA West and finished with eight wins, the best mark in program history.
Sometimes all a program needs is the right man in charge. Look at what Alabama has done with Nick Saban and UCF accomplished with Scott Frost. The Tide have churned out national championships at an alarming rate while the Knights when from 0-12 to 13-0 in a two-year span. Rice isn’t relegated to being an also ran. The program has officially made their push to return to prominence. With Mike Bloomgren leading the way, that could happen sooner than anyone on the outside is expecting.