Rice football owned the 125th best scoring offense in the nation a season ago. How can the Owls flip the script and crank up the production in 2018?
Points came at a premium for Rice football in 2017. The Owls averaged a sliver above 16 points per game (16.3 to be exact), outscoring just five other FBS offenses: San Jose State, Illinois, Charlotte, Kent State and UTEP.
If the Owls are going to get this side of the ball back on schedule in 2018 they’ll need to succeed in three key areas:
1. Consistency at the quarterback position
Last year’s uneasy quarterback depth chart made it difficult for the offense to get on the same page. Three different guys saw meaningful time and none earned enough consecutive starts to get into a rhythm.
The Owls once again have options at the quarterback position. Whether its Jackson Tyner, Sam Glaesman, Shawn Stankavage or someone else, a clear plan on how coach Mike Bloomgren intends to use his passers will amplify the Owls’ chances of success. Consistency doesn’t necessitate a clear QB1, but Bloomgren has made it clear he’d prefer to have someone grab the starting job and not let go. Getting that sorted out soon would be huge for this offense.
2. Let your playmaker make plays
Aaron Cephus has the potential to a game-breaker this season. His size and physicality on the outside pose an instant matchup nightmare for smaller corners, many of which the Owls will see in conference play. Lining him up alongside a smaller defender and letting him do his magic will result in chunk plays, something the Owls didn’t have a lot of last season.
Outside of Cephus, guys like Austin Walters should create advantages for the Owls. Bloomgren praised his versatility at Media Day, alluding to the Owls’ intentions to move him around the offensive formation and in and out of the backfield.
3. Play to your strengths
The depth chart on offense is fullest at the running back position, and there really isn’t a close second. Last year’s leading rusher Nashon Ellerbe is stuck in the middle of the early depth chart, behind two scary running threats in Austin Walter and Emmanuel Esukpa. And that’s not even mentioning freshman Juma Otoviano who continues to impress coaches in fall camp.
This is going to be a run-dominant offense. They’ve got plenty of weapons in the backfield to make the new scheme work. Sticking to the plan, staying on schedule and trusting the tailbacks to carry the load will pay early dividends in 2018.