The 2018 Rice Football season is in debrief mode, so we’re taking your questions about the team, the season and everything else.
Q: We had a lot of true freshmen get some playing time this year. How many of them could crack the starting lineup again next year? I’m thinking a player like Prudy Calderon is a lock. Who else?
Prudy Calderon is your starting strong safety next season, that’s a done deal. He’ll be one of several sophomores that retain a starting spot next season. On defense, linebacker Antonio Montero and linebacker Treshawn Chamberlain head into the offseason with a secure starting role.
Linebacker Kebreyun Page and defensive end Cameron Valentine are both guys that didn’t see much of the field this year as true freshman because of injury. They’ll have a decent shot to land a starting job next season and could find their way into the lineup a few games down the line, similar to the progression we saw with the freshman that forced their way into starting spots this season.
There’s a lot more ambiguity on offense. The only lock entering the offseason is left guard Cole Garcia. He started the final six games of the season and has earned himself a spot on the line. Clay Servin and Jake Syptak both got starts during the year and should be in the mix for an open tackle position.
If they win the starting jobs, Wiley Green and Juma Otoviano could be the biggest difference makers on offense. It was pretty telling when Mike Bloomgren went to the pair of freshman in the final game of the regular season rather than starting healthy seniors Shawn Stankavage and Aston Walter. The passing of the torch was clear, but there will still be a legitimate competition at both positions this offseason, which I still expect Green and Otoviano to win.
Wide receiver is the position that’s most up in the air. Brendan Harmon and August Pitre would have seen more of the field if they’d been healthy. D’Angelo Ellis did well down the stretch, but the coaching staff still seems to think he’d be a better fit in the secondary. Either of those guys could fill his role next year.
Q: In this offense, I thought the TE’s were supposed to be more involved in the passing game. What was the reason for their absence and can we expect more in 2019?
First off, I don’t think we really truly saw what this offense is meant to look like this season. There were moments, but injuries and the understanding and implementation of the scheme limited what Bloomgren and offensive coordinator Jerry Mack were able to do this year. I’m not saying the team scraps the offensive results, but there’s still a lot of change to be done before this team is running the ball and controlling the clock like Bloomgren wants.
The tight ends were a little more involved than most might have noticed. Jordan Myers’ season-long production combined Jaeger Bull’s tallies up to 20 receptions for 267 yards and two touchdowns. That would have put the tight end group fourth on the team in receptions, yards and total touchdowns – trailing Austin Trammell, Aaron Cephus and Austin Walter. Given how significant those three players were to the team this season, the tight end production seems realistic.
Jordan Myers saw his involvement tick upward in the final few games, catching a 60-yard pass from Green against Old Dominion. Bull lost snaps to senior Brady Wright down the stretch, but the biggest culprit for the limited production was the adjustment in the scheme. Rice ran a lot of three wide receiver, two back sets with a fullback in the game. That limits the availability of the tight end.
As the offensive line and running game grows the tight end position should continue to become more involved in the offense. For year one, I’m not too concerned.
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