Rice football played several first-year players on offense, but guard Cole Garcia stood above the rest. He’s our 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Outside of his days as a GA at Alabama, Mike Bloomgren’s first Power 5 coaching job was as the offensive line coach and run game coordinator for Stanford. He honed his craft in the trenches before attempting to bring intellectual brutality to South Main.
It took a while for the offensive line to gel for the Owls this season. The starting five remained the same through the UTSA game, but an injury to left tackle Uzoma Osuji and inconsistent play across the board opened up room for some new faces to see more playing time. One of those new faces, true freshman Cole Garcia, seized a starting job the next week and never looked back.
Garcia made his first career start against FIU, starting the final six games of the season and appearing in nine of the Owls’ 13 contests. The offense, which had combined to score three points in the two games prior to Garcia claiming the starting spot, tallied 17 points or more in four of the final six games.
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Rice ranked 33rd in power success rate, a measure of how frequently teams convert on third or fourth down with two yards or fewer to go. Garcia didn’t move the mountain himself, but the consistency with which the Owls moved the ball between the tackles was noticeably improved with him in the lineup.
Garcia attributed the scheme and the opportunity to his success, saying earlier this year “there’s no other program that would be a better fit for me.” The tenacity he brought to the field every day and the intensity he played the game became a part of the culture of this unit. As long as he’s on the team, Rice won’t have to worry about the left guard position.
“Anytime I can put somebody in the dirt is a good day,” remarked Garcia, somewhat jokingly but tinged with a good amount of truth. Mike Bloomgren couldn’t have said it any better himself.