The era of the Transfer Portal is upon college athletics. So far, Rice football has gotten the better end of the player movements between schools.
It was hard to see so many former Rice players depart for new schools following the 2018 season, but the Owls didn’t sit back and sulk. The coaching staff made upgrades across the board. Rice has brought in a stellar freshman class and 10 new transfers. In some cases, the Owls have traded out starting-caliber talent for even better options. Here’s how the incoming and outgoing transfers stack up.
Quarterback: Edge to the Owls
Outgoing | Jackson Tyner — 132 passing yards, no touchdowns, one interception
Incoming | Tom Stewart – 1,614 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, two interceptions
Stewart got significantly more playing time in 2018 than Tyner did, but it’s not like Tyner didn’t have opportunities to earn more playing time. At the very least, Stewart represents some kind of a wildcard without lesser defined potential. Tyner has since transferred to Texas Tech.
Running back: Push
Outgoing | Emmanuel Esukpa — 122 carries, 461 rushing yards, 3.8 yards per carry, three touchdowns
Incoming | Charlie Booker — 41 carries, 213 yards, 5.2 yards per carry, two touchdowns
Both Esukpa and Booker are built in a similar mold. They’re bruisers who run with an attitude. Booker was slightly more productive in lesser time last year, but a healthy form of either of them would serve the Owls well in 2019.
Lineman: Edge to the Owls
The interior of the defensive line is going to miss the presence of two proven veterans. But Rice has managed to work a three-for-two trade with big bodies in the trenches. The impacts will be spread across two different position groups, but the net is a slight positive for the Owls.
Defensive backs: Edge to the Owls
Outgoing | Justin Bickham — 30 tackles, 2.5 TFL, nine passes defended, Houston Robert — 24 tackles, 2.5 TFL, seven passes defended
Incoming | Naeem Smith — 61 tackles, six TFL, four passes defended, Miles McCord — 11 tackles, no TFL, two passes defended
Rice made upgrades in the secondary too. Both Smith and McCord have eligibility remaining beyond 2019 and their best football is ahead of them. Not only should their raw talent pay off for this program in the long term, Smith could work his way into a significant role this season.
The Rest: Edge to the Owls
Incoming | FB Reagan Williams, WR Bradley Rozner — 44 receptions, 616 receiving yards, 13 touchdowns, P Adam Nunez — 41 punts, 19 inside the 20, 39.5 yards per punt
Williams followed Bloomgren from Stanford to South Main and knows the system better than anyone. Rozner led JUCO in receiving touchdowns. Nunez could take over for departing punter Jack Fox. Three big needs met in three big ways.