The 2020 Rice Football season is tantalizing close at hand. There’s plenty of excitement, but there are also questions that will soon be answered.
We’ve assimilated as much information as we can about the 2020 Rice football team, but practice can only go so far. The Owls begin their season on Saturday against Middle Tennessee. Some things, like the strength of the linebacking corps and the reliability of team captains like Austin Trammell and Jordan Myers seem like no brainers. What about those other areas with less certainty?
There’s been a lot written so far about several potential answers to these questions, particularly in practice updates and recaps of what the Owls have shown on the field so far. You can read all of those by subscribing to our Patreon page. Now, onto the issues at hand.
1. Is Mike Collins “the guy”?
Rice football has had three different starting quarterbacks in each of Mike Bloomgren’s first two seasons at South Main. In 2018 it was Shawn Stankavage, Wiley Green and Evan Marshman. Last year, Green began the year before ceding the job to Tom Stewart and later JoVoni Johnson.
Both Johnson and Green are still around, but it will be transfer Mike Collins who earns the start out of the gate for the Owls in 2020. His staying power (or lack thereof) will be of utmost importance in this shortened campaign.
Through spring and fall camp, he’s done all the right things. He’s got a big arm and understands the scheme well. Calling his own protections for the first time has been challenging, but he’s responded well.
Collins seems to possess the best all-around combination of arm talent, maturity and intellect that Rice has had at the quarterback position in some time. If he can live up to the billing, Rice is going to have a shot in every game they play this year.
2. Who will fill the void left by Bradley Rozner?
Bradley Rozner led Rice football in receiving yards and touchdowns last season, averaging a team-best 14.0 yards per catch.
He was the one Rice targeted in the endzone early and often in his three-touchdown game against Middle Tennessee, the Owls’ first road win of the Mike Bloomgren Era. It was Rozner that Rice trusted enough to throw a deep ball up in the final minutes against North Texas, securing Bloomgren’s first C-USA West victory. The JUCO transfer was at the center of two of the Bloomgren era’s most significant wins.
Someone else is going to have to step up this time around. Austin Trammell will be a focal point of the offense, but he can’t catch all the balls himself (although he’d give it a shot). Jake Bailey has had a strong camp. Freshman Andrew Mason should be mixed in at some point as well as August Pitre and Zane Knipe, when healthy. There are options. Who will it be?
3. Will the pass rush step up?
Rice tallied 12 sacks in eight conference games last fall, the second-worst total in C-USA West (UTEP had eight). Even with Blaze Alldredge’s 21.5 tackles for a loss, Rice had just 46 total tackles for a loss as a team against conference foes, 10th best in C-USA. Rice just didn’t get into the backfield with enough regularity last year.
Bloomgren mentioned during fall camp the team had set a goal to make this unit the best defense in Conference USA. Putting opposing offenses behind the chains with regularity could be the missing piece that takes this defense from good to great.
Adding turnovers to the mix would be a plus too, but turnovers are much more random than tackles in the backfield.
Those are three big questions I’ll be watching over the course of the season and on Saturday against Middle Tennessee. What are your biggest questions? Leave a comment in the forum and while you’re there, don’t forget to play the free pick’em challenge.