After a busy offseason, change was the pivotal word for Rice football head coach Mike Bloomgren when speaking about his offense in 2021.
The Rice football defense was one of the most dominant units in Conference USA last year. The Owls climbed all the way up to No. 12 in the nation in scoring defense and blanked a Top 15 team on the road. If any facet of this team deserved to be the focal point of conversation when the 2021 season rolled around, the defense had done everything they conceivably could to put themselves in the spotlight.
But beginning with the first question Rice football head coach Mike Bloomgren was asked during Conference USA Media Days and proceeding to the last, the focus was clear: offense, offense, offense.
To some extent, the defense is a known commodity at this point. They’re going to be good, really good. But minus one notable departure, former linebacker Blaze Alldredge, that unit will look the same. The offense is going to look different.
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“I’m not normally very comfortable with change,” Bloomgren admitted in his opening remarks, “but I’m excited about these changes,” he said, referring primarily to the hiring of new offensive coordinator Marques Tuiasosopo. The addition of transfer quarterback Luke McCaffrey fits in that “change” category as well.
Bloomgren didn’t get too far into x’s and o’s, beyond specifying from a play design and scheme standpoint “a lot of it’s the same”, with only so many different combinations of blocks and routes. But how that offense is executed, and who’s executing on those instructions is what’s meant to be differential.
That’s where Luke McCaffrey comes in. Although he wasn’t guaranteed anything beyond a locker and helmet when he arrived, early returns are already positive. Bloomgren was effusive when praising his character and how he carried himself. The on the field production, that matters too.
“That’s a very talented individual that’s been successful on a big stage coming to our program,” Bloomgren said knowingly before getting into how the offense can utilize the run game to take shots downfield. They’ll also have the benefit of returning all five starting offensive linemen, what Bloomgren estimates is probably a first for him in his coaching career.
Add in 10 returning offensive starters overall and you get a delicate mix of familiarity and change. How the coaching staff sorts through the chaos and puts the pieces together will mean all the difference.
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