The first day of Rice football spring practice is in the books. It’s too early to draw any definitive conclusions, but the groundwork is being laid for the fall.
A full complement of players took the field on Monday for the first day of Rice football spring practice. The complete roster lists 79 players, more than enough to field two full units on both sides of the ball. Some positions will be deeper than others, but the Owls have reached enough bodies to make significant strides this spring.
Head coach Mike Bloomgren likes where the team is at entering the spring, particularly on defense. “I love where our defense is…” he said. “I love that coach [Brian] Smith has them in the mindset that nothing they did last year is going to make a single play for them this year. Everything’s got to be earned again. I can’t wait to see what they can build over there on that side [of the ball]”.
Bloomgren did make sure to mention that the Owls return 20 of 22 players on the defensive two-deep depth chart. That’s the best in the nation in terms of returning defensive production.
In a somewhat surprising move, there were no “OR” designations on the first Rice football depth chart of the spring. The quarterbacks, listed from top to bottom:
- JoVoni Johnson
- Mike Collins
- TJ McMahon
- Wiley Green
- Evan Marshman
- Parker Towns
A true No. 1 is far from being finalized, but the decision to put Johnson atop the pack was intentional. “He gained a lot of our trust,” Bloomgren said. “He earned the right, in my opinion, and coach [Jerry] Mack’s opinion, to be on top. So he’s taking those [first team] reps.”
After Johnson, Collins and McMahon have clearly separated themselves from the rest of the group. It would be surprising if one of those three isn’t named the opening day starter for the Owls in the fall. The value of having Mack in the quarterback room as well as having all three starting options on campus for the full duration of spring cannot be understated.
Bloomgren spent the majority of the first practice in the trenches with the offensive line. Injecting his extensive experience into that group will be crucial as the Owls look to reconfigure their front five on the fly.
Rice loses Brian Chaffin, Justin Gooseberry and Nick Leverett. The first reps of spring ball featured this revamped first team line:
LT – Clay Servin
LG – Adam Sheriff
C – Isaac Klarkowski
RG – Shea Baker
RT – Jovaun Woolford
Baker at the guard position probably says more about the uncertainty at that spot than it does about the center position. Klarkowski’s work last season in emergency duty had staying power. “I don’t know if we think of him as a walk-on anymore,” admitted Bloomgren, who showed no qualms about him starting the spring with the first team.
Rice has two full lines this spring as opposed to six or seven healthy bodies at the position at this time last year. The tackle spots seem more or less locked down, but the remaining options on the interior could position themselves for a bigger role in the fall with a good showing over the next few weeks.
It seems like having 100 percent of the roster fully healthy at the same time is all but impossible. The Owls are relatively healthy, but these four players are expected to miss all of spring ball.
- Robbie Blosser
- Jake Bailey
- Bennett Mecom
- Trey Schuman
The absence of Jake Bailey is probably the most notable. Trey Schuman is in line to regain his starting role in the fall. He’s somewhat of a more known quantity. Bailey’s absence from the spring will make things a bit more complicated in a wide receiver room that’s starting to get a little more crowded.
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