Rice Football snuck in six spring practices before they were canceled by Conference USA. Here are a few things we learned and questions still unanswered.
My notebook is an organized mess every time Rice football practice is underway. I have notes from each session I attend. Those range from individual moments that impressed me to far-reaching questions that I’ve yet to reach a conclusion. Sometimes coaches or players can shed light on my queries, other times they’re left to ruminate until next session, next week, or longer.
Rice is fortunate they got to practice at all. Several Conference USA teams called off all sessions before they ever stepped foot on the field. There are a lot of question marks scribbled in the pages from the Owls’ six spring practice sessions. In this case, some clarity is better than none.
I hesitate to put out defined depth charts, especially from spring ball. Players are cycling in and out, some are learning new positions. The alignment of the team on any one play varies tremendously. Starters are easier to determine. Backups are … well, an exercise best guessing. With that caveat, take these words as being scribed in pencil.
Rice Football First Team Offense
QB | Collins OR Johnson
RB | Otoviano
WR | Trammell, Rozner, Pitre
TE | Myers
OL | Servin (LT), Garcia OR Sheriff (LG), Klarkowski (C), Baker (RG), Woolford (RT)
Rice Football Second Team Offense
QB | McMahon
RB | Montgomery OR King
WR | Knipe, Bailey, Palmer
TE | Bull OR Bradley
OL | Ferraro (LT), Riddle (LG), Baker (C), Floyd (RG), Peterson (RT)
Offensive depth chart notes
I hate OR designations, but I really do believe there are several open spots on the offense right now. Quarterback is the most obvious. If Rice football had to play tomorrow, I’d bet Mike Collins is the guy, but it’s close. That’s not to say he stole the show this spring — he and JoVoni Johnson were both solid — but I like Collins’ combination of size and elusiveness. I’m still looking to see who can make more consistent plays downfield between those two. The more accurate passer could win the job in fall camp.
Cam Montgomery looks really good. Really good. Rice had a deep backfield last year and Montgomery fumbled away some of his opportunities, leaving him buried on the bench. He’s probably the fastest player on the team right now (or at least in the top five). He’ll be the third down and pass catching back. There’s plenty of room for Jawan King to carve out a role as well.
Not much changed on the pass catching front outside of some good plays from sophomore tight end Jack Bradley. He was on a very short list of true freshman that played every game. They’d like to see him more involved this year. August Pitre had a great showing, too. He was much more aggressive in the air, fighting for the football and winning one-one-one matchups.
On the offensive line, it’s encouraging to see Izeya Floyd running with the twos. So far, the transition seems to be going well. Klarkowski as the starting center surprised me a bit, but I attribute that more to the need for answers at guard. If someone emerges there, Baker more than likely moves back to center. JoVaun Woolford is an impressive human being. If he adds another 15 to 20 pounds this offseason he’s going to be a huge asset at the tackle spot.
Rice Football First Team Defense
DL | Schuman, Hubbard, Carrol, Orji
LB | Alldredge, Montero
CB | Devones, Thornton
Saf | Smith, Nyakwol, Chamberlain
Rice Football Second Team Defense
DL | Doddridge, Enechukwu, Garcia, Page
LB | Morrison, Grammer
CB | Bird, White
Saf | Calderon, Lockhart, Richardson
Defensive depth chart notes
The defense looks pretty cookie cutter from how Rice football ended last season. De’Braylon Carroll will slide up into a starting spot replacing the departing Myles Adams. Kenneth Orji will become the full-time man at rush end with Anthony Ekpe gone. The rest of the first team is essentially unchanged.
Myron Morrison has entrenched himself as a rotation player at linebacker. The coaches love his work ethic and he made several big plays this spring. He and Garrett Grammer will back up Antonio Montero and Blaze Alldredge.
There’s a pretty clear delineation from the first and second teams in the secondary, but the top 10 guys are solid. Rice is bringing in some talented playmakers in the secondary, but this shouldn’t be a situation where anyone is forced to play early from necessity. They’ll have to earn it, which they very well might do.
The defensive line is a spot to monitor. I loved what I saw from Kebreyun Page, and Ikenna Enechukwu has been steadily improving from last season until now. I’m not sure about the defensive end spot. Joshua Pearcy and Jacob Doddridge both took some time there during the spring.
There are a few certainties on special teams.
- Austin Trammell will be the punt returner
- Stanford transfer Collin Riccitelli will be the place kicker
- Charlie Mendes will be the punter
- Cam Riddle will be the long snapper
There really won’t be any competition whatsoever at those four spots. That leaves kickoffs and the holder as the only real question marks. Those auditions will continue into the fall.
1. Who is going to be the starting quarterback?
Collins and Johnson separated themselves this spring, but neither “seized the job” as coach Bloomgren has often wished of his quarterbacks. They’re both great on the ground with Collins getting a slight edge because of his size. Johnson may not be injury prone, but he’s slimmer and did get forced out of his start against Marshall last year with an injury. I still think we could have one guy before the season opener, but don’t expect the competition closed before a week or two of fall camp.
2. Which offense will Rice run?
The way Rice lined up against Army was night and day different from how they played against Middle Tennessee. Bloomgren will stick to his guns and run the football, but he’s not going to discount the success they found through the air. The offensive line might be the key determinant in how Rice attacks on offense. But we still don’t know how that unit will be pieced together quite yet.
3. Where are the gaps that incoming players need to fill?
In previous springs, it’s been fairly evident where the team needs an impact player. Given the little sample size this time, it’s hard to know which of the incoming signing class is going to have the clearest path to playing time.
I have a hunch someone is going to emerge from the running backs. Kobie Campbell and Khalan Griffin are special talents that could impact the game on special teams or as offensive weapons. On defense, I want to see what happens in the secondary. Can someone like Lamont Narcisse work his way onto the field? That might depend on a few factors. On both sides of the ball, we’ll have to wait and see what happens in the fall.
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