Monday, April 11, 2011
Rice Owls 2010 Review
2010 Record: 4-8 (3-5), tied 4th Conference USA West
2010 Bowl Game: None
2010 Schedule/Results: Texas, L 34-17; @ North Texas, W 32-31; Northwestern, L 30-13; Baylor, L 30-13; SMU, L 42-31; @ Utep, L 44-24; Houston, W 34-31; @ UCF, L 41-14; @ Tulsa, L 64-27; @ Tulane, L 54-49; East Carolina, W 62-38; UAB, W 28-23
First, the good news. The Owls improved their win total in 2010. The really good part of that is that the Owls finished the 2010 season on a very strong note by winning their final two games of the season, creating a nice transistion into a make or break 2011 season for coach David Bailiff. In my opinion, Bailiff has to win 6 games or more to prove that he should be the coach of this program. Bailiff was hired after not really accomplishing much of anything at Texas State, and it was a desperation hire after Todd Graham bailed out for Tulsa in a mercenary move that left the Owls in flux hanging high and dry. If Bailiff is going to win over the hearts and minds of the media and fan base, it has to happen now.
The offense wasn't terrible. The Owls managed to pass for 215 yards per game and rolled out 159 yards rushing per game. It was a solid balanced offense that to find a serious heartbeat in the final 4 games specifically, as the Owls scored 27 points or more during that period in which they went 2-2. Rice scored 90 total points combined in their final 2 games, both wins as I had mentioned.
Bailiff played 3 different QBs in 2010, not anyone's idea of a perfect scenario, but they were efficient enough at times, while there were times that were just brutal. Nick Fanuzzi was the best of the lot, as he passed for 1681 yards and 11 TDs. He completed 62.7% of his passes, but he did manage to toss 9 picks. Obviously, you know where I am going with this, but an increase in TD and decrease in pick production will dictate his development as a senior in 2011. Taylor McHargue will be there to push him, as he played in 5 games as a freshman, and would look to be the heir apparent, or he could be the guy that pushes Fanuzzi out the window if Fanuzzi begins to struggle in 2011. McHargue passed for 6 TDs and only 1 pick, so he does have some promise despite a relatively low completion percentage of 56.9%. Taylor Cook, a sophomore in 2010, played in 8 games to McHargue's 5, so he may wind up ahead of McHargue on the depth chart in the fall, barring what happens in competition. HOwever, cook was not nearly as productive, only passing for 3 TDs in his opportunities. McHargue is seemingly the more athletic QB of the group as well.
Sam McGuffie transferred from Michigan and gave the Owls an every down back that they could hang their hat on. HIs first season was a mixed bag overall, but McGuffie could have been much worse. He rushed for 883 yards and 6 TDs as a sophomore, so despite a decent yardage total,m there is work to be done before he can become a star that Rice was hoping to get out of the deal. Jeremy Eddington may not have been a yardage machine, but he did manage to lead the Owls in rushing TDs with 10 on the season. McGuffie finished 3rd on the team in receiving as well, giving him some other dimension of value, as he rolled up a line of 39-384-3.
Speaking of receivers, this group was a mixed bag as well. A rarity for the modern game, Rice was led in receiving by a pair of sophomore TEs in Luke Willson and Vance McDonald. Willson led the team with a line of 33-425-3, while McDonald led the team in TD receptions with a line of 28-396-8. Patrick Randolph was the only other Owl with more than 20 receptions, with a line of 22-332-2. Randolph will be the only productive receiver from 2010 that won't return next fall.
The Owls were a collective mess on the defensive side of the football. Rice gave up a debilitating 448.8 yards per game, 303.7 of it through the air. That's not going to get it done in 2011 if it cannot improve. That prospect is dimming, as only 4 Owl defenders managed to average over 5 tackles per game in 2010. Sophomore DB Corey Frzier led the team with 83 tackles, while he was followed by junior Travis Bradshaw, another DB, with 77. Phillip Gaines, yet another DB (64) and LB Justin Allen (61) followed up. 6 of the top 10 tacklers will return in 2011, but improvement and development must be apparent to help this team move forward.
The Owls were incredibly deficient when it came to applying pressure to opposing backfields, as Kramer Lucio led the team with only 5.5 TFLs on the season. Rice only collected 37 TFLs as a team, while giving up a vomit inducing 86. Lucio also led the team with only 3 sacks. Rice only collected 13 sacks, and they gave up 28.
The secondary was exceptionally young in 2010, and it showed. Frazier, the team tackling leader, tied with Kevin Gaddis and Phillip Gaines with 6 passes defended on the season. All three were sophomores in 2010. Their development is key to how good the Owls can be in 2011, as if they do not get better, opposing offenses will continue to go air raid on the Owls, making them susceptiable to giving up more huge yardage, and the losing will continue. This secondary only picked off 6 passes all season long.
Chris Boswell struggled in the kikcing game as a freshman in 2010, only connecting on 11 of his 17 FG attempts. With the defense as bad as it is, the Owls can hardly afford to give points away when the availability is there to score. Boswell has just simply got to make more kicks to help his team win games. The Owls were involved in 3 games that were settled by 5 points or less, and they won 2 of them. If the defense can keep the Owls close, they may be able to reach that 6 win plateau.
One exceptionally bright spot was punter Kyle Martens, our punter of the year. Martens was dazzling in 2010, averaging 45.98 yards per punt on the season. He gives Rice a chance to stay in football games by giving his defense room to work. It's not his fault that they fail to take advantage of his work. He will return in 2011.
The Owls are a team that seems to be on the cusp of turning a minor corner in 2011. That's based on the fact that they have a great deal of experience returning. The drawback to that statement is that the players that are returning with all of this experience basically haven't done a thing with it. Rice is still losing, and although 2010 brought some progress in the win column, there are still some major mistakes happening all over the field, and the defense was swiss cheese in 2010. If the defense fails to develop, 2011 could be David Bailiff's swan song.