We'll get our first look at Mike Bloomgren's new Rice endeavor on Saturday, probably in the rain, at Rice Stadium. The offseason has been terrible for Rice, but the Owls are moving forward, putting together their 2018 squad as Rice starts their first season without David Bailiff at the helm since 2007.
Here's what we'll be paying particular mind to Saturday.
The Quarterback Situation
The Rice quarterback situation is well documented, or maybe it isn't so let's document them again: Miklo Smalls is out this spring attending to personal issues and Sam Glaesmann is out with a shoulder injury. Other than those issues, everything is dandy. We thought Jackson Tyner was out playing baseball, but we have since been corrected, he's practicing with the team, we feel shame. Whether Smalls returns is anyone's guess, but he was the most dynamic quarterback on Rice's roster in 2017. Glaesmann and Tyner might both very well come back, but Glaesmann wasn't efficient last season and Bailiff planned on moving Tyner to tight end.
Vanderbilt quarterback Shawn Stankavage transferred in, and two walk-ons are at the ready, but it's clear that Rice's quarterback room is a gigantic question mark. Saturday we'll get to see what Rice has at the position, knowing that it might look very different in the fall.
A quick note on spring games generally, the spring game itself is not a great place to see all the nuance and particulars of an offensive or defensive scheme, the game plans are Melba toast. Most coaches don't want to give much away in front of the leering eyes at a spring game, and deep down, most coaches are terrified that their offense or defense will look utterly disastrous. Save that stuff for September.
When we take in a spring game, we're looking at personnel, line combinations, whether players/the team seems discernibly bigger/quicker/faster, and some sort of rotation indicating how coaches are viewing their depth chart.
For Rice, we'll also be looking at things like whether they lineup in shotgun or under center and distinctive differences from last seasons philosophies.
Bloomgren brought in Jerry Mack to run his offense. Mack most recently led the program at North Carolina Central to three MEAC championships in four seasons. The Central offense was balanced with a slight run lean. Mack promises to bring a mix of the spread and Stanford's intellectual brutality to bear on CUSA. While we won't see the plan unfurled, but we'll get some idea of where Rice is headed. Generally. Sort of. Without anyone touching the quarterback.
The defensive scheme intrigues us the most with Brian Smith coming over from Jim Harbaugh's staff at Michigan. Smith worked under the man we esteem to be the best defensive coordinator in the business right now, Don Brown. Brown's aggressive philosophy is based on a 3-4, one-gap alignment and attacking the line of scrimmage to disrupt the offense. They'll be vanilla on Saturday, but we'll see some foundational elements, including a slew of young linebackers like
The Offensive Line
Rice said goodbye in one way or another to three starters from 2017's starting unit, including Calvin Anderson who's gone to Texas, where Longhorn fans are convinced he'll be the greatest tackle since Jackie Slater. The line is Bloomgren's wheelhouse and he'll benefit from Bailiff's recruiting in that area over the last few years. For us, the more significant loss is center Trey Martin who was quietly one of the best interior linemen in CUSA last season. Martin, left guard Peter Godber and Anderson leave the left side of the offensive line after starting every game in 2017. We'll be watching to see how Bloomgren fills those holes and how he evaluates the talent he inherited.
Rice's spring game kicks off at 11:00 a.m. at Rice Stadium.