Location: Rice Stadium, Houston, TX
Kick Off: Saturday August 25th, 2018. 6:00 pm.
Live Stats: Side Arm Stats
Audio: Rice Radio
Betting Odds: Rice -21, O/U 61
Prairie View A&M Outlook
While the national media will be monitoring to see how Mike Bloomgren does in his debut at Rice, Prairie View A&M of the SWAC will also be welcoming a new head coach to the fold. Willie Simmons abruptly left the program to assume head coaching duties at his alma mater Florida A&M, leaving the door open for former Grambling State Offensive Coordinator Eric Dooley to pick up his first head coaching gig.
Dooley is no stranger to the SWAC’s West division, having both played and coached on SWAC championship squads during stops at Grambling, Southern, and Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Dooley inherits a PVAMU program that is on the cusp of competing for championships, having finished last season 6-5 behind the talents of freshman standout quarterback Neiko Hollins. Unfortunately for the Panthers, Hollins mysteriously left the team in July. With Hollins out of the fold, Dooley will likely turn to veteran options Lavell McCullers and Jalen Morton to stabilize the offense under center.
Prairie View’s defense is led by electric cornerback Ju’Anthony Parker. The 5’11” corner led the team in interceptions last year (4) and was able to return two of those picks into the endzone. Joining Parker on the defense is linebacker Anthony Stubbs (69 tackles, 8 TFL, 5.5 sacks), and safety Reggie Stubblefield (51 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 INT).
As Rice entered a tailspin through the last few years of David Bailiff’s career, it became increasingly clear that the Owls needed to stake out a new direction. Increased recruiting competition from UTSA, UNT, and Texas State made Rice’s recruiting path more crowded, while the improvement of Conference USA as a whole left the Owls strangling behind.
In an attempt to carve out a defined identity, Rice opted to mimic a peer institution in Stanford. Aiming to build a culture of “Academic Brutality”, Rice Head Coach Mike Bloomgren has added fullbacks to the roster and hasn’t shied away from his desire to put three (or even four!) tight ends on the field at once.
Rice football on today’s @HoustonChron Sports cover pic.twitter.com/PSdS2JjPsH— Brian T. Smith (@ChronBrianSmith) August 24, 2018
The Owls’ roster isn’t fully built out to fulfill Bloomgren’s vision yet but it’s all part of the progress to rebuild a program just five years removed from a Conference USA championship. While UCLA transfer fullback Giovanni Gentosi and bruising redshirt freshman tight end Jaeger Bull will help Rice ground-and-pound, some of the key players Bloomgren inherited such as twin running backs Aston and Austin Walter may have trouble adjusting to Bloomgren’s more physical scheme that will ask running backs to dive between the tackles 20 times each week.
Rice’s quarterback battle was a drag-out fight but redshirt junior Jackson Tyner appears to be in position to take the first snaps against Prairie View. At 6’5”, 251 pounds, Tyner fits the pro-style prototype Bloomgren needs to implement his offense. He’ll be backed up by Vanderbilt transfer Shawn Stankavage.
With former Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year Emmanuel Ellerbee no longer with the program, Rice’s defense will be led by its defensive line. Zach Abercrumbia and Graysen Schantz have already enjoyed strong careers with the Owls but 6’5” 296 pound sophomore Elijah Garcia has Power 5 size and talent.
While the Owls are a few years away from dominating any opponent, their size and physicality in the trenches should wear thin on Prairie View’s undersized linemen. If Neiko Hollins were still with the Panthers then I would certainly put the Owls on upset watch but without a clear spark on offense Prairie View could be hard pressed to put up enough points to withstand a four quarter sludge against a deeper Rice squad.
Prairie View 17 Rice 28