2012 OUTLOOK: It's a crucial season for the Owls, who have to show they can be competitive again both in the entire Football Bowl Subdivision and Conference USA. Six wins would have to be considered the bare minimum for a successful season. The good news is that Rice has several winnable games on its schedule, even the back-to-back games against UCLA and Kansas to open the campaign, given both programs will be breaking in new head coaches. Should Rice win those two games, there's no telling how much confidence the Owls can build heading into league play. However, if Rice loses to UCLA, Kansas and Louisiana Tech, it could be another long long season in Owl country.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE
QB Taylor McHargue is the clear front-runner in the competition at that position. Redshirt freshman Driphus Jackson provides a dynamic element if Rice ever seeks a change of pace in a game or something happens to McHargue.
Charles Ross, who was limited by injuries in 2011, heads the current depth chart at running back. Turner Petersen also will get his fair share of carries and, as a former high-school quarterback, remains the man whenever Rice turns to its version of the wildcat -- dubbed the Wild Owl.
Sam McGuffie and the trio of tight ends -- Vance McDonald, Taylor Cook and Luke Wilson -- may be the top four threats in the passing game. That says something about Rice's true wide receivers since none of those four played the WR position in 2011.
Rice had six offensive linemen exhaust their eligibility last year, but that's not as much of a blow as it would seem given that at least a few of those seniors had played their way out of the rotation by the time the 2011 campaign concluded.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE
Cameron Nwosu topped 100 tackles last season, becoming the first Rice defender in several years to achieve that statistical feat. Trey Briggs, who missed all of 2011, augments the depth on the second level of the defnse and Kyle Prater also figures to play a bunch if not start alongside Nwosu.
Cody Bauer and Jared Williams face the tall task of replacing the production that Rice enjoyed at DE from departed senior Scott Solomon. Experience is slim at tackle, where four of the five individuals on the post-spring two-deep at those two positions are either a sophomore or a redshirt freshman.
The corner positions are the strength of the secondary, with Phillip Gaines back from the injury that truncated his 2011 and freshman All-American Bryce Callahan bookending him at the other corner spot.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS
Chris Boswell would handle both the placekicker and punter duty if the season started today. Rice heads into 2012 still looking for its first kickoff return for a touchdown since November of 1984.
C Nate Richards -- Junior-college transfers are the exception, not the rule, at a school with rigorous academic standards like Rice. And Richards has taken advantage of his opportunity and comes out of spring practice as the tentative starter at center.
P Cameron Decell -- The true freshman could end up handling the punting duty from the very beginning of the 2012 season if the coaching staff decides not to put all the kicking chores on the shoulders of Chris Boswell.
--WR Mario Hull, DT Dylan Klare and DT Hosam Shahin all missed spring practice due to injury.
Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.