It was clearly shocking to not only me, but many people, when David Bailiff was brought back for the 2017 season. It was a foregone conclusion that he was likely not to make it through the end of last fall, and then suddenly, nothing happened, and now he is back as the embattled coach in 2017 of a team that many cannot figure out how he is still in charge. Can Rice get it together to save his job this season, or will we be on firing watch once again?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
It's quite difficult to find any reason to get excited about the Rice offense in 2017. The losses are extremely heavy, and the returning talent is thin. WR Kyle Granson is one of the few returning starters, but he has very limited production number, with just 33 receptions last fall.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Everything. The QB position is up fro grabs once again, with Tyler Stehling being gone. Jackson Tyner, JT Granato, and Nate German are the three returning QBs who will be battling for the job in fall camp.
Nobody averaged double digits in average carries in the run game last fall, and that will not get games won. It's nice to have a stable of backs, but at some point Bailiff would be wise to pick one or two to carry the load. The truth is that there may not be anyone on the roster currently capable of doing that job.
The receiving game was decimated by losses as well, with three of the top four receivers from last fall heading out. Again, finding anyone who can stand out is a challenge for this staff in camp.
The Kicking game is not a heck of a lot better than any other part of this offense coming back. Haden Tobola was good on only 63.6% of his tries last fall, and he missed three PATs as well. Jack Fox may be ready to push him out of the job.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The Owls will actually have some decent production and depth up front on the line, as ten different players who recorded TFLs will return to form a nice and deep rotation up front. Brian Womac, Preston Gordon, Blain Padgett, and Greyson Schantz will be the leaders, while Carl Thompson, Roe Wilkins, and others will help provide the depth.
Emmanuel Allerbee led the team with 118 tackles at LB last fall, and returns to anchor the middle of the defense.
Three top performing DBs return from last season's roster in VJ Banks, D'Angelo Ellis, and JT Ibe.
Jack Fox may end up handling both PK and P duties in 2017 by necessity. He will return after averaging 40.68 yards per punt.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
Other than Ellerbee at LB, the rest of the position is a wasteland. Ellerbee was virtually on an island last fall, and will be again this season, unless some young talent steps up in a major way.
The secondary struggled last fall, allowing 287 yards per game passing. There is a small group of returning starters, but the group as a while needs some major upgrades.
2017 Schedule: 9/26 Stanford at Sydney, 9/9 at UTEP, 9/16 at Houston, 9/23 FIU, 9/30 at Pittsburgh, 10/7 Army, 10/21 at UTSA, 10/28 Louisiana Tech, 11/4 at UAB, 11/11 Southern Miss, 11/18 at Old Dominion, 11/25 North Texas
This is building up to be a tough season for the Owls, and any question of whether or not enough can be done to save Bailiff's job seems to be in doubt. There are so many holes on offense and at LB, and there seem to be very few answers. I just do not see how Rice can find themselves in the CUSA West race in any way with the roster that they will be throwing on the field.