Best Rice Offensive Player
RB/WR Austin Walter, Sr.
Nahshon Ellerbe was the team’s leading rusher with 409 yards, but Walter wasn’t far behind with 400 on the year averaging 5.8 yards per carry. He also tied for the team lead with 18 catches and was one of two Owls to make a touchdown grab.
The 5-8, 200-pounder has the speed and quickness to be more of a home run hitter – his brother, Aston, can move, too – but he has to get the ball in his hands more than eight times per game.
2. RB Nahshon Ellerbe, Jr.
3. WR Aaron Cephus, Soph.
4. RB Emmanuel Esukpa, Jr.
5. RB Aston Walter, Sr.
Best Rice Defensive Player
DT Roe Wilkins, Jr.
There aren’t any obvious star playmakers on the Owl D that loses so much talent, but the 6-3, 270-pound Wilkins has the potential to become the key disruptor up front no matter what his role.
He’s not built like a pure pass rusher, but he’s got good size and can get behind the line, making 32 tackles with 6.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. Extremely strong and physical, he should be a presence on the inside, but he’s at his best as a 3-4 end.
2. S Martin Nwakamma, Sr.
3. DT Zach Abercrumbia, Jr.
4. CB Brandon Douglas-Dotson, Sr.
5. S Houston Robert, Jr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
QB Shawn Stankavage, Sr.
Or one of the quarterback options. No one’s expecting Stankavage – a grad transfer from Vanderbilt – to take Conference USA by storm, but for a passing game that finished 118th in the nation and with the offense needing a jumpstart, someone needs to become terrific. The running game will be there, but now the Owls have to be able to throw a forward pass on a consistent basis without so many interceptions.
Key Game To The Rice Season
Houston, Sept. 8
The Owls haven’t beaten Houston since 2010 and got embarrassed 38-3 last season. It’s not a conference game, and it’s for pride, but for a Rice team that won one game last season and should start the season out a 1-0 after beating Prairie View A&M, shocking the world and beating the Cougars would jumpstart the Mike Bloomgren era. But mostly, as long as the Owls keep it interesting and start to look the part of a competitive program again, that would be a nice step forward.
2017 Rice Fun Stats
– 1st Quarter Scoring: Opponents 142 – Rice 17
– Field Goals: Opponents 15-of-18 – Rice 3-of-5
– Turnovers: Rice 29 – Opponents 6