4. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE RICE DEFENSE
– The offense was bad, but the defense was worse, finishing dead last in the conference in scoring D – allowing 36 points per game – while getting ripped to shreds by anyone who could throw a forward pass. On the plus side, it was a young group with three underclassmen starting in the defensive backfield by the end of the season. The safeties will be okay – George Nyakwol is a keeper – but there’s a whole lot of room to get better.
– The D line could’ve turned the program around. Elijah Garcia is back at one tackle spot, but Zack Abrcrumbia bolted, and Roe Wilkins is off being an Arizona State Sun Devil. It’s a really, really thin defensive tackle situation, and for a D that needs more of a pass rush and more playmakers in the backfield, that might take a bit.
– There’s promise among the linebackers. The program went with underclassmen in key spots, and got nice seasons out of Blasze Alldredge and Treshawn Chamberlain – at least in terms of bulk tackle production. Anthony Ekpe is a pass rushing specialist on the outside, and the 231-pounder is almost it when it comes to the bulk.