FB Robbie Beck

2002 Statistics

Coach: Ken Hatfield
46-53-1, 9 years
2002 Record: 4-7
at Michigan State LOST 10-27
at Nevada LOST 21-31
at Navy WON 17-10
at Texas-El Paso LOST 35-38
SMU WON 27-15
at Tulsa WON 33-18
at Boise State LOST 7-49

2002 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2003 Outlook

This was a team three plays from a seven-win 2002 season. To achieve better results in '03, the passing game must be incorporated more to spread the field. This will open things up in many ways, ultimately making defenses consider the "options" that could harm them. Options have to exist for the "option-attack" to have meaning (a self-contained definition that might be too obvious for Owl coaches to see.) Kyle Herm must take it upon himself this season to be the team MVP and hurt teams the same way Chance Harridge of Air Force can do, both running and throwing the football. If he fails, this team is not going to see much improvement.

The defensive side of the ball is what will keep this Rice squad from any consistent success. Strong players are few and far between, with entire dimensions looking again weak. There are too many problematic holes for proverbial fingers in the dykes to hold back the inevitable offensive tides they will face.

Specifically, their secondary simply doesn't have the athletes to keep up with the WAC's speedy receivers, and this will ultimately affect the entire team's win-total. Think about it - they go against a boring, smash-mouth, rugged offense every day in practice and drills, then face teams that they know can run by them. Unless they do a miraculous job in other defensive areas, this team is bound for another season of "almost, but not quite".

The schedule is not favorable, either. They open with two winnable road games, but then must host the Texas Longhorns in their home opener. (After that beating,) they have to travel to Hawaii. 'Nuff said. The Owls will compete and may even give a few big teams a scare, but you can expect to see another losing season for the Owls.

Projected 2003 record: 5-7
LB Brandon Boyd
QB - 2.5 DL - 2.5
RB - 3 LB - 3.5
WR - 2 DB - 1
OL - 3.5 ..

Passing: Kyle Herm, 86-42-3, 685 yds., 4 TD

Rushing: Robbie Beck, 120 att., 601 yds., 8 TD

Receiving: Marcus Battle, 26 rec., 430 yds., 2 TD

Scoring: Brennan Landry, 8-15 FG, 31-33 PAT, 55 pts.

Punting: none

Kicking: Brennan Landry, 8-15 FG, 31-33 PAT, 55 pts.

Tackles: Jeff Vanover, 92 tot., 59 solo

Sacks: Jeff Vanover, 4 sacks

Interceptions: Clifford Sparks, 1 for 15 yds.

Kickoff returns: Clint Hatfield, 11 ret., 20.7 avg.

Punt returns: Dustin Haynes, 6 ret., 2.7 avg.



Rice owns one of the top records in Division 1-A football when it comes to graduating its players. The Owls have been among the national leaders in graduation rate for its players for the past 15 consecutive seasons, and 31 former players received their degrees last spring. Last month, the University was awarded the USA Today/NCAA Academic Achievement Award after leading the nation in the graduation rate of its student-athletes. Ninety-one percent (51 of 56) of the freshmen athletes in all sports who entered the University in the fall of 1995 earned their degrees, the best rate in the nation.



OFFENSE: Vincent Hawkins-HB, Sean White-HB, Travis Thompson-TE, Keith Meyer-OG, Clint Crisp-OG
DEFENSE: Justin Engler-LB, Corey Evans-DB, B.J. Forguson-NG, Greg Gatlin-WS, Brandon Green-DE, Nick Sabula-DE, Antwan Shell-SS, Jason Benjamin-CB (transferred), Kevin Ford-SS (transferred), John White-FS (left team)

written by Tim Chapman

The staple of every Owl offense for the past decade has been the running game. Ken Hatfield's triple-option attack has helped give the Owls one of the best rushing attacks in college football (6th for all Div. I-A in '02). Rice returns three of the four main ball-carrying cogs in their option-weaponry, headed by senior fullback Robbie Beck. Beck was the most valuable player to this offense and has a deadly combination of power and speed, combined with a low center of gravity- all which make him tough to tackle. The unbelievable fact on this guy is that he lost only seven rushing yards all year - Robbie Beck is neither a TFL or safety victim very often.

Any good option attack is operated by a heady QB; the Owls have the luxury of two. Senior Kyle Herm is indeed the #1 guy according to Hatfield. He is a bright kid who knows how to operate this sophisticated assault. He may not be as fast as other option QBs, but he doesn't have to be - with his intelligence, and the talent surrounding him, he's a perfect fit in this system.

Other QB Greg Henderson may be considered the other side of the coin. He's different in ways, but equally as valuable. Henderson is the better runner of the two, finishing second on the team in rushing (482 yards, 5.1 per carry) He is a priceless commodity as a backup, especially when you consider how often option QBs get banged. Rest assured - Owl coaches love what they have in these two.

The offensive line brings back three senior starters from a rather swift group. Any option-oriented offensive line is going to need to be fleet-footed and nimble. Accordingly, this group does a pretty good job of getting outside when needed. And size is not a problem - Ben Stephens, Mike Holman and Micah Meador can even give the running game a good, straight push off the line of scrimmage when required. Junior Greg Wilson's experience at RT will give the OL what it needs to expect running success. Away from the running game, this group needs to give Herm and Henderson time to throw - 14 sacks given up in only 151 passing attempts is not a very encouraging stat. But offset that knowing how keen defenses have to be with so many options - ergo, penetrating the backfield routinely results in such misleading numbers. So, if this offense decided to feature passing like it does running, this crew could hold its own.

The passing game is getting better, but it must be more effective and somehow pose more of a threat to keep opposing defenses honest. Herm is a fairly accurate passer, but most of the passing plays take too much time to develop, especially with guys coming out of the backfield and the employment of option-decoys. By spreading defenders out with three-and even four-WR sets, Herm would have a better vision of the defensive match-ups, and therefore could more efficiently deliver.

On the other end, the receivers need to be given the chance to shine. These guys get bored blocking 80% of the plays, and their performance when needed shows it. Sophomore Marcus Battle is a big-play guy (28 rec., 16 yards per catch) with speed to get in the open and turn away. Defenses have to follow him, or else… so use his ability early in 2003 to catch defenses sleeping. This would keep any eighth man out of the box that much more, huh. Backup Jeremy Hurd is a "hands" guy who can take a simple catch and turn it into something big. But neither of them is of any size. This means one DB can usually suffice. The Owls are lacking at TE, breaking in a new starter who has never caught a collegiate pass. TE usually is a function of the running game at Rice, so we'll see if even double-digit reception totals occur…don't bet on it.


WR Marcus Battle


Returning Starters in bold
QB Kyle Herm-Sr Greg Henderson-Jr
FB Robbie Beck-Sr Ed Bailey-Jr
LHB Joe Moore-Jr Mike Falco-Fr
RHB Clint Hatfield-Jr Thomas Lott-So
WR Marcus Battle-So Jeremy Hurd-Sr
TE Joe Wood-So Matt Bolding-Fr
OT Chris DeMunbrun-Sr Cory Laxen-Fr
OG Micah Meador-Jr Rolf Krueger-Fr
C Ben Stephens-Sr Ross Huebel-Jr
OG Michael Holman-Sr Cotey-Joe Cswaykus-Jr
OT Greg Wilson-Jr Scott Mayhew-Jr
K Brennan Landry-So Brandon Skeen-Sr



written by Tim Chapman

The biggest strength of the defense will be the linebackers. Granted, there are only two of them, but seniors Jeff Vanover and Brandon Boyd are two great players sitting behind the front four. Vanover, the team's leading tackler and returning sack leader, is a fierce competitor and a great leader. The athleticism shows by his previous position of QB. He has the added instinct of an offensive mindset and can sense where an offense is likely to maneuver. Boyd is deceptively quick (especially his closing speed) and reacts to plays (and play development) in impressive fashion. These two play like walked-up safeties - they are sharp in coverage. They're going to need to compensate for their plagued pass defense.

The secondary can be nicely expressed as weak. 2002's numbers (allowing 242 passing yards per game and a 61 % completion rate, with a mere eight INTs) all rank near (or at) the bottom of the WAC. Seniors John White (FS) and Jason Benjamin (CB) were to be the captains of the secondary, in charge of setting any fires that would spark the 2003 defense. But now, the Owls are scrambling to overcome the unexpected departure of three mainstays in the backfield, including the above mentioned. Benjamin and the projected senior starter at FS (Kevin Ford) both transferred and White has left the program. To say that Rice has a thin DB problem would be an understatement. Junior Raymorris Barnes joins senior Patrick Dendy to give the Owls a marginally good set of defenders with at least some experience on the corners that could measurably dictate how the entire defense performs at this point.

The replacements are young and inexperienced, but Hatfield says he sees reason(s) for much hope and promise. One thing is for sure, unless players are moved to new positions, redshirt freshmen will see significant playing time. This will be an extremely crucial spring for locating starters as well as backups. About the only good news may be that some solid redshirts are available to step in and spell the starters in Chad Price and Tyler Smith. Of course, you can never tell for sure where players may eventually end up. It would not be surprising to see some position switches in an effort to solidify the secondary.

For the secondary to be effective, the Owls must get some dominant play from their front. Only one starter, junior DT Jeremy Calahan, returns from a group that was defiant against the run. Calahan is a hard-worker who has earned recognition at his position through his strength and speed. His quickness needs to become difference-making, as he had only one TFL in 2002. Their other guys must create an effective pass rush, especially on the outside, if they are to harvest any success defensively. The All-American pass rush specialist Brandon Green will be sorely missed. Potential is there, but ask many teams about potential versus actual results.


LB Jeff Vanover


Returning Starters in bold
DE Rob Daniel-So John Syptak-So
DT Jeremy Calahan-Jr Ross Lassley-Sr
NG Jonathan Chism-Sr Rishone Evans-So
DE Thadis Pegues-So Jimmy Shaw-Fr
SLB Jeff Vanover-Sr Julius Mitchell-Sr
WLB Brandon Boyd-Sr Adam Herrin-So
CB Raymorris Barnes-Jr Edgar Vega-Jr
CB Patrick Dendy-Sr Dustin Haynes-So
SS Michael Merrick-So Chad Price-Fr
WS Terry Holley-Jr Tyler Smith-Fr
FS Clifford Sparks-Jr Lance Byrd-Fr
P Jared Scruggs-Fr ..




The offense must put the ball in the endzone. They won't be expecting much help from soph PK Brennan Landry. Landry hit on only 8-of-15 FGAs, and only 1-of-6 from outside the 40. Unfortunately, conversely, the defense must do their own dirty work - the Owls lose reliable punter Travis Hale. Look for redshirt frosh Jared Scruggs to get the nod as his replacement.

If Scruggs should suffer an injury, coaches will have to go to a player that has previous punting experience wherever they can find it; perhaps someone like Gavin Boothe in such an emergency -- he averaged over 40 yards per punt in high school. That's not to say a special teams player won't surface in Wednesday's announcement.

The kickoff return game looks fairly solid with KR Clint Hatfield, who managed a nice 20 yards per carry on the year. Some other player will need to step up as his partner if opponents are to kick Hatfield's way more. A new replacement to return punts must be found now that Kevin Ford is no longer with the team. That could lead to anyone's guess.