In 2008, the Rice Owls were home to one of the most dominant trios in college fantasy football history.
QB Chase Clement was the highest scoring fantasy player in the country. TE James Casey was easily the most dominant player at his position. And WR Jarett Dillard “chipped in” with 1,310 receiving yards and 21 total touchdowns.
All three studs are moving on. Is the cupboard bare at Rice, or is there talent available to fill the void?
Cast of Characters
John Thomas Shepherd (QB) (senior - 2009)
Nick Fanuzzi (QB) (sophomore)
Ryan Lewis (QB) (freshman)
Brent Hotard (QB) (sophomore)
C.J. Ugokwe (RB) (senior)
Marcus Knox (RB) (senior)
Justin Hill (RB) (junior)
Shane Turner (RB) (sophomore)
Charles Ross (RB) (freshman)
Torey Dixon (WR) (senior)
Corben Smiter (WR) (senior)
Patrick Randolph (WR) (senior)
Taylor Wardlow (TE)(senior)
Clark Fangmeier (PK)(senior)
The Big Three. Here is a look at the 2008 stats for the record-breaking trio:
QB - Chase Clement (4,812 total yards, 57 total touchdowns)
WR - Jarett Dillard (1,323 total yards, 21 total touchdowns)
TE - James Casey (1,675 total yards, 21 total touchdowns)
Another significant loss is offensive coordinator Tom Herman, who left for the same position at Iowa State.
The only starting skill position players that return are RB C.J. Ugokwe and number two WR Toren Dixon. Ugokewe contributed last fall with 852 total yards and only two touchdowns. Dixon caught 50 balls for 598 yards and 5 scores. Both will likely be asked to step up and become a bigger part of the offense in 2009.
It should be noted that Ugokew, Dixon and many of the leading candidates to win starting skill position jobs will be seniors next fall. This experience in the system should ease the transition somewhat.
Who are the new faces?
The quarterback battle appears to be a three horse race between John Thomas Shepherd, Nick Fanuzzi and Ryan Lewis. JTS has the most tenure of the group. The senior’s strengths lie in running the option. Fanuzzi is a highly touted transfer from Alabama.
Lewis, a redshirt freshman, is a 6’3 lefty who is said to be deadly accurate.
Over at tight end, nobody is going to replace the out-of-this-world production of James Casey. He touched the ball 168 times last fall (111 receptions and 57 rushes). The player who is most likely to start as a more conventional tight end is Taylor Wardlow. The big 6’6" target caught nine balls for 93 yards and three touchdowns last fall.
If your fantasy draft was today (Mar. 23, '09)...
We would steer clear of the Rice players. There are just too many moving parts right now to justify a draft pick. Even when the depth chart is settled in August, we’d likely take a wait-and-see approach to this offense.
With a new offensive coordinator at the helm, the level of unpredictability is high. Our advice is to keep an eye on Rice in September to see if someone emerges as a waiver wire possibility.
Todd DeVries is the founder of CollegeFootballGeek.com, your premier resource for college fantasy football information. Check us out.