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Monday, May 14, 2001
Offense to open it up more this fall

By Brad Edwards
Special to

Rice Owls
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2000 overall record: 3-8
Conference record: 2-6 (t-6th)

Returning starters
Offense: 8
Defense: 9
Kickers: 2

2000 statistical leaders (* - returners)
Rushing: Jamie Tyler* (400 yds)
Passing: Ben Wulf (449 yds)
Receiving: Gavin Boothe* (313 yds)
Tackles: Dan Dawson* and Rashard Pittman* (88 each)
Sacks: Brandon Green* (4)
Interceptions: Dawson* (7)

What's new
The Owls have a new quarterbacks coach in John Bland, and they are trying to open up the offense a little bit. They still only use one receiver, but the tight ends are now getting involved in the passing game, as well as the running backs on occasion. They hope this dimension will make defenses commit fewer players to the running game and open up some lanes for the ball carriers.
Battling it out
The weakside linebacker spot is up-for-grabs between Joe Bob Thompson and Jeff Vanover. Vanover played a few positions last year as a freshman and has great speed, but Thompson is a senior and a two-year starter. Vanover is listed as the starter entering the fall, but there is still a long way to go.
Eye catcher: WR Gilbert Okoronkwo
Where has this guy been? Okoronkwo has played three years and never done anything spectacular, but he had a great spring and excelled with the increase in passing. He is still listed behind Gavin Boothe at the lone receiver position, but he is an even better target at 6-3, 204 pounds. The Owls actually have enough talent at wideout to possibly put two receivers on the field at once. Imagine that!
Budding star: QB Jeremy Hurd
Hurd earned the starting job as a redshirt freshman last fall but broke a finger on his throwing hand in the opener. He returned later in the season but sustained a knee injury which prevented him from ever getting into a groove. He improved as a passer during the spring and is the Owls' best runner from the QB position.

Brad Edwards researches college football for ESPN and is a contributor to throughout the year.