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Rice Football Midterm Grade Report 2009

By Jonathan Myers     10/22/09 7:00pm

Now that the season is halfway through, it's time to look back and see just where we are - besides last in the conference. Here's what assistant sports editor Jonathan Myers sees in the Owls' performance so far.Running Backs: D+

The running backs have largely been unable to live up to the preseason hype, as they expected freshman Charles Ross, redshirt freshman Shane Turner, sophomore Tyler Smith and seniors Marcus Knox and Jeramy Goodson to provide more than 470 combined yards over seven games. Ross has proved to have a promising future despite suffering from asthma attacks and groin injuries, rushing for three touchdowns against Oklahoma State University.

Wide Receivers: D

Seniors Toren Dixon and Taylor Wardlow and junior Patrick Randolph have made the only real contributions, as most of the younger receivers have failed to develop any chemistry with sophomore quarterback Nick Fanuzzi. However, dropped passes and poor route-running have also plagued the wideouts.

Quarterback: D-

While senior backup John Thomas Shepherd has been the only quarterback to play in every game, Fanuzzi has taken over the starting job, averaging 167 yards per game with a 58.8 percent completion rate. But the fact that he did not fully assume his starting job until the Navy game has irreparably hindered the offense's development.

Offensive Line: C+

The offensive line has limited the growth of the running game, mainly due to inexperience and injuries to sophomores Jack Hicks and Tyler Parish and redshirt freshman Eric Ball. Junior Scott Mitchell has been a bright spot at left tackle.

Defensive Line: C+

Despite the injury of senior defensive tackle Chance Talbert, freshman Alex Lowry and sophomore John Gioffre have been able to pick up the interior of the defensive line. Juniors Scott Solomon and Cheta Ozougwu have played well, with their 67 combined tackles already on pace to surpass their total of 80 last year.

Linebackers: C

The linebackers have been arguably the unit most decimated by injuries, with six linebackers sustaining injuries since the start of the season. Senior Terrance Garmon leads them in tackles with 33, as well as contributing 1.5 sacks.

Secondary: D-

There is little to say for a pass defense that is statistically one of the worst in FBS, surrendering 16 touchdowns through the air and 261 yards per game. Senior free safety Andrew Sendejo is 23rd in the nation in tackles with 64, but he will most likely miss the rest of the season with a sprained ankle.

Special Teams: A-

Perhaps the only bright spot on this team. Sophomore punter Kyle Martens is 16th in the nation in yards per punt. Turner has impressed on kickoff returns, averaging 25 yards per return, while senior kicker Clark Fangmeier has converted seven of 10 field goals and is perfect on 13 PATs.

Coaching: F

It is safe to say that offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher has done little to justify his hiring. The quarterback situation was far more drawn out than necessary, and the anemic offense has averaged only about two touchdowns per game. Head Coach David Bailiff has been unable to transfer his press conference quotations into in-game action.

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