By Chuck Pool (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(NOTE:This is the first of a two-part series of interviews with the Rice football coordinators previewing their thoughts on spring drills. Today's installment is with co-offensive coordinator Billy Lynch who will take over the play calling duties in 2016).
Billy Lynch: After last year, as an offensive staff we took a long look at the things we were doing well and the things we didn't do as well and the thing that kept coming back to us-not only from what we were last year but also looking at the personnel we have coming into this season-was that we really felt like we needed to commit to execute more efficiently and create more explosive plays.
We have studied a lot of different offenses and met with or visited with multiple staffs this offseason and the common theme to productive offensive play is execution and explosives.
It's going to be a fun spring at the quarterback position. You can sense a difference in Tyler Stehling now that this is his opportunity to win the starting quarterback position. He has the skillset to make every throw we need to be made. He also is very intelligent. He has the ability to play at a high tempo and process things quickly. Yet he also has the arm strength and accuracy to put the ball in there when we don't have the ideal look.
The other part that will be very exciting is to see the two young guys this spring in J.T. Granato and Jackson Tyner. I know both of them are coming into the spring expecting to compete for the starting job. That's what you want. They are two talented guys who both have worked very hard to be in this position. It will be fun to see how ready Tyler is to compete with those two young guys for the job.
Nate German can be a factor at quarterback as well. Nate is a tremendous athlete and with the success he had last year at wide receiver, he could factor in at either spot and he will be on the field.
Individually, each of our running backs are great players. What's exciting is how each brings something a little bit different to the table.
Darik Dillard is steady. He can do a whole lot of things and you can always count on him. Samuel Stewart has all of the tools to be a complete back with tremendous feet and ball skills. He's a guy who can get in the slot and be a very disruptive. Jowan Davis is the guy who is so hard to tackle. He has great strength and is also a great blocker. Austin Walter is the guy who can score every time he touches the ball, but he also does not get enough credit for his ability to run between the tackles and how much more physical he became from a pass protection standpoint. Emmanuel Esukpa is the wild card who we can't wait to see in the spring and hopefully he'll be over a nagging hamstring, because he can give us that big, Charles Ross-type back that we haven't had the last two years.
Zach Wright is a Football Player. He will play wherever in order to make this team successful. He is a great leader for the receivers because of his approach and his productivity.
Parker Smith catches the ball well but also plays very physical. He is very steady and really came on last year when he got his chance. It will be a great competition between him and Temi Alaka, who has shown great flashes of what he can be.
As we evolved our direction for the slot position, we talked about moving Cameron Decell to the field and he adds a different look there with his length and ability to catch the ball.
James Mayden will be at the boundary with Zach and he's a guy who has all the tools. Trevor Long is also going to the boundary and as you saw him get healthy last year, we began to see what he could do. With the way he runs and being 6-5 and 225, that can be a very effective element out there. Cameron Johnson had an incredible year as a redshirt. Even with Lance Wright and Nate limited in what they can do as they come back from surgery, we will have some healthy competitions.
Darrion Pollard is exactly what you want in a slot receiver and after sitting out last year, he has worked so hard to get back into a position to play again. Aston Walter is really now in his natural spot on the field. With the depth we have at running back, we felt like this was a good move for Nahshon Elerbe, who could become the prototypical slot receiver.
Connor Cella is just a terrific football player who can do so many things. He can put his hand on the ground and take on a six technique, he's a good enough athlete to handle the H back stuff and he's a great route runner and pass catcher so we can line him up out wide.
Cole Hunt has had a great offseason and is ready to take the next step. Robby Wells redshirted last year and he has completely changed his body. He took the redshirt and busted his tail and looks terrific.
It's really exciting that we have the pieces of the puzzle to be really dynamic this year on offense. We just have to put it all together.
We knew last year that we would have growing pains because of the youth we had up front. Calvin Anderson, Peter Godber and Trey Martin were all in their first years as starters. Calvin was in his first year of playing, and basically so was Trey since he was on defense as a freshman. The injuries last year where we had guys bouncing around to spots where they weren't as comfortable now bodes very well for us this year since they now are comfortable in a number of roles if needed.
I think Calvin is ready to take a huge step forward after his first playing time and I think Trey is ready to take control of things at center. Peter was very steady in his first year of starting and he is now the veteran of the group. Connor Patterson is a senior who has had an exciting offseason after battling a number of injuries. We're looking forward to seeing him this spring because he gives us so much flexibility because of his ability to play multiple spots. Sam Pierce got thrown into battle last year and that experience will certainly help him as he goes to compete for the right tackle spot.
Another guy who we lost all of last year who has worked his tail off and is really making a push for his senior year is Brandon Dawkins and that will create some healthy competition at right tackle. Kenneth Thompson is another older player who has playing experience and will be in the mix. Unfortunately we won't have Cory Klingler in the spring as he comes back from surgery, but he's a guy who will be in the competition come fall. We have the two redshirts in Isaiah Edwards and Crockett Mokry who both have the body and skillsets to compete for a job.