Players to Watch: Rice

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sean Chu | Rice Thresher

Quarterback Driphus Jackson
Texas faces a dangerous offensive weapon in Owls quarterback Driphus Jackson. The redshirt senior had a breakout 2014 season, passing for 2,842 yards and leading Rice to an 8-5 record including a 30-6 win over Fresno State in the Hawai’i Bowl. Jackson ranked third in the nation with an average 14.88 yards per completion, and he also had 401 rushing yards on the season. Jackson is on track to repeat last year’s success, as Rice blew past Wagner 56-16 in its season opener in Houston. Jackson threw for 123 yards and a touchdown and added a 43-yard touchdown on the ground with 79 rushing yards. After the Texas defense’s inability to contain quarterback Malik Zaire and the Notre Dame offense, dual-threat Jackson could pose problems for a sleepy Texas secondary.

Running back Darik Dillard
Rice returns its leading scorer in redshirt junior Darik Dillard, who amassed 12 touchdowns and ran for 652 yards in 2014 with a team-high 4.9 yards per carry. He ran for a career-best 141 yards in a 28-14 win over Hawai’i last season. Rice continued to utilize Dillard in the running game last week against Wagner, as he rushed for 93 yards and two touchdowns, adding to Rice’s 401 yards on the ground. While Rice’s offensive line isn’t near the caliber of Notre Dame’s, Texas’ defense needs to be prepared for the Owls’ run game and prevent the talented backs such as Dillard from breaking through and doing some serious damage.

Running back Austin Walter
Redshirt freshman Austin Walter had a collegiate debut to remember. Walter rushed for a game-high 107 yards and scored his first career touchdown with a 32-yard run en route to Rice’s blowout win over Wagner. The redshirt freshman averaged 8.9 yards per carry and could be a key part of Rice’s offense if star running back Jowan Davis is not healthy enough to play this weekend after injuring his ankle in the season opener.

Linebacker Alex Lyons
Redshirt junior Alex Lyons leads a fairly young Rice defense in rebuild mode this year. Lyons anchored the Owls’ defense in 2014 with a team-leading 71 tackles, 44 of which were solo. Lyons registered seven tackles last week against Wagner as the Rice defense held the Seahawks to only 86 rushing yards and 16 points. Texas’ weak offense will need to work around Lyons and take advantage of a Rice defense that lacks experience.

Running back Jowan Davis
Junior Jowan Davis led the Owls in 2014 with 956 rushing yards, averaging 73.5 yards per game and exceeding the 100-yard mark in three games. A consistent piece in Rice’s offense, Davis’ career-best 150 yards came in a 45-42 loss to Old Dominion last season. However, Davis suffered an ankle sprain in the first half of last week’s game against Wagner. There is no word on whether he’ll play against Texas.