Junior College safety Naeem Smith is the latest 2019 Rice football commitment, joining the Owls class days before the early signing period.
The secondary, specifically the safety position, has been a clear priority for Rice in the 2019 recruiting cycle. The Owls have already received commitments from Hunter Henry and Kirk Lockhart, but got one more player in the final days before the early signing period: Naeem Smith.
Smith came away from his visit in awe saying the staff made him feel wanted. He echoes the same sentiments heard around South Main in recent weeks. The culture Miek Bloomgren and the staff have built is infections. More or coming to be a part of it, soon.
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The second Junior College member of the current class, Smith joins NJCAA leading receiver Bradley Rozner as a potential instant impact veteran player on the field in 2019. Smith is hard-hitting safety with two years of playing experience at the junior college level. Sliding him into the Owls secondary should free up Prudy Calderon to play centerfield while simultaneously strengthing the team’s presence at the line of scrimmage.
Rice beat out offers from Northern Iowa and Old Dominion to land Smith. By all accounts, he was absolutely thrilled with his visit to campus on the final official visit weekend of the year. He marks the third commitment in December and the 13th member of the 2019 Rice football recruiting class to date.
Unlike most high school players, Smith will be eligible to enroll in school as an early entrant. That means he’ll be on campus in January and practicing with the team this spring and be fully integrated into the defense by the time the season starts in the fall.
Smith is a downhill player with plenty of pop. In a defense searching for play makers he could be the answer. At the very least, he’s going to be a productive member of this team, quickly.