The 2019 Rice Football signed 17 players during the early signing period including seven on offense and one on special teams. Here’s a further breakdown of the offensive signees.
Offensive line (3) – Hunter Jones, Nick Leverett, Regan Riddle
As long as Mike Bloomgren is in charge at South Main, offensive lineman are going to be a priority. Winning in the trenches is important for this offense so bringing in a high level of talent up front will be a focus of each successive recruiting cycle.
Rice brought in three different offensive lineman, each with a unique set of skills. Nick Leverett, a grad transfer from NC State, will slide into one of the starting tackle positions immediately. He played for offensive coordinator Jerry Mack at NC Central and was described by Bloomgren as someone with “NFL potential.”
Jones and Riddle profile as interior pieces, both of which with plenty of athleticism and ability. Jones was a team MVP in high school and Riddle led a line for a potent Highland Park offense which just won their third straight state championship this year.
Running back (1) – Jawan King
The graduation of Austin Walter plus the transfer of Emmanuel Esukpa presents a much thinner depth chart at the running back position for the Owls in 2019. Juma Otoviano and Aston Walter, who is petitioning the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility, will be the primary backs, but adding talent to this group was still important.
Jawan King isn’t just more talent; he has the potential to be special. King isn’t afraid to initiate contact and run through tackles, and he’s also a tremendous pass catcher with quick acceleration. It’s months before he’ll step foot on the practice field for Rice, but he’s already one of the best ambassadors for the culture coach Bloomgren is working to instill: high-quality football players who are getting a high-quality education.
Tight end (1) – Jack Bradley
There was limited involvement from the tight end position in year one under Mike Bloomgren, but growth should be expected going forward. The Owls utilized this position more for blocking than pass catching, but new addition Jack Bradley can do both. He’s 6-foot-5, 230-pounds and isn’t afraid to get physical at the point of attack. Yet another weapon for a developing offense.
Wide receiver (2) – Bradley Rozner, Zane Knipe
This duo brings complementary skill sets to the table. Zane Knipe is a shifty slot receiver who can stretch the field and take the top off the defense. Adding speed to both sides of the ball was a focus of this class and Knipe will be one of the fastest players on this team in 2019.
Bradley Rozner is the other side of the coin. Rozner led JUCO in receiving touchdowns last year with 13, the same number of receiving scores totaled by the entire Rice offense in 2018. He’s big (6-foot-5, 190 pounds) and physical. Offensive coordinator Jerry Mack called him “explosive” and a key piece in building an even better receiving corps.
The Owls lost their lone quarterback commitment on the first morning of the early signing period. Trevor Bycznski backed out at the 11th hour, leaving the staff with a blank at the position in December. They’re currently evaluating their options — expect Rice to target one more signal caller before National Signing Day in February.
Coach Mack was clear they weren’t going to start throwing out offers at random. “We’re going to take the right person. We want people that want to be here,” he said, before adding, “We want people that are talented enough to be elite players at this level.”
Specialists (1) – Zach Hoban
Rice faces a seemingly insurmountable challenge on special teams next year. They’ll have to find a way to replace to senior specialists with both Jack Fox and Hayden Tobola playing their last games for the Owls in 2018. Zach Hoban could ease the pain from the place kicking perspective.
Hogan has incredible range, recently kicking a 61-yard field goal in Dallas Cowboy Stadium following. The Owls struggled as a unit from deep range, adding someone with that much power is a big win for special teams coach Pete Lembo.