Rice football might have found a position of strength on their defense after another strong showing from the linebackers in spring practice.
Spring practices continued on a windy Thursday afternoon at Rice Stadium. We’ve already hit on the lack of bodies available earlier in the week, but the guys who are on the field continue to make strides. Special teams and linebackers stood out on Thursday.
If there’s an early contender for strong position unit of the spring it might be the linebackers, at least the healthy ones. Ja’Quez Battley, Dylan James and Dylan Silcox have been sidelined with some seeing limited walkthroughs. The main rotation has consisted of Antonio Montero, Blaze Alldredge and Garrett Grammer.
Montero is instinctive and seeks out contact. He’s ready and willing to lay a blow on anyone with the football. The same goes for Alldredge who blew up a toss play six yards behind the line of scrimmage today, smothering the running back before he could turn and look up field. Grammer saw less playing time last fall, but has already made a strong case to see more of the field.
Position coach Scott Vestal called it “as good of a position as I’ve ever coached… through seven spring practices.” The caveat is his, but he might be on to something. Don’t be surprised if this trio becomes the backbone of a defense retooling the line and rotating in several new bodies in the secondary.
As it’s been throughout the duration of Mike Bloomgren’s time at Rice, special teams is woven through every practice. There hasn’t been much in the way of kickoff work yet, but the punt team got plenty of run on Thursday.
Beyond individual specialists, the punt coverage and return units look as crisp as ever. Special teams coordinator Drew Svoboda said the team was “lightyears ahead of where we were a year ago,” praising the foundation laid by Pete Lembo in the fall.
Chris Barnes has a tall task, taking over for CUSA Special Team’s Player of the Year and Ray Guy Award Semifinalist Jack Fox, but early returns have been solid. He hasn’t booted the cover off the ball just yet, but he’s working on a variety of kicks and has the potential to keep the legacy of great kicking going at South Main.
Kickers Will Harrison and Nick McQuarry haven’t had the strongest spring, yet. They’ll be pushed in the fall by incoming 2019 signee Zach Hoban. For now, the kicking job remains up for grabs. Through it all, Svoboda credits snapper Cam Riddle as “the glue” that holds these units together.
- Quarterback Wiley Green had a few nice progressions during drills today where you could tell he worked his reads until he found the open man. The mental capacity he has for the offense will play a significant role in how well it functions. This was a good day for him.
- Blaze Alldredge is tough as nails. He walked off the field for a breather, noticed he had a cut on his leg that was bleeding a bit, smirked and kept on walking.
- D’Angelo Ellis was back at corner today. Once the receiving corps gets healthy that’s probably where he’ll stay.