Blaze Alldredge was the enforcer who helped turn the defense into a dominant force and an easy selection for the 2019 Rice Football Team MVP
The path Blaze Alldredge took to Rice football stardom was anything but conventional. Alldredge played his high school ball in Florida before enrolling in a California junior college out of high school, betting that he could earn more prestigious offers down the line after another year of work. Despite registering 88 tackles and two interceptions in his freshman campaign, his choices were equally sparse.
As National Signing Day came and went, a return to junior college seemed imminent. Then Rice Football head coach Mike Bloomgren picked up the phone and invited Alldredge to come visit South Main. From that moment on, everything changed for Alldredge and for Rice.
Alldredge joined the Owls in mid-June without any fanfare. He instead he quietly inserted himself into classes and prepared for fall camp. Beginning the year as a backup, he worked his way into the rotation and was a starter by midseason. He’s not flying under the radar anymore. A late addition to Bloomgren’s first recruiting class, Alldredge has become the very ethos of the Rice football defense.
“I always knew the player I was. I was just waiting for my opportunity,” Alldredge said, reveling in the full circle his career had already taken. After registering 65 tackles in his inaugural D1 season, Alldredge became a certified rockstar on the field in 2019.
The sum total of his 12 performances was outstanding. The Owls’ starting linebacker notched 102 tackles, four sacks, a fumble, a fumble recovery and two passes defended. Of those 102 tackles, 21.5 came behind the line of scrimmage.
Alldredge’s 21.5 tackles for a loss were second-most in the nation, a half tackle more than presumptive No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Chase Young from Ohio State. He broke Larry Izzo’s school record for TFLs by a linebacker and finished a half tackle shy of Brian Womac’s school-record 22 TFLs in 2017. He spent as much time in the backfield as any Rice player did this season.
The nation took notice. By midseason Alldredge was retroactively added to the Nagurski Award watchlist, the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy for defensive players. He was the only Rice player named to the All Conference-USA first team.
There’s not much more he could have done on the field this season, but it’s what he did outside the white lines that made all the difference.
Just in case his incredible athleticism wasn’t enough, Alldredge committed to outworking everyone. Defensive coordinator Brian Smith said Alldredge “transformed his body in the offseason,” floored by how seriously he took the workout regimen. He dropped his body fat percentage to personal bests and finished neck-and-neck with fellow linebacker Antonio Montero in the team’s offseason workout competitions.
“Fatigue isn’t something that we even process in this program,” Alldredge said following the defenses’ signature game-winning final series against North Texas. “I’m never tired going onto the field,” he said, “I’m ready when my number’s called. I think everyone on the defense kind of embraces that same mentality that we’re not going to shy away from the limelight. We’re not going to make excuses that we’re too tired. We want to be on the field because we want to show how dominant we are.”
Dominant. If one were to describe Blaze Alldredge’s 2019 season in one word, that would be it. This marked the year the JUCO kid from Florida proved he belonged on the big stage. And not just belonged, that he was the Alpha on the field, patrolling the hash marks and ready to take on any challenger who dared run his direction.
He’s not done. As soon as the whistle sounded on the team’s third-consecutive victory Alldredge began his preparations for an even better 2020. “A big part about me choosing to come to Rice was [strength and conditioning coach] Hans [Straub]. When I met with him and I talked to him I was so excited for the chance to have somebody guide me toward where I wanted to take my body,” he said, “And truthfully, he’s going to do it again. So we gotta watch out for this next offseason.”
A player that impressive, with that kind of drive and another offseason to get better? Conference USA didn’t have an answer for Alldredge in 2019. His trajectory, and the trajectory of Rice football, is sky high.