The 2022 Rice Football recruiting class is the latest in a run of top-flight classes for the Owls and head coach Mike Bloomgren is embracing it.
We’ve all heard the refrain at some point in the season from one coach or another. You know how it goes. Whether it be preseason rankings, in-season polls, etc. When any given coach takes the podium he’ll offer comments like “We’re focused on us” and “one game at a time.” That’s what made how Mike Bloomgren handled the 2022 Rice Football Recruiting class so refreshing.
Bloomgren didn’t beat around the bush or deny that he and his team weren’t aware of how those outside the hedges perceived his program. He welcomed it, directly referencing the 247 Sports recruiting rankings in his opening address. “The two classes before I was hired here in 2016 ranked 129th in the nation, in 2017 they ranked 122nd. In each successive year, we’ve been able to raise that bar.”
The numbers bear that out. As it currently stands, the 2022 Rice Football recruiting class is the second-highest rated class in program history, trailing only the 2020 class. The fourth highest-rated class (2021) and the sixth highest-rated class (2019) also came in Bloomgren’s tenure. While the results on the field haven’t been up to level Bloomgren and his staff would like, the off-field metrics are skyrocketing.
Rice football has signed three straight Top 100 classes. That’s something Rice hasn’t done since 2012-2014. Six of the highest-rated signees in program history (Gabe Taylor – No. 1, DJ Arkansas – 7, Jake Bailey – 8, Rawson MacNeill – 11, Sean Fresch – 14, Davion Carter 18) have been Bloomgren’s guys. The three who have been on campus for more than one season were all starters by Year 2.
Beyond the rankings, the players they signed fit extremely well into what the Owls are building. It’s entirely possible that each of the three currently announced transfers could be opening day starters when Rice visits USC to kick off the 2022 season.
The “glaring” gap Bloomgren and the staff identified was the kicking game. They brought in Washington transfer Tim Horn to address it. The running back room cycled through several lead guys last year. Enter JUCO RB Dean Connors. August Pitre left in the Transfer Portal this month. Incoming Tulsa transfer Sam Crawford profiles as a bigger, healthier, faster player with a much better track record of health.
On the high school front. players like defensive lineman Davion Carter and Chibby Nwajuaku have the potential to fight for playing time quickly. Others like wideout Rawson MacNeill and offensive lineman Miguel Cedeno have prototypical measurables and raw athleticism that provide them sky-high ceilings as they develop. Across the board, this class has the potential to be special.
Recruiting director Alex Brown hosted a Twitter Spaces session on Wednesday, giving Bloomgren and the coaching staff the opportunity to parade their remarkable new additions in front of a national audience. People outside the Owls’ program were buzzing about what was happening at South Main. Respect national writers like Sam Khan Jr. of The Athletic voiced their approval.
So yeah, Bloomgren has probably earned the right to talk about those numbers. On the recruiting front, Rice is hitting home runs. All that’s left is to turn those into offensive touchdowns and defensive stops on Saturdays. From a process perspective, everything is on the right track.
Fittingly, Bloomgren alluded to the in-progress nature of this recruiting class and this program in his Wednesday remarks. “Not all sports are filled,” he said. “We’re not done getting better. But what a great day today is.” By any measure, that sure seems to be the case.
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