It’s been a busy month for the 2021 Rice Football recruiting class. The lack of in-person visits hasn’t slowed the Owls down on the recruiting trail at all.
The coronavirus pandemic has put the sports world in gridlock. The NCAA suspended all in person on-campus and off-campus recruiting through April 15, making adding new members to the class difficult, but not impossible. The 2021 Rice football recruiting class picked up four commitments in the week leading up to the stoppage and has continued to offer targets since in-person recruiting was temporarily halted.
I caught up with several of these players to get their interest on Rice and find out where they’re at in their recruitment process. Here’s a rundown of the names to know at some key positions, many of which have surfaced in the last few weeks.
The shifting dynamics on the recruiting front have impacted the Owls’ quarterback hunt significantly. Rice has altered its strategy to some degree, offering three quarterbacks this week rather than putting all their eggs in one basket. Extending these offers officially puts Rice in the mix for three dynamic signal-callers.
Shawqi Itraish (Bradenton, FL) says he’s been impressed with the consistency and focus of the Owls’ staff when it comes to building a relationship despite the long distance. He hasn’t been on campus yet but would love to as soon as he can.
Lucas Coley (San Antonio, TX) did get the chance to visit and liked what he saw. He said he understands the “40-year decision” that Rice offers and how unique an opportunity it would be to get a high-level degree and play D1 football would be. He likes the staff, but is most looking forward to seeing how the culture translates onto the field this fall. Proving this program is on the upswing is an important factor for him.
Jaylen Henderson (West Hills, CA) rounds out the trio of offered passers. Rice has made sound headwinds in California in recent years, landing Jake Bailey (2019) and Lamont Narcisse (2020). Adding someone with the finesse of Henderson, who can attack defenses both through the air and on the ground, would represent another big out-of-state win for the Owls.
It’s very early in the game for all three of these players. It’s important to note that Rice football recruiting offers are handed out with purpose. Rice would be happy to have any of these three as their cornerstone passer for the 2021 class.
Rice is going to be in very good position with its 2021 class. Faaenauu Pepe is already in the fold and the response has been overwhelmingly positive from the other targets Rice has offered on the offensive line. Canon Boone (Dickinson, TX) is the newest name to watch right now.
There’s a good chance Rice keeps their growing pipeline to the Northeast open with Khordae Sydnor. A standout pass rusher from Iona Prep, Sydnor is the No. 5 rated defensive end in the state of New York. Former Iona Prep players Jordan Dunbar and Derek Ferraro play for the Owls right now. Dunbar’s influence has been important for Sydnor as he explores Rice. On the local front, Stone Eby (Flower Mound, TX) has risen up as a target at that position.
On the interior, Bryce Goodner (Athens, TN) is a grown man that can play both ways, although the Owls want him on the defensive side. He’s hoping to get to campus whenever possible. He, Elroyal Morris (Houston, TX), and Grady Kelly (Navarre, FL) were both offered in the last several weeks. Morris was able to get to campus before the break. That seems to have been extremely beneficial in his recruitment.
Jaggar Hebeisen (Colleyville, TX) is another prospect that seemed particularly high on the Owls. At the moment, he’s the clear-cut No. 1 target at the tight end position. He’s looking forward to getting on campus as soon as he can, but the shutdown has stretched out his recruitment just like everyone else.
Two of the Owls’ four current commitments play linebacker, so Rice is really starting to narrow their focus here. DJ Arkansas (Denton, TX), Dylan Hazen (The Woodlands, TX) and DJ Brown (Memphis, TN) are the remaining offered players on the Owls’ board at this time.
Arkansas was the first defensive player Rice offered in this class. His stock has continued to rise. It’s possible the shutdown could aid Rice in his recruitment, but we’ll have to wait and see. Brown and Hazen have both seen an uptick in their interest in recent weeks with Hazen picking up an offer from Illinois this week.
Other recruiting notes
Rice did something interesting in their final spring practice. Without knowing it would be their last, head coach Mike Bloomgren flipped the position groups. Running backs did linebacker drills with the defensive coaches. Defensive lineman worked with Bloomgren and new o-line coach Sanders Davis. Prudy Calderon was a quarterback. Wiley Green played defensive back and even made a nifty play on the ball for a leaping interception.
The change made my head spin on the sideline, but the players had a blast. One upperclassman remarked on his way off the field that this was one of the most fun practices he’d ever been a part of at Rice.
Beyond lifting the spirits of the team, the recruits on hand picked up on the energy. Placide Djungu-Sungu (Arlington, TX) and Trevor Woods (Katy, TX) both told me they really enjoyed getting to see everyone playing their opposite roles.
Lastly, one overarching topic that has flown a bit under the radar regarding the 2021 class. SAT and ACT testing has been put on hold, along with everything else. At least for the time being, recruits are riding with whatever their last test score was. Getting the grade is an important first step in the recruiting process. It hasn’t appeared to limit the Owls’ much so far, but it’s another factor to keep in mind.Join The Roost. React to stories and news in the forum. Stay plugged into the latest happenings in Rice Football with practice notes recruiting updates and more. We are your No. 1 source for Rice Athletics News.
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