From a reserve to a marquee defensive player, Blake Boenisch was a difference maker this season and our 2022 Rice Football Rising Star.
If spring ball was any indication, Rice football was going to have an abundance of riches on the defensive line entering the 2022 season. Unlike at wide receiver where injuries thinned the group near the bare minimum number of bodies needed to operate, the defensive line was relatively healthy this year. Which made the emergence of Blake Boenisch, our 2022 Rice Football Rising Star, even more impressive.
When Boenisch arrived on campus, all the reports were glowing. Head coach Mike Bloomgren called him a “big specimen” with “a great mindset” heading into Boenisch’s true freshman season in 2021. The true freshman from Needville, TX would appear in two games, but not record any statistics.
Boenisch would be one of the first to tell you he had to get adjusted to the college game. Everything was a step up, from the workouts to the practice field. The coaching staff was patient, challenging him and working with him until things started to click this spring.
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“The kid is a freak of nature,” fellow teammate and captain Trey Schuman said of Boenisch. “He’s 6-3, 330 and can move. It’s not every day that you see somebody like him. Really the thing about Blake is his maturation process has been insane.”
Following the spring game, Bloomgren began a short synopsis of who he viewed as the players who stood out the most during the sessions. Blake Boenisch was near the top of the list.
“Blake Boenisch made the jump you want someone to take from freshman ball to spring,” Bloomgren said. “And I’m really encouraged by what he’s doing.” Those wishful platitudes would turn into bonafide praise soon enough.
Boenisch saw some action against USC but really made his mark in the Owls’ first home game of the year against McNeese State. De’Braylon Carroll was forced to exit the game early with an injury, opening the door for Boenisch who wasted no time in announcing his presence.
He racked up five tackles including 1.5 sacks, flashing time and time again. It was impossible not to notice how much impact he was having on the field, regardless of whether or not he registered any tangible statistic on the play. He changed the game, no small praise for someone working in just their fourth collegiate contest.
It was wheels up from that point onward. Boenisch would no longer be a “break glass in case of emergency” reserve. He became part of the active rotation, seeing meaningful minutes from that point onward.
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Boenisch had four tackles against UAB and four more against UTEP on his way to 28 total tackles for the season. Only Quent Titre (31) had more tackles from the interior line position and outside of Josh Pearcy (43 tackles) off the edge, Boenisch finished just five tackles short of Ikenna Enechukwu who is expected to be an NFL Draft selection this offseason.
When asked to sum up just how impactful the second-year player had been for the Owls, Bloomgren was almost at a loss for words. “Blake’s a lot to deal with,” he remarked, praising Boenisch on the heels of his second consecutive start of the season, which came against UTSA in mid-November.
Rice football will always employ a heavy rotation on the defensive line. Keeping players fresh is a maxim defensive coordinator Brian Smith will forever hold true. But make no mistake, Boenisch has climbed very near to the top of that pecking order and he’s not backing down any time soon.
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