The 2020 Rice Football Recruiting class included two National Signing Day splashes. Here’s where the Owls stand with the class mostly complete.
Rice added four newly committed players on National Signing Day. JUCO linebacker Jaren Banks and Stanford kicker Collin Riccitelli, both of whom committed earlier in the week, made their decisions official as did two newcomers in the secondary.
Early Wednesday morning, Rice signed Gulliver Prep defensive back Gabe Taylor, the highest-rated player in program history. Later in the day, they added corner Lamont Narcisse, another Top 10 player the school has ever signed.
Several walk ons who have yet to be officially announced will be added to the 2020 Rice Football Recruiting class as well. Many won’t be expected to be significant onfield contributors anytime soon, but it’s worth remembering that center Issac Klarkowski and corner Tre’shon Devones each walked on last season and started multiple games for the Owls.
The New Signees
Taylor and Narcisse give Rice a rather impressive haul in the secondary. That pair, along with previously signed Sean Fresch, Jordan Dunbar and Plae Wyatt, should serve as much-needed reinforcements on the back end of the defense.
The Owls did a much better job of keeping balls in front of them in 2019, but still ranked 13th in C-USA in passing defense, allowing 241.9 yards per game. A sturdy safety corps manned by George Nyakwol, Naeem Smith and Prudy Calderon provides a strong base. Finding corners who can win on their own seems to be the missing ingredient. Hopefully one or both of Taylor and Narcisse can rise to the occasion.
247 Sports is the most unanimously accepted measuring stick among recruiting services. A star rating from their service isn’t infallible, but it’s a great guide on a macro level. By that standard, the 2020 Rice Football recruiting class is the highest-rated in program history. Better still, four of the top 13 commits to ever sign with the program will be on campus this fall.
No. 1. DB Gabe Taylor
No. 6 ATH Jake Bailey
No. 7 CB Lamont Narcisse
No. 12 ATH Sean Fresch
Taylor, Narcisse and Fresch weren’t outliers, rather they were part of a larger group of extremely talented players.
Bloomgren mentioned this being "the highest rated class in Rice history." He's right. Look at the rating of #FlightSchool20 compared over time since they were published in 2003. #GoOwls pic.twitter.com/F5SRnGS58r
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) February 5, 2020
Room to Improve
The 2020 Rice Football recruiting class is the No. 9 class in Conference USA. That’s a step up from the No. 11 class in 2019 and from No. 12 in 2018, but not the gigantic leap many were expecting. When the Early Signing Period was approaching in December, Rice had a top-two class and we were talking about the makings of what could become the best class in school history.
The decline in rankings is linked more to the number of signees than anything else. The Owls have signed 21 scholarship players so far. On Wednesday, Bloomgren detailed they would not fill the full 25. The recruiting services weight the quality as well as the quantity of players in signing classes.
Of the C-USA programs with 20 or fewer high school and JUCO signees like Rice, the Owls’ rank third. If Rice were to sign 25 players eligible for the 247 ratings, they would assuredly finish within the Top 5, at worst. But gaming the rankings aren’t of interest to the Rice coaching staff, nor should they be. They have bigger fish to fry.
So what’s next?
What Rice lacks in this class was a singular top-end super-star to put them over the top. It would be nice to see Rice land a Power 5 transfer with top-end talent and a track record of success at the Division 1 level. The Owls are looking at some skill position players on offense right now and are optimistic they’ll be able to sign one before summer workouts get underway. That would put a bow on a great 2020 recruiting cycle.
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