National Signing Day is in the books and the 2020 Rice Football Recruiting is jam-packed with defensive talent. Here’s an update on that side of the ball.
Defensive Line (2) – Cole Latos, Jalen Reeves
Getting to the quarterback has been a challenge for Rice in each of the past two seasons. Their 32 sacks are the fewest by any C-USA team over the past two years and 22 sacks fewer than the conference average over that span. The leader over the time, UAB, registered 3.4 sacks per game whereas Rice managed 1.3 per contest.
With Anthony Ekpe in the Transfer Portal and senior defensive tackle Myles Adams departing, Rice needs to find players who can become difference makers quickly at this position. Early returns look extremely favorable for the Owls, who landed two potential game-changing players here in the early signing period.
When they offered Cole Latos, there was uncertainty as to which side of the ball he would play on in college. His physicality and stature quickly endeared him to the Rice coaching staff. Bloomgren spoke of him as a player with legitimate “NFL measurables”. Latos settled in this season, pairing the body type with the production on the field. He’s emerged as someone the Owls have full confidence in plugging at defensive end.
The home run swing could come in the form of fellow edge rusher Jalen Reeves. His offer list was impressive — LSU, Syracuse, NC State, Pitt and Boston College, among others — but it only took him one day on campus to decide this was the place for him. Reeves is a true havoc wreaker with a proven track record of harassing quarterbacks. If any of the current commits in the front seven becomes an early star, it’s safe to bet on Reeves to break through quickly.
Reeves’ recruitment had a very “De’Braylon Carroll” feel to it. The entire time both players were being courted by the Owls, the questions being asked behind the scenes were “This guy is too good and he’s dominating everyone he plays. Why hasn’t anyone picked him up already?” Carroll ended up on the Pro Football Focus All-Freshman team playing behind Myles Adams this season. It kind of feels like that might be Reeves’ floor, especially considered the size of the potential opportunity.
Linebacker (2) – Geron Hargon, Jaren Banks
Rice has relied on a two-linebacker set for most of their defensive snaps. As long as Blaze Alldredge and Antonio Montero are on campus, the need for additional reinforcements at that decision won’t be too high, especially with guys like Garrett Grammer ready in the reserves.
The staff had some liberty to be particularly choosy with their linebacker offers, ultimately zeroing in Geron Hargon, who picked Rice over UAB, and JUCO product Jaren Banks
Hargon is a prototypical mike linebacker, capable of traversing the whole field from side to side and moving quickly to the ballcarrier in space. His senior season ended abruptly with an ACL injury, but not before Hargon could put an exclamation point on his high school career. Hargon returned to the game after the injury, scooping up a fumble and rumbling down the field for a defensive touchdown.
Banks spent two seasons in the JUCO ranks, improving from Year 1 to Year 2. The staff hopes to see the same progression as he plays out his remaining two seasons of eligibility at South Main. Coach Bloomgren profiled him in accordance with Antonio Montero, a “ballhawk” with “the ability to run and hit”. The ball finds him.
Safety (2) – Plae Wyatt, Gabe Taylor
Safety is another spot where the team has plenty of depth. The playmaking ability of Naeem Smith and the reliability of George Nyakwol combine for arguably one of the better safety duos in Conference USA. And that’s prior to considering Treshawn Chamberlain’s breakout season at the Viper spot. Rice was more than happy to ride their commitment of Plae Wyatt to his signing on Wednesday.
Wyatt was the first commitment of the 2020 class and stuck to his word for 10 months when he made it official by signing his letter of intent. A four-year varsity starter, Wyatt is a hard hitter, comfortable making plays on ball carriers in space. His coverage game continues to progress, making him one of the better all-around players in an impressive 2020 Rice Football recruiting class. There’s as much depth to his game as any of the Owls’ defensive signees.
Getting to study under players like Smith and Chamberlain will only elevate his already strong game. Like both of those two, he has a similar ballhawking-style to his game.
Gabe Taylor was the signature addition of National Signing Day. His addition helped make the 2020 Rice Football recruiting class the highest rated in school history. Taylor somehow managed to fly under the radar after only playing one year of high school football. That’s likely the only reason Rice was able to land him. Now he’s the highest-rated signee in Rice football program history.
Taylor posted a gaudy 10 interceptions as a senior, returning half of them for touchdowns. That’s an absurd stat line at any level of football. The younger brother of the late Sean Taylor, Gabe is rooted in football and ready to make a name for himself.
Corner (3) – Sean Fresch, Jordan Dunbar, Lamont Narcisse
Jordan Dunbar was the first corner in the 2020 class, making his pledge to the Owls early in the summer. Listed at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, Dunbar is a great cover man who will instantly bolster the corner room. He has the size and skills to play on the edge at this level.
The second cornerback signee, Sean Fresch, was on campus for the Owls’ junior day this summer. The staff didn’t let him leave without an offer, and for good reason. They saw him run a 4.39 and already knew how good he was on the field. As it stands, he’s also the third highest-rated commitment of the Mike Bloomgren era.
Recall back to when Tre’shon Devones turned heads when he won a starting corner job midway through the 2019 season. 2020 signee Sean Fresch could be right behind him. A high school quarterback, Fresch is one of the most dynamic players in the 2020 Rice Football recruiting class. It doesn’t take more than a glance at his film to see how versatile and game-breaking he can be for the Owls. He’s quick with plenty of extension, a state qualifier in the long jump during this past track season.
Landing those two was a good start, but Rice fortified the position with Lamont Narcisse who picked Rice over Washington State. Narcisse has elite speed. He’s someone Bloomgren described as “a true cover corner”, one that Rice could trust to win one-on-one battles as soon as this upcoming fall.
Last update: Feb. 5, 2020
Subscribe on Patreon for exclusive Rice football recruiting updates, practice notes and more.