The 2020 Rice Football Recruiting class features a ton of talent on the offensive side of the ball and a potential multi-year starter on special teams.
Quarterback (2) – Mike Collins (TCU), TJ McMahon (JUCO)
During Mike Bloomgren’s first season at Rice, Shawn Stankavage, Jackson Tyner, Evan Marshman, Parker Towns and Wiley Green took snaps at quarterback. 2019 was marginally better — Green, Tom Stewart and JoVoni Johnson were the primary options. The continuous theme in those jumbled lists is the inconsistency. Rice hasn’t had one singular guy they can count on at the most important position on the field.
Mike Collins is arguably the most high-profile addition this staff has brought in at the position. He won three state titles in four years in Connecticut and set the state record for touchdown passes. Then he bounced around from Penn to TCU. He’s a talented passer with FBS starting experience, something the Owls haven’t had in the past three classes. Most importantly, he’ll be here for the spring, giving him ample runway to learn the offense, a luxury neither Stankavage or Stewart were afforded.
Also an early enrollee, McMahon is less heralded, but an intriguing prospect nonetheless. He’s got a lot of raw talent and a clutch gene that’s been largely missing from the Rice quarterback room recently. Watch the first play of his junior highlights. Anyone can look good on one highlight-reel play, but the poise and playmaking ability McMahon shows are on another level.
Whether it’s one of those two, Green or Johnson who wins the job, Rice should have competent quarterback play next season. Bloomgren says he can rest happily, knowing that “for the first time since we’ve been here, whoever is going to be the starting quarterback is on campus in the spring.” If the defense maintains there stellar performance, that might be enough to flip some of those close losses to wins.
Running Back (2) – Kobie Campbell, Khalan Griffin
The running back room was arguably the deepest position group on offense last season, but they’ll have to replace Aston Walter, Nahshon Ellerbe and Charlie Booker next season. The 2020 Rice football recruiting class needed at least one potential producer. They got two.
Kobie Campbell is a guy who is deceptively powerful for his 5-foot-7 stature. He runs with a vengeance, but it’s his burst that should interest Owls the most. His ability to kick it into high gear at a moment’s notice is impressive. He has the ability to make one cut, hit the hole and pick up yards in bunches. He’s a swiss army knife who can do it all.
The other addition at the position didn’t play running back in high school. Khalan Griffin was a dual-threat quarterback who frequently made video game-esque runs seem easy. An injury cost him the latter portion of his senior season, but the Owls’ interest never wavered. Once he’s back to full health he’s going to be a difference-maker at the next level, one that offensive coordinator Jerry Mack went out of his way to identify as a player who “will find himself on the field sooner rather than later.”
This is a spot where Rice would probably consider adding a transfer, provided they find the right one.
Wide Receiver (1) – Andrew Mason
The immediate future at wide receiver seems particularly strong, but the depth is a bit lacking. Austin Trammell and Brad Rozner will be the 1A and 1B in this offense next season. Who else emerges from the rest of the pack remains to be seen. We saw a nice cameo from Zane Knipe at the tail end of the 2019 season as well as scattered plays here and there from Jake Bailey and August Pitre.
Andrew Mason has as good of a chance to see meaningful playing time quickly as any of the non-Trammell/Rozer options currently on the roster. The 5-foot-10 wideout is a dominant playmaker who can make people miss in space and haul in stunning catches when the ball gets to his general vicinity.
How dominant is Mason? In a game against eventual 10-2 Arkansas state champion Pulaski Academy this season, Mason went off for eight touchdowns, tying a Tennessee state record that had stood since 1994. Slowed with a cast on his left hand, Mason wasn’t originally supposed to play in the game at all, let alone be the key cog in a massive win.
After a few touchdowns, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out Ravenwood was going to throw the ball to Mason. The opposing defense knew exactly where the ball was going. They just couldn’t stop it. Mason can win over the top, across the middle and everywhere in between. He’s a potential game-breaker and a star in the making of an impressive 2020 Rice Football recruiting class.
Tight End (1) – Nate Kamper
Not all tight ends are created equal. The Owls know that better than most. Although you’ll only see one position listed, there are a few different specialized roles that are best suited for different kinds of players.
Rice relied on three tight ends to play the bulk of the snaps last season — Jordan Myers, Jaeger Bull and Jack Bradley. All three of them profile more so as blocking tight ends than downfield threats, combining for 38 receptions total in the past two seasons. They can catch ball, but that’s not their primary function while in the game.
Kamper falls into the latter category of tight end. He’s the kind of player you can line up in the slot or inline and ask to go downfield. His tall (6-foot-6), 200-pound frame makes him a potential problem down the seam, an area where he excelled in high school. Robert French and Jonathan Sanchez were two players penciled into this role for the 2019 season. Neither seized the job.
Kamper has the ability, he’ll just need some time in the weight room. He’s a raw talent, with a lot more football to learn. But he has all the traits to be a game-changer for the Owls in the middle of the field. Bloomgren said “he’s just scratched the surface of where he’ll be as a football player.”
Offensive Line (5) – Mike Leone, Braedon Nutter, Trey Phillippi, Adam Sheriff (JUCO), Jovaun Woolford (Colgate)
Most every Rice football recruiting class is going to include a heavy dose of offensive lineman. The Owls brought in three transfers at the position last season, all of which started when healthy. They’ll have to fill all three gaps this time around, making the additions of experienced players like Jovaun Woolford and Adam Sheriff big pickups for this group.
In an ideal world, true freshmen won’t crack the starting lineup for a program like Rice which will remain committed to keeping the cupboards stocked at that position. Rice would prefer to do what they did this season where they were able to play and redshirt members of the 2019 class like Isaac Klarkowski, Hunter Jones and Regan Riddle. That’s most likely the role many of these guys will fill next year.
Mike Leone and Trey Phillippi are the names to keep an eye on among the high school additions. Beyond their prototypical frames, they fill a need at the tackle spot. Amplified by the potential departure of Uzoma Osuji and the exit of grad transfer Justin Gooseberry, Rice needed this duo. The Owls didn’t bring in a true tackle in their last class, instead adding several high-caliber interior players who could be in the mix this season. Which brings us back to these tackles.
Bloomgren said Leone, who had Power 5 offers from ACC and Big 12 schools, “has all the tools to be a big-time offensive tackle in our conference. Standing 6-foot-5 and tipping the scales at 270 pounds, how quickly he assimilates into the offense in the fall will be an intriguing storyline to watch. He’s a guy who could be the potential heir to the left tackle spot following Clay Servin.
Phillippi is similar. His reach and ability to bend set him apart as an elite athlete with his hulking frame. These are top-end players. With grooming, these two could be bookends on the Rice line for years to come. Both will see the field in at least a redshirt capacity this season.
Kicker (1) – Collin Riccitelli (Stanford)
Chris Barnes is out of eligibility and heir apparent Zach Hoban is in the Transfer Portal. That left an opening at the place kicking spot which Rice will fill with Stanford transfer Collin Riccitelli. Although the math works out well enough, Rice had actually zeroed in on Riccitelli much sooner. Rice began their due diligence as soon as he entered the portal last fall.
Riccitelli was a career backup at Stanford, but the coaching staff is confident he’ll have a successful career at Rice. He didn’t ride the bench for lack of ability, rather he sat behind Jet Toner, the all-time leading scorer in Stanford history and a back-to-back All-Pac12 selection. Special Teams coordinator Drew Svoboda gave a nod to former Ohio State transfer turned LSU superstar Joe Burrow. Nobody is promising Heisman Trophies, but the expectations for Riccitelli are reasonably high.
The staff believes they’ll be able to secure a medical hardship waiver for an earlier season in Riccitelli’s career. That would give him two years to play two seasons at Rice.
Last update: Feb. 5, 2020
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