|Rice recruiting '04
Rice head coach Ken Hatfield speaks to press at R-Room
Hatfield: This year's recruit list short but sweet
Rice inks 14 prep stars including 7 from area
'Weve always felt in recruiting that were going to recruit character
'Weve got to have somebody that will graduate from Rice not just get
'We wanted a strong-legged kicker, who we felt could kick the ball a long way, for
'Sometimes you find yourself needing some skill-type people who can come in there
and do something right away'
HOUSTON (Feb. 4) Rice head football coach Ken Hatfield announced a
class of 14 signees inking national letters of intent on this, the signing day for the
Class of 2008 and, as one might expect, the veteran Owl mentor said he and his
staff accomplished what they needed to accomplish; they got what they needed to get.
"We felt as we always have," Coach Hatfield told gathered press amid a bank
of TV cameras Wednesday afternoon in the R Room. "Once again, weve felt like we
got what we needed to have to balance out our team."
"Im extremely happy with the 14 young men we have. It does bring us
right back up to our limit; but the main thing, too, is that theyre all quality
people. Weve always felt in recruiting that were going to recruit character
first, and the people who are good people; people who re going to be good teammates;
people that care about other people so that we can have the best team we can have to
represent Rice University at all times."
Perhaps he was referring to some recent, er, shall we say, de-matriculations
among Rice lettermen, or perhaps he was just speaking generally, but
Coach Hatfield was quick to make reference to the need for getting guys who can make the
grade on South Main.
"The thing were always looking for, is that weve got to have
somebody that will graduate from Rice not just get in," he quipped.
"Thats why our graduation rates have always been high; thats why
weve always been recognized for it. The American Football Coaches Association has
recognized Rice for 17 years in a row, as having graduation rates for the football team,
that are over seventy per cent or above."
This group appears to have more than its share of true scholar-athletes, and
for the most part appears to be headed for the red shirt routine something
that Coach Hatfield says he feels is helpful to his program. "What were always
looking for, is after these new guys have been with us for two years, can they put us in a
position to win the conference."
He and his staff appear to recruit like a thrifty housewife at the Safeway
they make a shopping list, and then they try to stock the pantry. "We recruit
the players we need whether we need a quarterback, a center, a kicker, or
whatever," Coach noted. "So thats always been our philosophy as long as
Ive been a head coach, and it has not changed. And thats why were
extremely happy to get the 14 young men that we do have."
Group shows balance on offense, defense
This list of signees shows a relative balance, including seven new Owls on
offense, six players on defense, and one kicker. "Our immediate needs focused on us
losing our kicker, Brandon Skeen, and then we had to have another field goal and kickoff
man," Coach Hatfield said. "So this year we were able to go out and recruit Luke
Juist. Luke is an outstanding kicker; hes been one of the top twelve young kickers
in the country. The highlight film shows that even kicking off at the 40 yard line, he hit
several kickoffs out of the back of the end zone."
"That was one of the things we were looking for. We wanted a strong-legged
kicker, who we felt could kick the ball a long way, for kickoffs and then also be
very accurate to compete with Brennan Landry for field goals, so we always have a couple
of field goal kickers. That was the immediate need."
Then there was the rather urgent matter of stockpiling some warm bodies at the
quarterback spot. Rice wound up adding the services of a well-regarded legacy, that being
Tommy Henderson, of Wichita Falls High, who you guessed it is the brother of
this years senior starter and three-year letterman at the man-under spot, Greg
"You can never have enough, in our system," Coach said. "Tommy
and Greg have been coming to our football camps most of the time for seven or eight years.
Tommy has had an outstanding career at Wichita Falls and just done a great job. Hes
a tremendous runner; a tremendous passer; and he has had good balance in everything
hes done in high school."
"Hes a lot different type of athlete than his brother. Greg is an
extremely hard worker; one of the strongest guys that we have in the weight room. Tommy is
probably more of a natural athlete; things probably come more easily for him. And yet he
is a very competent quarterback, and one who has already run our offense, so we feel very
excited about having him."
Film clips of Tommy Henderson wowed alumni at the booster's barbecuse held at
the R-Room Wednesday evening.
As it turned out, he wasnt the only quarterback the Rice staff went after,
but he was the only one they wound up signing. Thats neither a disaster, nor a fait
accompli, Coach Hatfield told us.
"We went after another quarterback; we always want to end up with the
possibility of getting two quarterbacks," he said. "That didnt work out
but its always still a possibility for where it is that could happen;
we could end up getting another quarterback."
Receiver high on Rice shopping list
A third item high up on the shopping list was another receiver. "We ended
up getting Jerry Dillard, from San Antonio," Coach Hatfield announced. "He has a
great vertical jump, in the films weve seen we thought he could really leap
high and come down with the ball. He has played basketball; Ive watched him play
basketball and was really impressed with his physical skills, and what hell be able
to do as a receiver for us."
Other than those areas of special priority, there was an attempt made to
bring in some linemen types, on both sides of the ball.
"We have three offensive linemen that we think are really strong; that can
run and do the job for us that we expect of them," Coach said. "We ended up with
three defensive linemen; a couple of them remind me a lot of Terrence Melton, who we had
hear a few years back extremely quick at defensive end spot."
As for the defensive secondary, Owl fans can think "nickel" as
in the nickel defense. Rice ended up recruiting three defensive backs. "Here, we felt
like this year we needed to get cornerback-type people who can go one-on-one," Coach
said. "Theyre all kind of like point guards in basketball, and as much as
people are spreading out on offense these days, some times you need extra guys in there to
try and cover when teams send out five receivers, they always end up trying to get a
mis-match between a receiver and a linebacker. So, anyway, we ended up with more
cornerback types, this year, whereas last year we recruited more safety types."
Of the group of 14, Hatfield and Co. ended up with seven boys from the Houston
area. "We think thats important because they have an advantage in their
families and friends being able to see them play," Coach said. "They have
the ability to help out and take some other guys who live much farther away from home,
with them from time to time, to their homes here, so they get a home away from home. And
also, the more we sign here, the more friends and family members they have here, which
cant hurt our crowd any. So we always have good reasons for trying to sign local
The group also features fewer out - of - staters than is usually the case, as
well. "We only got two guys this year from out of state" Coach Hatfield
remarked. "One from Louisiana, David Berken, who wants to be a doctor, and is an
outstanding offensive lineman. And also Brandon King from Moss Point, Mississippi, one of
the great programs in all of high school football. Brandon was Drew Clardys teammate
from last year. Those were the only two out-of-staters we ended up getting this
Another athing notable among this year's recruits lies with the fact that fully
half of them come from Class 5A - level high school programs, so there's less of a
small-town slant. Again, recent Owl defections typically have come from small-town
kids who've found the urban atmosphere of Rice a big bite to chew.
Juist only frosh sure to play in fall
The highly-touted kicker, Luke Juist, is the only recruit wholl definitely
get the nod for playing time as a true frosh, Coach said. "I definitely know Luke
will play, because weve got to have a kickoff man, and thats one thing we know
he can add to us right now with the strength of his leg."
Other than that, Tommy Hendersons got to be ready at quarterback, Coach
said, even though therell be big brother Greg and redshirt freshman Joel Armstrong
lined up in the depth chart ahead of him. Yup, Coach says Joel is in school and he expects
him out on the field in March when spring drills begin. "Still," he added,
"weve played several freshmen before, because of injuries. So Tommy will have
to be ready."
And the other true frosh likely to see action this fall would be the
receiver, Jerry Dillard. "Sometimes you find yourself needing some skill-type people
who can come in there and do something right away," Coach said, alluding to this
talented new recruit..
"As for the rest, weve told them to get ready to play, but in all
likelihood well redshirt them like weve done in the past."
The 2004 recruits
Rice recruiting '04 weblog
(SammytheOwl.com: Mark Sanders)
SammytheOwl '04 commitment list
Rice recruiting prospects list
Owl parents speak out
2003 season, week-by-week...
(Webletter feature -- game stories, photos, links)
DMN's state, area Top
(Dallas Morning News)
Max Emfinger's National Top 500
Whoa, Mule! Owls ink SA quarterback
(Rice Sports Info -- Feb. 13)
Lamar recruit excited about becoming an Owl
(West U. Examiner -- Feb. 4)
Football: 2004 Freshman Recruits
Name, Position Hgt. Wgt. 40-Speed Hometown (High
David Berken, OL 6-3 260 5.1 Thornwell, La. (Crowley Notre Dame)
Jonathan Carroll, RB/DB 5-10 170 4.4 Houston (St. John's)
Dietrich Davis, DE 6-4 225 4.8 Brackettville (High)
Jarett Dillard, WR 5-11 160 4.5 San Antonio (Sam Houston)
Tommy Henderson, QB 5-11 175 4.5 Wichita Falls (High)
Vernon James, DL 6-1 210 4.7 Houston (Spring Westfield)
Luke Juist, PK-P 6-1 190 4.6 Houston (Strake Jesuit)
Brandon King, DB 5-9 170 4.45 Moss Point, Miss. (High)
Nathan Miller, OL 6-4 270 4.98 Rosharon (Alvin)
Todd Mohr, DL 6-2 255 4.9 Houston (Cypress Creek)
Will Moss, TE 6-4 235 4.7 Bonham (High)
Ja'Corey Shepherd, DB 5-10 175 4.6 Lufkin (High)
Bencil Smith, DB 5-11 176 4.5 Houston (Lamar)
Austin Wilkinson, OL 6-2 265 5.1 The Woodlands (High)
Whoa, Mule! Owls ink SA quarterback
(Rice Sports Info -- Feb. 13)
Biographies, Coach Hatfield's comments
DAVID BERKEN, OL 6-3, 260, 5.1, THORNWELL, LA. (CROWLEY
All-state selection for coach Lewis Cook... Wendy's
High School Heisman nominee... All-Acadia Parish and alldistrict... Also competes in
golf... Academic all-state... Louisiana Boys State delegate... Three-year member of Who's
Who Among American High School Students... Winner of a DAR Good Citizen Award, and
participated in the Literary Rally and Beta Club... Senior class vice president...
Allstate compsite team... Interested in majoring in pre-med
Recruited by Roger
"David is one of the two guys we got from out-of-state; hes
from Louisiana; went to Notre Dame High School. Hes an All-State selection, and
hes Academic All-State, too. He went to the Louisiana Boys State; he was
senior class vice-president. He wants to be a doctor; that was one of his choices early in
the process. We got his name early from some Rice people here in town, who told us about
him in the middle of the season; we looked at him and saw that he was doing an outstanding
job. We really like the way he plays, about 265 or 270 right now. He can pull and move,
and hes got great feet. And thats what were looking for. He wanted to
come here, and I think hes just a great Rice fit, all around, both with academics
and in football. I dont think theres any doubt about it."
JONATHAN CARROLL, RB-DB 5-10, 170, 4.4, HOUSTON (ST.
Played for coach Steve Gleaves... Had more than 1,500
all-purpose yards and 18 touchdowns in '03, his only season playing for the Rebels...
Rushed for more than eight yards per carry with 14 rushing TDs to earn all-Southwest
Preparatory Conference honors... Named St. John's offensive MVP... All-SPC in basketball
as a junior and played for the national championship AAU under-16 team... A commended
scholar in the National Achievement Scholarship Program... Founder of Athletes With
Instruments and has played the cello for 10 years... Comes from an athletic family: his
father was a Stanford football teammate of John Elway, an uncle is the former American
recordholder in the high jump, one cousin is currently the captain of the Harvard men's
basketball team, and another cousin is world super welterweight boxing champion
"Sugar" Shane Mosley... Interested in studying pre-law at Rice... Recruited by
"Jonathan is a running back; only played for one year, right here at
St. Johns. He had over 1,500 yards, all-purpose and a whole bunch of touchdowns He
plays basketball he played on the national championship AAU basketball team,
16-and-under. His daddy is on the Stanford board; he was a teammate of John Elways
at Stanford -- his dad and mother both graduated from Stanford. Jonathan has been to our
camp in the summers, and our coaches liked him because he has such quick feet doing
all of our running drills we do; weve got a chance, here, with him, to go with
character. We feel like he can play running back or defensive back for us."
DIETRICH DAVIS, DE 6-4, 225, 4.8, BRACKETTVILLE (HIGH)
Played for coach David Yeager... Wendy's High School
Heisman all-America honoree... Named all-southwest Texas as a defensive end and as a tight
end as a senior... District 30-2A's defensive MVP and a first-team all-district selection
at tight end... Also a two-way all-league pick as a junior, and the district's defensive
newcomer of the year as a sophomore... Named all-district in both basketball and baseball
as a junior... Member of Brackettville's chapter of the Fellowship of Christian
Athletes... Interested in studying managerial studies at Rice
"From down at Brackettville I know all of you have been there
at one time or the other; its nice there. He was a High School All-American honoree;
he was defensive MVP of the district; first team all-district as a tight end, and also
plays defensive end. He plays basketball; he plays baseball; hes a great all-around
athlete; he wears a size 15 shoe! We really liked him as an end a defensive
lineman, and one we think that can run. Well add some strength to him
hes already a lot bigger now than N.D. (Kalu) was coming out of high school, but has
a lot of similar characteristics as N.D."
JARETT DILLARD, WR 5-11, 180, 4.5, SAN ANTONIO (SAM
Played for coach Russell Tatum... Two-time
all-District 28-4A selection at wide receiver, adding all-area honors as a senior...
Academic all-state selection in '03... Also competes for the Hurricanes in basketball and
track... Helped Sam Houston to the Class 4A state basketball tournament in '03, and
competed in the regional track meet in '03 in both hurdles events... Has ranked first in
his class academically throughout his high school career... Member of the National Honor
Society and served as a class officer... Interested in Rice's managerial studies
Recruited by Scott Wachenheim.
"Next weve got Jarrett Dillard; hes a wide receiver, from
Sam Houston High School in San Antonio Buckys (Allshouse) old stompin
grounds, there. A two-time all-district selection at wide receiver, academic all-state. He
plays basketball, runs track. He helped his team into the state basketball tournament last
year. Hes ranked right now number one, and will be the valedictorian of his senior
class. So hell be making a speech later this year. He has about a 37 or 38 inch
vertical jump, and great leaping ability."
TOMMY HENDERSON, QB 5-11, 175, 4.5, WICHITA FALLS (HIGH)
Two-time District 5-4A offensive MVP for coach Chris
Ross... Two-time all-district quarterback, and the league's sophomore of the year as a
defensive back in '01... The Red River 22 MVP as a junior, and firstteam on that honor
team as a senior... Second team all-West Texas QB as a junior... Rushed for 2,213 yards as
30 TDs, and passed for 1,896 yards and 25 scores during his career at Old High... Member
of the academic all-state team... Also competes in baseball and track... District MVP in
baseball as a junior, and member of the Coyotes' 4x400-meter relay squad which qualified
for the regional meet last spring... Member of the National Honor Society... Brother of
Owl senior quarterback Greg Henderson
Recruited by Steve Kidd.
"I think youve seen this name a few times. Tommy Henderson, of
course, is from Wichita Falls. He was his districts offensive MVP for the past two
years; he rushed for 2,200 yards; 30 touchdowns, passed for 1,900 yards and 25 touchdowns
during his career. He plays baseball and track, and of course has been to our summer camp,
as well, about seven or eight years. He also has one younger brother coming up; hes
in the seventh grade now. Thats the next Henderson were going to get
hes five-foot- seven, now, in the seventh grade, and a heck of an athlete. Tommy is
a different kind of athlete than Greg. While Greg is as strong as anybody on our team,
Tommy is a more natural, fluid athlete. Of course hes been running our system and
weve watched him here in our camp for a number of years, and weve always
really liked him. We had to have Tommy, and were glad he decided to come here."
VERNON JAMES, DE 6-1, 210, 4.7, HOUSTON (SPRING WESTFIELD)
Played for coach Ron Lynch... Named all-District 15-5A
at defensive end and was the Mustangs' defensive line MVP... Interested in studying
engineering at Rice
Recruited by John Bland.
"Vernon is a defensive end for Westfield, here in town. Vernons
daddy played for us when I coached at the University of Florida, a long time ago, as a
defensive back. His sister plays on the Lady Owl basketball team. Vernon is a lot like
Terrence Melton; if any of you would remember Terrence and the way he played.
Vernons that way. He played for Ron Lynch; he was all-district as a defensive end,
and defensive line Most Valuable Player and you can see why. He can really run, and
we really like him."
LUKE JUIST, P-PK 6-1, 190, 4.6, HOUSTON (STRAKE JESUIT)
First-team selection on the all-Greater Houston team
for coach Ron Counter... Led the Houston area in kick-scoring with 79 points as a
senior... Made 23 field goals during his junior and senior campaigns... Ranked as the
number-18 kicker in the country by Rivals.com... Was the Crusaders' starting strong safety
and was the defensive MVP in the 2003 Jesuit Bowl... Named one of the top 12 underclassmen
in the first annual National Kicking Competition in '03... Also competes in soccer and
track for the Crusaders... Interested in studying mechanical engineering at
Recruited by Steve Kidd.
"We had to have a kicker a kickoff man and another field goal
kicker. Luke Juist, from here in town, is the only kicker we went after this year
because he was the best. Coach Kidd said hes had his eye on him for the last three
years. Steve recruited him hard, and Luke is an outstanding young man first team
all-greater Houston selection. He kicked 23 field goals the last two years, and he also
played strong safety. He was the defensive MVP in the bowl last year. Plays soccer, runs
track. Youll see he has a tremendously strong leg. Hes been one of the top
twelve young kickers in the country, and has several field goals of over 50 yards."
BRANDON KING, DB 5-9, 170, 4.45, MOSS POINT, MISS. (HIGH)
Four-time all-district selection for coach Jerry
Alexander... Second-team all-state as a junior... Three-time seelction to the all south
Mississippi squad... Team captain and defensive MVP... Selected to play in the
Mississippi-Alabama all-star game... Listed as one of the top 40 players in Mississippi by
the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, and as one of the top 10 from the Mississippi gulf coast by
the Biloxi Sun Herald... Also an all-state selection in basketball and competes in track
and baseball... Won a Sammy Award from USA Today... High school teammate of Owl deep
snapper Drew Clardy
Recruited by Barney Farrar.
"Brandon King is our second out-of-stater. Hes from Moss Point,
Mississippi; a teammate of Drew Clardys there. They have a tremendous, tremendous
program always have. Theyve won more state championships in the last ten
years than anybody else in Mississippi. They can play. Brandons a four-time
all-district; a three-time selection to the All-South Mississippi all-star squad. He was
their team captain and was selected Most Valuable Player. He was selected this year to
play in the Mississippi-Alabama all-star game. He plays basketball, baseball, and runs
track. This is another one of Coach Farrars Mississippi boys, and we just know
hes going to be a good one. Hes done just an outstanding job."
NATHAN MILLER, OL 6-4, 270, 4.98, ROSHARON (ALVIN)
Two-time all-District 24-5A for coach Mike Bass...
All-Brazoria County and a preseason all-state selection... Nominated for the All-American
Bowl... Third-team all- Greater Houston as a junior... Tabbed a top 100 selection by Super
Prep... Also competes for the Yellow Jackets in track, soccer and powerlifting...
Interested in Rice's managerial studies program
Recruited by Barney Farrar.
"Another local young man, from down in Alvin. Nathan was a two-time
all-district, nominated for the All-American Bowl, and a Super Prep Top 100. Hes
going to be a big fella. Now Nathan had a couple offers from a couple of the big BCS
schools, and he turned them down to stay here close to home and play for Rice. And we
awfully glad to have him."
TODD MOHR, DL 6-2, 270, 4.9, HOUSTON (CYPRESS CREEK)
Two-time all-District 16-5A for coach Greg McCaig...
Team captain... Led the Cougars in sacks as a senior... Competes in the field events for
Cy Creek's track team, qualifying for the regional meet in the shot put... Also plays
golf... Who's Who Among High School Athletes... Recognzied on the A-B honor roll
throughout high school... Plans on majoring in managerial studies at Rice
Recruited by John Bland.
"Todd, too, is from here in town, out at Cy Creek. Hes a
defensive lineman; he was the team captain, made all-district twice. Competed on the track
team; threw the shot put. Plays a good game of golf. All you golfers, I think youll
wind up seeing his dad playing in all the tournaments we have, too. And if you have a
chance to do it, youll want to team up with him, and not be agin him. He can
play hes been playing Senior Circuit; hes done a little bit of
everything. And his sons not such a bad athlete, either. He was on this team, the
USA team that won the global high school Super Bowl here the other day, defeating the
Canadian team, 31-0. Thats a great honor for him, and a great thrill that he was
selected to play. He played well in the ball games here last week. Hes a good
WILL MOSS, TE 6-4, 235, 4.7, BONHAM (HIGH)
Four-year letterman for coach Ronnie Hill... Two-time
all-District 10-3A selection, taking honors as a junior defensive end and a senior tight
end... League's defensive player of the year as a senior and member of the Sherman
Herald-Democrat's all- Texoma team... Team captain... Academic all-state as a senior...
The Purple Warriors' lineman of the year as a junior... Also lettered in basketball, golf
and tennis... Currently ranks fifth in his class... Has received academic excellence
awards in 2001-02-03, and named an academic allstar as a sophomore and junior... Active in
a mentor program for elementary school chrioldren in Bonham... Hopes to study pre-law or
managerial studies at Rice
Recruited by Charlie Rizzo.
"Will was a four year letterman up in Bonham. He was named his
teams defensive player of the year, and was also named by the local paper to the
All-Texoma team. He plays basketball, golf, tennis. He ranks fifth in his class; wants to
go to law school. Hell play tight end for us, and were looking forward to
JA'COREY SHEPHERD, DB 5-10, 175, 4.6, LUFKIN (HIGH)
All-District 11-5A and all-East Texas for coach John
Outlaw... Helped the Panthers to the league title with 65 tackles, six interceptions and
14 pass breakups... Received the Fighting Panther Award for his dedication and hard
work... Also won all-district honors for Lufkin's state semifinalists in '02 with 52
tackles, four interceptions and eight PBUs... Three-year letterman in track and won two
monograms in powerlifting... Played on Lufkin's state championship team as a sophomore in
'01... Four-year member of the student council
Recruited by Roger Hinshaw.
"A young man from up here in Lufkin; they had, I think, nine boys
sign scholarships today, off their team. They won the state championship a couple of years
ago, and JaCorey was on that team. He was a three-year letterman in track; was on
the power lifting team. He was part of that state championship team as a defensive back
for John Outlaw. John, weve known for about 20 years. Hes done a great job up
at Lufkin, and JaCorey comes highly recommended and has had great coaching."
BENCIL SMITH, DB 5-11, 176, 4.5, HOUSTON (LAMAR)
Two-time all-District 18-5A selection for coach Tom
Nolen... Named the Redskins' most spirited player a a senior... Also a two-time
all-district selection in baseball... Member of the National Honor Society... Youth leader
at Fifth Ward Church of Christ... Has been invited to participate in the National Youth
Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C... Also a member of the Future Farmers of America and
the Lamar Male Chorus... Plans on majoring in managerial studies/sports management at
Rice... Recruited by Theo Young.
"Bencil is a local young man from here at Lamar High School.
Hes a defensive back, with great speed and great hitting ability. He
also was an outstanding baseball player at Lamar. Hell be going to Washington later
this year to participate in the National Leadership Forum. He has great leadership
ability, too, as his high school record shows. Comes from a great high school program, and
we like him a lot."
AUSTIN WILKINSON, OL 6-2, 265, 5.1, THE WOODLANDS (HIGH)
Three-year letterman for coach Weldon Willig... Helped
the Highlanders to the Class 5A Division I state finals as a senior... First-team
all-Montgomery County as a senior and second-team all-District 15-5A... Helped The
Woodlands compete in the state playoffs all three of his varsity seasons... Three-year
academic letterman... Also competes for the Highlanders' track team... Plans to major in
managerial studies at Rice
Recruited by John Bland.
"Austin was a three-year lettermen up at the Woodlands for Coach
Willig. He was an offensive lineman for that outstanding team that the Highlanders had
there this year; we saw him play the state championship game here at Rice Stadium.
Hes shown hes capable of playing at the highest level, and we think hes
got the potential to be an outstanding college player."