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'06 preseason interviews

Jarett Dillard

06mediadayjdillard2.jpg (46743 bytes)HOUSTON (Aug. 27) – If there were a Rice Owl ball player who stands to gain an increased role as result of the change from an option-based to a spread offense, that’s got to be Baker College sophomore wide receiver Jarett Dillard. Jarett came on strong last year as a true freshman, playing in all 11 games with eight starts at wide receiver. He totaled 35 catches for 524 yards and five touchdowns to earn all-Conference USA freshman honors. That may not sound like gaudy stats to the uninitiated, but his 35 catches were the most by any Owl during Ken Hatfield’s 12 seasons as head coach. Jarett’s simply an outstanding athlete with great hands, excellent speed and extraordinary leaping ability. Last year, he often was the only receiver downfield and had to contest for balls with double coverage draping all over him. Owl fans are excited about the prospects, this year, of getting Jarett on the field as only one of several receiving options for QB Chase Clement. But the hoopla surrounding Jarett’s outstanding freshman season overshadowed some impressive off-the-field accomplishments of this young man. As a 2004 graduate of Sam Houston High in San Antonio, Jarett was a three-year letterman and starter for coach Russell Tatum. He was a two-time all-District 28-4A selection at wide receiver, adding all-area honors as a senior. Jarett competed as a schoolboy in basketball and track as well, helping Sam Houston to the Class 4A state basketball tournament in '03, and competing in the regional track meet in '03 in both hurdles events. You’d think he’d hardly ever have time to hit the books. But get this: Jarett was ranked first in his class academically throughout his entire high school career. He earned membership in the National Honor Society and served as a class officer, while being named an academic all-state selection in '03. Let’s face it, every time Jarett walks onto the football field or into a classroom, he adds value to the Rice diplomas of all who’ve gone before him on South Main.
The interview....

David Perkins

06aug7dperkins375.jpg (43552 bytes)HOUSTON (Aug. 26) – Rice offensive lineman David Perkins emerged as one of the success stories of this past spring’s drills, moving from his reserve role which brought him varsity letters in an ‘04 redshirt freshman and ‘05 sophomore season to clear front-runner for a starting spot in the OL. David will play wherever they put him – he switched from the defensive line to the offensive side between his junior and senior years at Clear Lake High, where he was named outstanding offensive lineman as a senior. While possessed of a classic Rice sensiblity (you know – of dry wit, sardonic humor, bemused irony), David is mature beyond his 21 years of age, being married with a two-year-old son. His dad, Don Perkins, was a faculty-level instructional coordinator at Rice before taking his retirement and heading out for the Texas Hill Country, but Papa Perk is a visible and well-known fixture around the Rice football program.  Dave's expected to be a major cog in the Rice offensive wheels this fall, but he says that if he or any of his fellow OLs go down, don't wory, there are plenty of capable candidates right behind them.
The interview....

Quinton Smith

06mdayq375.jpg (39072 bytes)HOUSTON (Aug. 25) -- If there is a franchise player on the Rice roster this year, Quinton Smith would be the one. "Q," as he’s known among his teammates, was a second-team all-Conference USA selection last year, and the winner of the George Martin Award as the Owls’ most valuable player, as well as  the  George R. Brown Award as Rice’s top running back. This year, the thought goes, Q will have a chance to showcase his talents even more than he did as the primary running back in the option offense of the previous coaching administration. Why’s that? Well, if Quinton’s performance during spring drills is any indication at all, he’s even better going one-on-one against linebackers and defensive backs than he is a merely trying to outrun everybody else to the corner. While his main job playing the option was the latter, this year, especially with an effective passing game, he’ll get more chances to show his stuff all over the field – and not with three defenders keying on him, all the time. Quinton is a graduate of the Austin-area Cedar Park High School, where he earned all-state honors on the field while also picking up such off-field kudos as finalist for Hill Country Sportsman of the Year and winner of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Legacy Award. The senior from Baker College is a triple major in managerial studies/sports management/ economics, and Owl fans hope he’ll commence his management career with the deft supervision and control of a few Houston Cougars, come Sept. 2.
The Interview....

Andray Downs

06mdayandrayd375.jpg (39023 bytes)HOUSTON (Aug. 24) – Rice senior defensive back Andray Downs  is a three-year letterman at free safety who has started his last 28 straight games as an Owl. Last year, he led all Rice defensive backs in tackles, with 58 including a couple TFLs. He’s a 2002  graduate of Rowlett High in Garland, where he earned multiple honors, both on the football field and in the classroom.  To name a few:  he was a member of the National Honor Society and Rowlett’s student council, serving as vice president.   He earned honorable mention academic all-state, and won the NAACP Award for having the highest GPA among African-American males in the Garland ISD.  And he did all that while starring both on the football field and as one of the top sprinters in North Texas.  His Rice career has been similarly solid.  Twenty-eight straight starts ought to speak volumes about that.  And as for his collegiate academic plaudits, well, he just picked up where he left off in high school, earning a couple of Rice Scholar-Athlete awards while triple-majoring in Eco-Poli Sci and Managerial Studies.  He’ll be a steadying presence among the younger Owl defensive players this year, while unobtrusively garnering stats.  And don’t be surprised if, when all is said and done,  he ends the year as one of the leading tacklers on the team.
The interview....
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Rolf Krueger

06augmdayrolf350.jpg (44479 bytes) HOUSTON (Aug. 23) – Rice senior offensive lineman Rolf Krueger is one Owl who requires no introduction to the several generations of college football fans still ticking in the state of Texas. Rolf’s dad, Rolf Krueger, Sr., was an All-American defensive lineman at Texas A&M; he played varsity ball there from ‘66 to ‘68, and was a key part of Gene Stallings' 1967 Comeback Kids – a group that started the season 0-4 but finished undefeated thereafter, capping the year with a thrilling 20-16 win over Alabama in the Cotton Bowl. Then there was young Rolf’s Uncle Charlie, another Krueger brother who earned All-American honors twice as a two-way lineman at A&M playing for a fellow named Bear Bryant. We mention all this not to deflect away the attention from young Rolf, but rather to point out the depth and breadth of football heritage that this young man brings to the table. (And maybe to gloat a little over the fact that we stole him away from the Aggies, heh, heh.) Yet, still, life is not only about football for Rolf Krueger II. The Wallis native earned honor student status at Sealy High while ranked as one of the top 10 linemen in the Houston area by the Houston Chronicle, and tabbed 16th nationally at center by Rivals.com. Once at Rice, he redshirted as a freshman ‘01 but lettered in his next three seasons as an Owl, earning all-conference mention in ‘05, while meanwhile breezing through his Rice course work. Now, he’s steering toward law school, unless, of course, the NFL manages to detour him for a few years. And that’s not an unlikely possibility at all for the Feathered Flock’s only pre-season consensus all-conference player. He certainly has the bloodlines for a lengthy pro career. But that's before he heads for the court house, of course.
The interview....
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Mike Falco

06mdayfalco1a375.jpg (44180 bytes)HOUSTON (Aug. 18) – Senior slotback Mike Falco could be referred to as a hidden gem among the Rice Owls’ offensive tools, except for one thing – he hasn’t been hidden, he’s just been banged up.  The versatile senior from Scottsdale, Arizona, has been sidelined off and on for the duration of his varsity career, but, when healthy, has shown flashes of brilliance that clearly showed what might have been – and what just might well be, come this season.  Mike is known to have  good speed, exceptional receiving skills, and the ability to make something happen after he catches the ball.  But this season, he’s added another dimension.  Call it brute power.  Mike has done some serious time in the weight room over the spring and summer.  His injuries were enough to keep him off the field, but not away from the weights.  He’s in the best shape of his life, he says, and we believe it.  It may be overreaching, but we’re inclined to make this prediction:  as goes Mike Falco, to a large degree, so also go the 2006 Rice Owls.  If Mike can simply stay healthy so he can stay on the field, his spark, drive, playmaking ability and leadership skills can be a huge boost to a team which is desperately seeking the kind of stuff this fellow just naturally brings to the table.
The interview....
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Chad Price

06augchadp1.jpg (35498 bytes)HOUSTON (Aug. 15) -- Chad Price is a six-foot, 210-pound defensive back for  Rice, who’s inked in as the prime mover and team leader in the defensive secondary this year for the Owls. The former Bay City Black Cat will be bringing in 29 straight starts going into the season opener Sept. 2 against U of H. Last year he started all 11 games at the ‘bandit’ position, and won the Jess Neely Award as the outstanding defensive back for the Owls. He can do it all, and his stat sheet shows sacks, interceptions, blocked punts, and just about every other manner of stat that a defensive man can earn. The three- letterman senior was a standout both on the field and in the classroom in high school, also competing in basketball, baseball and track, while at the same time picking up a National English Merit Award nominee as a graduating senior. He’s slated to graduate Rice in May, and there’s no doubt that when his name gets called to walk for the diploma, there’ll be other kudos added in. But meanwhile, Chad says, he’s anxious for a little team recognition; the heck with the personal stuff – it’s time, first, he told us, to win some games.
The interview....
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Major Applewhite
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'I want to keep them hungry...''

HOUSTON (Aug. 8) -- Rice offensive coordinator Major Applewhite displays a depth of judgment and a calm intensity that belies his relatively tender years.  The 27-year-old joined Todd Graham's staff as OC after moving over from the quarterbacks coaching job at Syracuse.  Of course he's no stranger to anyone familiar with Texas college football, being one of the most popular quarterbacks in University of Texas history.  Major's a native of Baton Rouge, where he attended Catholic High and broke all kinds of records going 25-2 as a starting quarterback.  Then on to Texas, where he exceeded expectations by garnering the Big 12’s freshman of the year award in ’98 and then   shared the league’s offensive player of the year honors as a sophomore in ’99. After completing his eligibility at Texas (and earning his BA degree in 2002), he stayed on as a graduate assistant for Mack Brown, wherein he was instrumental in developing the quarterbacking talents of a fellow named Vincent Young.  After a year in the snow at Syracuse, he came back to the relatively comfortable confines of South Main, where, he says, the comfort lies not only in the warm weather, but also in knowing that he's associated with an institution that is among the very best academically. Now, Major just wants Rice to make up some ground on the football field, as well.  The Webletter's Mark Anderson spoke with Major on Monday.
The interview...wavsymbol.jpg (416 bytes)


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