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2013 Rice signing day page
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Rice recruiting roundup
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Rice bowl win helped nail down recruiting class with zero defections; most spaces for grabs filled

HOUSTON (Feb. 5) -- When Rice head football coach David Bailiff announced his 2013 signing class to gathered scribes here Wednesday, the question immediately arose: how did the Owls’ late-season winning streak, and that bowl win over the Air Force Academy, affect recruiting?

A relaxed Rice head man immediately dead-panned his response: "Probably none," he said. "I think it was more just my personality."

After the yuks and guffaws died down, he quickly recovered himself, and, grinning from ear to ear, went on. "You know, obviously, that was huge for us. That was huge. To get on that roll there at the end, and to win that Bell Helicopter Bowl, that really was the concrete that kept this class together."

"What that win streak did, it kept them from wavering. There were a lot of other Division One programs who were trying to get in on some of these young men. It's amazing, not only when you go to a bowl game, but you win one, what that does for the enthusiasm of your incoming class. So if you want the real truth -- that had nothing to do with my personality. It was beating Air Force in that bowl game."

Be that as it may, the Rice mentor’s joshing response in itself had a lot to say about where David Bailiff feels he stands at this moment as the Man in Charge on South Main.

He’s down with it. He’s as comfortable as he’s ever been – and as optimistic.

18 schoolboys sign on dotted line

Coach Bailiff and his staff signed a total of 18 schoolboys on Wednesday, and the class had a strong local flavor. Twelve out of the 18 played their high school football in the Houston area; 14 out of the 18 attended at least one of the Bailiff staff’s summer camps; some several.

While the class featured no super-stars, the entire roster of signees appeared solid from top to bottom, when rating service opinions, high school records and statistics, and certain intangibles all were taken into account.

Coach Bailiff strongly implied this class was the best he’s yet been able to secure for Rice – particularly if one totes up accomplishments both on and off the field.

"They truly are scholar athletes," he emphasized. "Eighteen of 18 of these young men have won academic awards. Twelve are from the Houston area, and its really great for us to be able to attract so much local talent."

"Sixteen of these young men are all district; seven were their district MVPs; 11 were academic all district; seven of them were academic all state; nine of them were recognized by Dave Campbell; five of them were in the Houston Chronicle Top 100."

He went on. "Two of them are Eagle Scouts. We've got a Max Prep All-American; a defensive player of the year in the state. One is in the school orchestra, one is presently in the school musical; one is on the speech and debate team; one's in the German Club, one's in the National Honor Society, one was a Boy's State representative."

"And so they truly are great fits at this university, both academically and athletically," he summed up.

It’s hard to present a newcomer among the 18 who’s head-and-shoulders above the rest, but several of the lot bear special mention, and for a variety of reasons.

Pair of Ricebirds sign on as Rice birds

Probably the best cumulative "get" was a pair of El Campo products. Cole Hunt leads the way, as he was named the Associated Press' Class 3A Defensive Player of the Year at the defensive end position. He also earned consensus All-State honors as well as garnering a spot on Max Preps Medium School High School All America Team.

Offensively, at the tight end spot, he was a key player in the Ricebird machine that scored 35 points on Stephenville in El Campo’s state finals loss. His kudos collection is mainly on the defensive side, but the deal-maker for him lay in the fact that he’ll get ample opportunity to work out at tight end in replacement for the Big Three seniors that the Owls lost to graduation this year.

Cole was joined by his Ricebird teammate, Trey Martin, a 6-3, 270-pound offensive lineman, on Dave Campbell's Texas Football's All Texas High School second team at the conclusion of the season. Both men were academic all-district and will have a long list of accomplishments added to their names and photos in their high school yearbook, "The Echo."

And yes, the Owls, like the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, always seem to get their man in Canada, and this year was no exception.

Peter Godber is a 6-4, 287-pound offensive lineman from Toronto, a city and provincial all-star as a senior at St. Andrews College. This year, Peter was only rated as the number two player in the nation – Canada, that is.

"Canadian young men, they're like 1970 Texans," Coach Bailiff said with a chuckle. " When we give these Canadians a scholarship, and they realize they don't have to buy their own shoulder pads, they're fired up -- it's the first time in their life they don't have to buy their pads. No sense of entitlement -- they just come here and work. Their upside is tremendous."

With Driphus Jackson’s solid performance against Air Force, the Owl quarterbacking picture appears to have brightened considerably. Nevertheless, it’s essential to always have quality quarterbacks in the pipeline, DB said, and the Owls got themselves one this year in 6-2, 215-pound Nate German from Cypress Woods.

Again this is a case where a prized recruit might have flown a bit under the radar, but was alertly sighted and nabbed by the Rice staff. Nate suffered a preseason injury that limited his playing time as a senior; his season passing total in 2012 was only 485 yards, which might have taken him off a few lists of coaches who’d otherwise have been vying for his services. Nate, however, threw for nearly 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns in his overall career and added another 13 touchdowns on the ground. Consequently he was a member of the Houston Chronicle Hot 100 and Dave Campbell's Texas Football's Top 30 quarterbacks heading into his senior year.

On Nate’s prospects, quoth Coach Bailiff: "He's everything we are looking for in a quarterback -- he's athletic and throws the ball with great accuracy."

Cowboy Jowan fits 'sleeper' category

If one were to scour the game videos for a "sleeper," the conclusion very likely would be that the Owls have one in Jowan Davis, a 5-7, 205-pound human bowling-ball of a running back from Sealy. Jowan is a fascinating "get," his hailing from an athletically-accomplished family whose history in ranching, cowboying and rodeo competition goes back over a hundred years.

He was a three-time All District 25-3A selection as a Sealy Tiger, rushing for over 4,000 yards in his career, including over 1,200 as a senior. Game films showed him breaking open-field runs like a somewhat diminutive Earl Campbell, and he is of much the same mettle and mien as the Tyler Rose.

Seventeen Texas boys in all – and at least one of them a genu-wyne cowboy – means the Bailiff staff has been successful in forging close relationships with high school coaches in this state.

"I'm an old Texas high school coach," Coach Bailiff explained, "and a lot of the guys on the staff have coached high school football in Texas. And I think what's helped us more than anything is that this is the first year, right now, where I have not lost a coach. So there's been continuity in the program, and we've been able to have those same recruiters in each area, establishing those relationships with the coaches."

It’s clear the Rice majordomo feels more comfortable with his depth of talented players than at any time he’s been on South Main.

"I don't know who in this class -- but ten of them are going to help us next year," he confided. " And they're so talented that you don't know who they are. But we have a lot of returning starters next season, so it's not as critical to rush some of these young men onto the field. Athletically, they're all ready to go. But hopefully we won't have to rely on a lot of them this coming season."

--P.T.H.

 

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