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Rice recruiting '04

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Rice head coach Ken Hatfield speaks to press at R-Room Wednesday afternoon

Hatfield: This year's recruit list short but sweet
Rice inks 14 prep stars including 7 from area

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'We’ve always felt in recruiting that we’re going to recruit character first'


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'We’ve got to have somebody that will graduate from Rice – not just get in'


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'We wanted a strong-legged kicker, who we felt could kick the ball a long way, for kickoffs'


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'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, we’ve felt like we got what we needed to have to balance out our team."

"I’m 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 they’re all quality people. We’ve always felt in recruiting that we’re 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 we’re always looking for, is that we’ve got to have somebody that will graduate from Rice – not just get in," he quipped. "That’s why our graduation rates have always been high; that’s why we’ve 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 we’re 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 that’s always been our philosophy as long as I’ve been a head coach, and it has not changed. And that’s why we’re 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; he’s 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 year’s senior starter and three-year letterman at the man-under spot, Greg Henderson.

"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. He’s a tremendous runner; a tremendous passer; and he has had good balance in everything he’s done in high school."

"He’s 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 wasn’t the only quarterback the Rice staff went after, but he was the only one they wound up signing. That’s 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 didn’t work out – but it’s 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 we’ve seen – we thought he could really leap high and come down with the ball. He has played basketball; I’ve watched him play basketball and was really impressed with his physical skills, and what he’ll 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. "They’re 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 that’s 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 can’t hurt our crowd any. So we always have good reasons for trying to sign local guys."

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 Clardy’s teammate from last year. Those were the only two out-of-staters we ended up getting this year."

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 who’ll definitely get the nod for playing time as a true frosh, Coach said. "I definitely know Luke will play, because we’ve got to have a kickoff man, and that’s one thing we know he can add to us right now with the strength of his leg."

Other than that, Tommy Henderson’s got to be ready at quarterback, Coach said, even though there’ll 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, "we’ve 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, we’ve told them to get ready to play, but in all likelihood we’ll redshirt them like we’ve done in the past."

04recruting.herm1latech.jpg (68481 bytes)The 2004 recruits ....look.gif (159 bytes)

Rice recruiting '04 webloglook.gif (159 bytes)
(SammytheOwl.com:  Mark Sanders)

SammytheOwl '04 commitment list

Insiders.com Rice recruiting prospects list

Owl parents speak outlook.gif (159 bytes)
(Webletter feature)
Rice's 2003 season, week-by-week...
(Webletter feature -- game stories, photos, links)

DMN's state, area Top 100 lists
(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 School)

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)

Player Biographies, Coach Hatfield's comments


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 Hinshaw.

04hatrectn1.jpg (19242 bytes)"David is one of the two guys we got from out-of-state; he’s from Louisiana; went to Notre Dame High School. He’s an All-State selection, and he’s 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 he’s got great feet. And that’s what we’re looking for. He wanted to come here, and I think he’s just a great Rice fit, all around, both with academics and in football. I don’t think there’s any doubt about it."


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 Steve Kidd.

04hatrectn2.jpg (18892 bytes)"Jonathan is a running back; only played for one year, right here at St. John’s. 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 Elway’s 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; we’ve got a chance, here, with him, to go with character. We feel like he can play running back or defensive back for us."


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…… Recruited by Scott Wachenheim.

04hatrectn3.jpg (18958 bytes)"From down at Brackettville – I know all of you have been there at one time or the other; it’s 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; he’s 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. We’ll add some strength to him – he’s 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."


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 program…… Recruited by Scott Wachenheim.

04hatrectn4.jpg (18945 bytes)"Next we’ve got Jarrett Dillard; he’s a wide receiver, from Sam Houston High School in San Antonio – Bucky’s (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. He’s ranked right now number one, and will be the valedictorian of his senior class. So he’ll be making a speech later this year. He has about a 37 or 38 inch vertical jump, and great leaping ability."


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.

04hatrectn5.jpg (19362 bytes)"I think you’ve seen this name a few times. Tommy Henderson, of course, is from Wichita Falls. He was his district’s 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; he’s in the seventh grade now. That’s the next Henderson we’re going to get – he’s 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 he’s been running our system and we’ve watched him here in our camp for a number of years, and we’ve always really liked him. We had to have Tommy, and we’re glad he decided to come here."


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.

04hatrectn6.jpg (18683 bytes)"Vernon is a defensive end for Westfield, here in town. Vernon’s 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. Vernon’s 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."


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 Rice…… Recruited by Steve Kidd.

04hatrectn7.jpg (19278 bytes)"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 he’s 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. You’ll see he has a tremendously strong leg. He’s been one of the top twelve young kickers in the country, and has several field goals of over 50 yards."


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.

04hatrectn1.jpg (19242 bytes)"Brandon King is our second out-of-stater. He’s from Moss Point, Mississippi; a teammate of Drew Clardy’s there. They have a tremendous, tremendous program – always have. They’ve won more state championships in the last ten years than anybody else in Mississippi. They can play. Brandon’s 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 Farrar’s Mississippi boys, and we just know he’s going to be a good one. He’s done just an outstanding job."


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.

04hatrectn2.jpg (18892 bytes)"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. He’s 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."



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.

04hatrectn3.jpg (18958 bytes)"Todd, too, is from here in town, out at Cy Creek. He’s 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 you’ll wind up seeing his dad playing in all the tournaments we have, too. And if you have a chance to do it, you’ll want to team up with him, and not be agin’ him. He can play – he’s been playing Senior Circuit; he’s done a little bit of everything. And his son’s 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. That’s 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. He’s a good ‘un."

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.

04hatrectn4.jpg (18945 bytes)"Will was a four year letterman up in Bonham. He was named his team’s 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. He’ll play tight end for us, and we’re looking forward to having him."



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.

04hatrectn5.jpg (19362 bytes)"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 Ja’Corey 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, we’ve known for about 20 years. He’s done a great job up at Lufkin, and Ja’Corey comes highly recommended and has had great coaching."



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.

04hatrectn6.jpg (18683 bytes)"Bencil is a local young man from here at Lamar High School. He’s a defensive back, with great speed and great hitting ability.   He also was an outstanding baseball player at Lamar. He’ll 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."



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.

04hatrectn7.jpg (19278 bytes)"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. He’s shown he’s capable of playing at the highest level, and we think he’s got the potential to be an outstanding college player."


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