Rice Adjusting To Better Competition

When Duke gained the verbal commitment from Florida prospect Tyler Rice, many were shocked that the Blue Devils had followed up their big time class of 2005 with another highly rated player, and so early. With Duke's slow start to the 2005 season, how has the recruiting process evolved for the Duke commit? Which schools refuse to give up the fight? And how is he adjusting to a new level of competition at his new school? TDD caught up with Rice on Tuesday night to discuss it all.

Tyler Rice, rated as a four star prospect by Scout.com, had spent his first three seasons at the 2A level at St. Andrews High. And while he made a name for himself at that level, Rice was itching to prove that he was not just a big fish in a small pond. So the 6-foot-4, 240lbs outside linebacker/defensive end transferred to Boca Raton High for his senior season, which meant earning his spot on the field all over as well as facing 4A competition.

"It's been a good move for me all around," said Rice of his move to Boca. "I was really looking for a higher level of football while still getting great academics. Boca has a terrific football atmosphere and I've really improved as a player since I've been here. It's exactly what I was looking for."

Needless to say that the Boca coaching staff feels the same way as Rice's abilities at the 2A level have transferred well to 4A. Rice last year finished on the 1st Team All-Palm Beach list and 1st Team-All Boca News list. He also registered an impressive 129 tackles last year along with 6 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries and one interception.

Tyler credits his new coaching staff for preparing him for the move and jump in competition. So what has been the biggest change for him?

"At this level every team has a ton of speed. It's not like there are only one or two kids who can burn you and make a play. It's everyone on the field."

That includes the future Blue Devil who, despite his terrific size and frame, still checks in with a 4.7 forty yard dash time. With quick feet and a good frame, Rice currently checks in as an outside linebacker in high school, but expects to play with his hands on the ground at Duke.

"Right now we're talking about me being a defensive end. I am going in to compete and contribute to the program, but it's best for me to take a red-shirt year and get up to the right weight and right speed so I can make a big impact and hold up over the course of a season at the college level."

When quizzed on Rice's ability, several ACC recruiting analysts believe Tyler will realize his goal of making a big impact after he hits the weight room for a season, which is probably why he's still hearing from several high major programs on the recruiting front.

"I still hear from a lot of schools and some coaches, but it's been toned down lately," said Rice. "I think they have stopped since they know I'm solid in my decision."

Still, the Duke coaching staff continues to be in touch with Rice as much as possible just to make sure he knows how excited the Blue Devils are to be adding him to their future roster.

"I talked to Coach Kelly as often as we can catch up. We're both really terrible with our cell phones. I'm either in school or at practice and he's either at work or in practice so we have to leave messages and communicate that way. We also text message a lot as well. If I need to talk to them they find a way to get up with me, but right now we're just staying in touch."

And while he's stayed in touch, Rice has also noticed that his future teammates have taken their lumps in the early part of the season, dropping a the first two contests of the season. However, he's not discouraged. In fact he's optimistic as things are going as planned.

"People have to understand that Duke is building for the long term future. We're not ready to compete at the highest levels yet, but the coaches brought in a great class last year and want a better one this season. They'll be ready to compete soon, but they are doing things the right way for their players and the program. It takes time. I'm just excited to be part of it."

Judging from the reviews, Duke fans should be excited he's going to be part of it as well.

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