Thunder and Lightning

I caught up to 2 of Rice's commits this week - both defensive linemen from the Greater Houston Area, John Gioffre from Cinco Ranch and Mike Smith from Bay City. Rice coaches have dubbed them "Thunder" and "Lightning"...

Rice coaches new they needed defensive linemen to build the kind of program they want. They knew they would be losing George Chukwu and Jonathan Cary after this year and that the previous staff hadn't recruited much in their lone season at Rice. Sure the Owls signed Cameron Thompson and Brian Stacey last spring but they would need several more linemen to have enough players for the rotation they like to use. So when they saw John Gioffre and Michael Smith at their football camps they didn't hesitate long in offering. Both have the skills that David Bailiff and staff are looking for - strength, leverage, quickness, and balance. Gioffre was offered last spring and became one of the first commits of the 2008 class. Smith was offered later after "blowing the coaches away" at a camp in June. After a qualifying test score, Smith was offered and accepted. I talked to both this week about their commitment, the playoffs, and their lives ahead at Rice.

Bay City takes on Texas City this week in Pearland in 4A Bi-District playoff action this week. The Black Cats finished the regular season at 6-4. I asked Mike Smith about his season and the upcoming playoff game.

How's your season gone so far Mike?

"Its' going pretty well. I've just tried to focus on my assignments and getting better every week. I think we really started to play well as a team when we bought into (new) Coach's (Danny)Edelman's system. We have some great athletes on the team like our quarterback Shaun Rutherford."

Do you go up against Mitch Kimberling in practice?

"Mitch plays tackle - so not a lot. He plays guard some too though and when he does we go at it. Practicing against him makes me a better player."

You committed to Rice a while back. How do feel about your commitment? Have the coaches talked to you about where you'll play?

"I feel good about it; I talk to Coach Naivar and Coach Eliot every week. They ask about my season and how I'm doing. I'm pretty focused on our team right now so I haven't scheduled a visit yet, but I probably will sometime in December depending on how far we go in the playoffs. The coaches say I'll probably play defensive tackle (3 tech)"

You guys take on Texas City and Rice recruit Johnny Thomas this Friday night. what do you know about him?

"We've seen film on him and we know he's fast. We'll have to play very good fundamental football to beat Texas City. He's a great player. Right now it's odd to think that he could possibly be a teammate at Rice because we're about to play them (Texas City) Friday night."

Are you still getting recruited by other schools?

"Yes, I got an offer from Louisiana Tech."

I understand you know Rice commit John Gioffre?

"Yeah we met at one of the camps. We talk quite a bit actually. John called me up after he heard I got offered and told me I should come play next to him at Rice. He's a good guy and he's fired up about going to Rice."

I called John later in the week and these are a few quotes from our conversation...

John you were one of the first Rice commits; tell me how that came about?

"The coaches offered me in the spring. I had gone to a Junior Day there and got invited to a camp. They offered me after that and I committed. It was cool because I thought it would be really awesome to go to school and play football at Rice because they have the best of both there (academics and sports). Then they offered me and then it was an easy decision. I think the program is really headed in the right direction. I like the coaches a lot."

So you talk to them pretty often?

"Oh yeah, I talk to Coach Naivar every week and Coach Bailiff some too. He seems like a guy that really cares about who you are. He talks to me about coming in ready to make plays - not just tie up blockers. He said that things might be tough the first couple years but that I could be one of the players that could help the program do good things down the road."

Are other schools still recruiting you?

"Yes I get a lot of mail from Brown, Princeton, and other Ivy League schools. Also Army, Navy and Air Force send me a lot of stuff. I tell them I'm committed to Rice so they don't call as much anymore."

What position are they talking to you about playing?

"Probably nose guard, the 1 technique. But they want me to make plays and we talk about all the things they want to do with the defense once they get more players."

How big are you John?

"I'm about 6-1 and 295 pounds right now."

You've got to be excited about most likely playing next year...

"Yeah I'll probably get beat up a little, but down the road I'm going to have a lot of experience under my belt."

What would you say your best assets on the field are?

"Probably my get off, my hands, and my balance. I'm a wrestler so I have good balance. I only lost once last year. My high School (Cinco Ranch) won State last year. I'd like to be a State Champion this year."

So do you know many of the other Rice recruits?

"Yeah, I'm pretty good friends with (Katy OL) Eric Ball and Mike Smith."

You played against Eric earlier in the season - who won that battle?

"It was close. Eric's real fundamentally sound technique wise. He's not that big but every time I'd go to make a play Eric was right there kind of pestering me. He's a good blocker, all the Katy linemen are. They do some zone stuff and all of them are on the same page."

What's your opinion of Mike Smith?

"He's a real good d-lineman! We both did really well in the drills at the camp and in the pass rush one on ones. Mike's really fast off the ball. He's not as big as me but he's probably a lot quicker. The coaches started calling us Thunder and Lightning at that camp. I talk to Mike pretty often. I'm glad he's coming to Rice."

Tell me about your playoff game tomorrow night against Cy-Fair with Sam McGuffie?

"He's really fast so we'll have to work hard to keep him contained. Cy-Fair has almost the same recrod as we do so I think the game will be pretty even. They have some big offensive linemen up front so the game should be a battle. I'm ready for it."

The Owls have two great young linemen in these 2 commits. Check back for frequent updates as official visits start to increase...


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