This week's edition of Thursday Tidbits discusses defensive linemen, recruiting, and the Night of the Iron Owl...

- Since we're almost done with recruiting for the year a lot of focus has shifted to Spring Drills and position groups. One group that always seems to come up in conversations after last season is the defense. Realize that no one realizes the need for improvement on that side of the ball more than our coaches. As we lead up to Spring Drills I'll discuss position groups, particularly on defense. Today it's the interior defensive line - noseguard. The most physically imposing guy we have inside is Chris Ptaszek. He's very strong and checks in at about 6-4 310 right now. His size is very hard to recruit at Rice so obviously his contribution is important to our defensive success. Though he wasn't real flashy the coaches were very pleased with his development last year. In fact they felt he was playing as well as anyone we had at the noseguard position (1 tech) at season's end. We have to remember he's only played DL for about two years now so physical tools aside he's been on a learning curve at the position. Ptaszek's game is definitely strength (435 bench) and run stuffing - if he can improve his quickness and develop more movement in his pass rush skills he could be a really solid starter for us. Added to the mix this spring is Davon Primus. Much like Ptaszek, Primus is coming to the DL with good physical tools but having never played defense. The coaches are really excited about Primus because he's very quick and strong, and after reporting to Rice last year at a robust 345 pounds has transformed himself (with Yancy's help) into an explosive 6-3 310 pound athlete. He has a great opportunity to establish himself at his new position this spring. Another player that will get a look at the position this August will be signee John Gioffre. I've been talking about the Cinco Ranch lineman's wrestling skills for weeks now - he's going to State unscored upon - but his play on the defensive line is equally impressive. Once wrestling is over he'll get back up to his playing weight of 295-300 pounds. He reads the play very well and plays up and down the line of scrimmage so he'll definitely be in the mix come August.

- In recruiting news, we are still looking to add another player to this class. One possibility is Chris Oguayo. I talked to the Blinn JC prospect last night. He's being recruited by Rice to play defensive end and possibly some linebacker. He will visit the Rice campus next Wednesday. He's an intriguing prospect because he's got the size and speed to help us at both positions. He's about 6-0 245 and has run as low as 4.68 in the forty. He's a strong player (385 bench) with quickness (4.5 shuttle) and explosiveness (33" vertical). He's got the wingspan (79") of a player standing 6-3 or 6-4. He'll graduate from Blinn in May so he wouldn't be here until June at the earliest, and would have 2 years of eligibility left. Oguayo played high school football at Pflugerville Connally where he was 1st Team All District 26-5A. this year he was named a Juco 100 by Max Emfinger. Speaking of, he was named Defensive MVP of the West Team in Emfinger's 2005 All-American Bowl All Star Game. Vance McDonald's experience as a basketball player is a real plus for his agility - but has kept him relatively lean. He weighs a little over 220 now, but I expect him to put on some really good weight in the next 6-9 months. He told when he rehabbed his shoulder that his doctors were constantly having to slow him down in rehab workouts. Translation: he's a hard worker and should pack on a lot of muscle once his rehab is complete this fall. He could be the steal of the class. Once again this year, East Chambers and Koonze are tied at the end of 24-2A District basketball play - the two will square off in Beaumont tomorrow night at Lamar to determine the champion. A lot of you expressed concern over Jarrett Ben's status leading up to signing day. Sorry I didn't do more to ease those concerns because his committment was as firm as they come. He was probably the most gregarious signee, regularly texting other Rice commits and current players he had met on his visits to Rice. Based on his personality, I would expect Jarrett to be a host for future Rice recruits in the near future.

- I encourage you all to make plans to attend "Night of the Iron Owl". This is a weight lifting competition that will be held February 27th, 7:00 pm at the John L. Cox Fitness Center. It's sure to be a fun event and the players really get into the competition. The Owls currently have 10 players benching over 400 pounds - that number will surely grow after the Iron Owl event. Other events the Owls will be competing in will be the power clean, squat, and vertical jump (though they've probably already engraved JD's name on that one). I've been to similar events at other schools and recruits and signees often attend these.

- As of today the Owls have not hired a WR's coach. Interviews have taken place this week so an announcement could come later next week.

- 2009 recruiting is under way. Unlike the ESU's of the world, don't expect a flood of early Rice offers to go out. A few have been extended, like Cy-Falls QB Kolby Gray (6-2 185 4.5) for example, but Rice will have a limited number of scholarships again this year and will be very selective. A few names to remember, QB Christian Matthews (6-3 185 4.6) of Arlington Bowie, WR Chayce Joubert (6-1 180 4.38) of Arlington Grace Prep, and QB/WR Kenric McNeal (6-1 175 4.38) of Spring. Our relationship at Bowie is obviously very good having signed 3 players from there over the past two classes but Matthews is already being recruited by several in-state schools...

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