Thursday Tidbits

In this edition: Night of the Iron Owl Highlights, Spring Preview, and Junior Day notes...

- The Rice Strength and Conditioning Program had a coming out party last night in the 1st Annual Night of the Iron Owl. As expected the evening did not disappoint. Several Rice players bettered personal marks.

Participants in last nights event with current height and weight:

Power Clean:

Chase Clement - 6-1 205 Tommy Henderson - 5-9 185 Davon Primus - 6-2 315 Andrew Sendejo - 6-1 215 David Berken - 6-4 295 Brent Hotard - 6-1 222 Jarett Dillard - 5-11 182

Squat:

Cheta Ozougwu - 6-2 251 Robert Calhoun - 6-1 225 Brian Raines - 6-1 224 Charlie Wiebusch - 6-2 335

Bench Press:

Chris Ptaszek - 6-5 308 Scott Solomon - 6-3 263 Justin Hill - 5-11 218 Jake Hicks - 6-3 288 Todd Mohr - 6-2 287 Austin Wilkinson - 6-2 280 Travis Mason - 6-4 291 Bencil Smith - 5-11 203 James Casey - 6-4 235

Highlights from last night:

Chris Ptaszek - 460 pounds on bench, just missed 470 Scott Solomon - 450 pounds on bench

Andrew Sendejo - broke his mark of 330 pounds on power clean, just missed matching the school record of 350.

Brian Raines - 615 pounds on the squat

Those in attendance, roughly 100, were treated to a loud, high energy experience. The football team turned out in full and was very vocal in cheering their teammates on. Yancy probably had a little part in that. He told everyone in attendance before hand that yelling was not an option and those that didn't would have to run, players and fans alike! My 13 year old son couldn't stop talking about the event on the way home (he said he's bringing all his friends next year). This is an event that I hope eventually draws hundreds (thousands?) when its held in Autry Court.

2008 signee Clay Hebert was in attendance and looks like he could have joined in the events last night. FYI he's pushing 6-4 now, and weighs over 290 pounds (but looks like an athlete who weighs about 270). Also in attendance last night was 2009 recruit Lyle Beloney from Katy Seven Lakes. He's a good looking athlete and will be coming to David Bailiff's Football Camp later this summer. He's played both Safety and Cornerback and stands about 5-11 180 right now. Congratulations to all the competitors who lifted last night.

- Speaking of Solomon, here's the perfect segue into continuing our discussion on the defensive line. The only issue with the position right now is depth. The two starters from last year have morphed into a pair any school in the conference would want. In fact you can include Kramer Lucio in that group in what may be the most talented group of freshmen DEs we've ever had. But the most commonly asked question around the campfire these days is: "How did the Big 12 not find Scott Solomon!?!" His physical tools are just eye popping - weighing in at 263 pounds he recently jumped 37 inches in testing for the vertical leap. Last night he benched 450 pounds - and I'm told he may be faster now than when he first arrived on campus. He has a chance to be a really special player before he leaves Rice, and if his progress continues perhaps the next Rice DE to play at the next level.

The really exciting thing about our DE's is that for a change we don't just have one that can bring serious pressure on the QB. For the first time in recent history we have 2 really talented starters who can bring the heat from either end. I've been raving about Scott Solomon but Cheta Ozougwu is step for step with Solomon in terms of physical development. He's probably a tick faster actually. (Am I dreaming - this just hasn't happened at Rice.) On Ozougwu, it's easy to forget that although he is a great athlete, he's only been playing DE for 1 year! He's still travelling a developmental curve in terms of learning the position. When his technique catches up to his physical ability - watch out!

Though the first two deerve the credit they get, Kramer Lucio is probably a little underrated. He may not get the talk outside the coaches offices that perhaps Solomon and Ozougwu do, but inside them the coaches are very high on Lucio. In fact "ability wise" they put him in the same category as Scott and Cheta. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury last year that required post-season surgery and he isn't 100% right now because of that. He's missed some valuable time in the weight room as a result, and will have to try to catch up during the summer. Another steady player isWill Shoppa. He too has only been at the psoition for a year - after spending his freshman season at TE. He had a huge interception return in the Southern Miss game last year. Will is coming off an injury that's limited his time in the off season program and isn't the biggest or fastest of our ends, but he is a solid contributor and we need him in the rotation. A couple of new faces will also join the group in seeing Spring Practice reps. At 5-11 222 pounds, Tanner Shuck is a ball of muscle. He's actually a linebacker on our roster but has exceptional pass rush skills, evident in the fact that he notched 17 as a senior in high school playing DE in Jenks, OK. Remember he was the Tulsa World Oklahoma Player of the Year. And speaking of strong, quick and explosive - Shuck repped out 185 pounds 37 times in high school and recorded a 4.27 shuttle time. He also jumped 36" in the vertical. He hurt his ankle last year but will be ready to go this spring. He will be used in special situations and despite his size is very hard to handle 1-on-1. Aaron Williams will continue to play DE in the spring after finishing the season there due to a rash of injuries incurred at the position. Williams is trying to put on weight and is a solid athlete. Another Williams, Jared, will arrive in August and just adds to the growing list of talent forming at the position. Depending on injuries, the coaches would love to be able to redshirt him and let he and Vance Mcdonald hit the weights for a year or so before seeing the field in 2009. A 6-3 250 Williams and a 6-5 260 pound McDonald is an exciting thought - they could be the next pair of exciting DE's coming down the Rice pipeline.

-Rice will host a Junior Day March 29th in conjunction with the scrimmage held that weekend. Rice has invited about 300 juniors to attend. That number is about half of what was extended last year. The staff is in a much better position this time around and has had much more time to evaluate and target specific players it wants. They had to use Junior Day last year as more of an evaluation manuever. However, last year 11 of our signees had attended Junior Day before ultimately signing. This is a one day event that includes an orientation, a tour of the campus and facilities, meeting with position coaches to discuss our schemes, and the previously mentioned attendance of the scrimmage. Rice will have a fairly small amount of scholarships to give again this year and the early position targets include 1-3 defensive linemen, a defensive end, 1-2 linebackers, 1-2 cornerbacks, 1-2 safeties, a kicker, 1-3 offensive linemen, a running back, a quarterback, a tight end and a receiver.

Go Owls!


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