- -As I mentioned improving the defense will be a top priority this season, and that was already being worked on last December. Looking at the Secondary today we focus on a group that was just wrecked with injuries, and as a result youth last year. No other singular event had a bigger impact than Bencil Smith breaking his foot on the first play of the 2007 season. Smith had a great spring and August and was poised to have a great junior season. His injury set off a domino effect through the secondary. Eventually, Andrew Sendejo ended up at Free Safety – but the shuffling continued all year as Rice could never really catch it's breath without injury or freshmen mistakes disrupting a starting unit. Discussing the Safety Positions – Free, Strong, and Weak (Kat). Headed into spring drills it looks like Andrew Sendejo will stay at Free Safety. Coach Craig Naivar told me when it comes to Sendejo they love just about everything about him. "He's big, fast, strong, aggressive, and intelligent." While they feel he is great "in the box" they feel they have other players that will excel near the line of scrimmage as well. Behind Sendejo, sensational walk-on Travis Bradshaw will see his first action this spring. He can play any of the Safety positions and at 6-1 and over 200 pounds, Bradshaw is exceptionally fast and quick. The local (Cy-Fair HS) product is a big hitter to boot. He's the perfect understudy for someone like Andrew Sendejo and will also provide size and speed to the Special Teams unit. An exciting player to watch this spring will be Brent Hotard. After signing with Rice as a QB Hotard is being moved to defense to get his athleticism on the field. Brent is 6-1 222 already so I wouldn't be surprised to see him playing closer to the LOS eventually, maybe even at Linebacker. At the "Kat" position Bencil Smith gets a chance to makeup for last season. Smith had a great off-season and at 5-11 and almost 205 pounds he very solidly built. He is a sure tackler but having started at FS last year has excellent coverage skills. Also in the mix at "Kat" is Randy Kitchens. He was thrown into the fire with several others last year but showed signs of being a heck of a football player, making several big plays when he had a chance. Kitchens is filling out into a very imposing player – he's 6-3 215 now, but hasn't lost any speed, recently being noted as one of the fastest players on the team. At Strong Safety, Willie Garley and Chris Jones will battle for a starting spot. Garley is an explosive hitter and played well in spots last year before getting injured. Jones is another young player that has blossomed in the weight room. At 6-2 201 he brings excellent size and speed to the position. He's shown a real knack for timing in blitz situations. This gives the Owls another great option to utilize in pressuring opposing QBs.Max Anyiam will also bring outstanding size to the position at 6-2 215.
Overall we are getting close to establishing the talent and depth we need to excel in a defense with 3 Safeties. It's taken 3 years but the options we have are big, fast, and aggressive. The combinations of what we can throw at offenses this year are exciting.
- - What's wrong with the Rice Baseball team? Nothing! They've lost four games by one run. The Owls started the season without much firepower but quickly found the "pop" in their bats going 3-0 in the HCC Tourney. Two Rice players from the Klein area are having sensational starts to their careers – Chad Mozingo and Rick Hague. Adam Zornes has shown the power he's capable of. If anything, Rice pitching has yet to find it's groove – but that will happen just as it always does. If anything the Owls could use some time off – they've played 10 games in 13 days.
- - Rice sent out Junior Day invitations last week to over 250 football recruits for the Class of 2009. The Owls have had much more time this year to evaluate and target the recruits they'd like to see, thus the lower number. Last year they sent nearly 600 invites out. One name to remember is Beaumont Ozen Wide Receiver Willie Jefferson. The Golden Triangle star is 6-6 190 and runs 4.5 in the 40. Jefferson is ranked #1 academically in his class at Ozen.