"Ace" was targeted early on by Rice coaches this spring and loved what they saw in Francis. In spite of his smallish frame the Ft. Bend Hightower Hurricane is a tenacious hitter and lock down cover man from his Cornerback spot. Rice took the lead when they were the first to offer Francis, no matter that other schools hadn't offered yet they were confident in their assessment of Francis.
Francis totaled 15 pass break-ups last year and added 1 interception. He amassed over 60 tackles also, proving that he is equally adept at run support. But make no mistake, Ace's "calling card" is coverage. "My strongest asset is my cover ability. We played a lot of Cover 2 Zone but teams didn't throw to my side much. I like to play man up bump and run when the defense calls for it."
What Francis lacks in size (5-9 170), he more than compensates for with the requisite speed to run with most Receivers. "I've run a 22 flat 200 meters and a 10.8 100 meters." He also runs the relay events for Hightower's nationally recognized track team. While Ace didn't attend the Rice Junior Day this past March, he was on campus – he was running in the Rice Bayou Classic that same weekend.
I asked Francis how he came to favor Rice. "I know someone who goes to Rice (Ahmad Sweeney) that went to my high school and he's told me all about the school and the program."
With Sweeney's endorsement and help from his parents, Alex made a quick decision after Rice coaches told him they would be offering him a scholarship. "My parents and I discussed it and felt that it was too good to pass up. This is an opportunity for my future so I called coach (Craig) Naivar and committed. Just the academics alone was enough for me to commit," Francis said. "It is one of the top universities in the nation and I feel that more doors will open for me after college with a degree from Rice. But also the opportunity to play early and more is good also."
I asked Alex if he had anything in his game that needed work. He replied, "Sure I'd like to get better at everything but I'm focusing on my footwork. I had a lot of pass break-ups last year but I didn't get many interceptions. I'm working hard on my footwork and ball skills so I can improve on that."
Before we hung up I asked Francis about fellow Hightower player Jelani Johnson, who is also being recruited by Rice. He said Johnson really liked Rice also but wasn't sure about a decision from him.
Though Francis said his commitment to Rice is solid, he continues to hear from SMU and Louisiana-Lafayette, among other schools.
Rice will likely take one more Cornerback in the Class of 2009.