They also decided they would target some of the nation's best in filling the slot.
Being one of the top academic institutions in the country also means that Rice has to be even more selective in that search however. Enter Jeff Budzien of Hartland (WI) Arrowhead HS.
Rated the 9th best Kicker in the country by kicking guru Chris Sailer, and also sporting a 26 ACT and 3.93 g.p.a., Budzien is perfectly qualified, both on and off the field, for the Owls' quest to sign a difference maker for its kicking duties.
I asked Budzien what he thought about receiving a recent offer from the Owls.
"It was one I had been waiting on. I really like what Rice has to offer academically and they've been winning every week too."
I asked if he had followed Rice growing up, and like other recent Rice football recruits he cited the Owls nationally ranked baseball program. "I've known abour Rice for their baseball program for a while." Budzien is also a top flight player on the diamond.
And like so many other kickers, he also excelled in soccer from an early age.
"I've been kicking a ball since I was old enough to walk. It led into kicking in football. I tried it as a freshman and realized that I might have a chance to be pretty good at it."
In the past two seasons Budzien has field goals of 55, 49, and 48 yards to his credit. Yes, pretty good indeed. He was also 67-for-67 on extra points last year and hit 68 of 92 kickoffs for touchbacks. Budzien obviously has plenty of leg.
"I feel pretty good about making any kick from 52 yards in. I've hit some over 60 in practice - but that was with the wind."
Though he makes kicking look easy he works very hard on his skills and technique. "I've been to Chris Sailer's Kicking Camps in Los Angeles and in Las Vegas. I've been to his camp 6 times." He was the Field Goal Champ at Sailer's recent Top 12 Camp.
Obviously the Owls know they will need to pull out all the stops to gain Budzien's pledge. But the strong legged kicker is anxious to visit the Owls as well.
"Coach LaFavers is coming up here to see me on November 13th. I'll be heading down to Rice sometime in December for an official visit. I'm anxious to tour the campus and check things out down there, particularly the academic programs. It would be nice to kick in a warm climate. I've moved all around growing up so location won't be a problem for me in the school I choose."
I asked Jeff if he had a favorite, "Right now all the schools that have offered are in consideration. I'm going to take some visits and make my decision before Christmas though."
"I'm looking for a school that scores a lot of points and that has good academics."
Rice seems the perfect fit for Budzien...