Rice: Building a Reputation with the NFL
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HOUSTON (CBS-Houston) – Get ready for pre-draft stories from now until May 8th as college football programs everywhere are hoping to pound their chests in proud fashion while hearing the names of their teammate(s), student(s), player(s), or son(s) be announced to the world. Some institutions across the nation are accustomed to hearing the NFL Commissioner not only call one name, but sometimes two, three, four, or more.
However, if that institution is Rice University, that hasn’t always been the case. Rice is an institution where academics come first and that has been their road map to great success as being one of the top 20 institutions in the Nation. It is a proud institution. Couple that with sports teams starting to win, and now the landscape changes dramatically; advantage Rice.
But, focusing on the NFL Draft for a moment, while the Owls have enjoyed some success over the years, they have not set a precedent for having multiple players drafted over a sustained period of time since the 1970’s. That changed in 2008 and it has become noticeable!
Rice Head Football Coach David Bailiff took over in 2007. Following his arrival, the Owls have played in three bowl games, won two, and won the Conference USA Championship in 2013, their first since entering Conference USA in 2005. Bailiff was also named Coach of the Year in Conference USA.
Since 1939, a total of 69 Rice Owls have been drafted by the NFL. The decade of the ’70’s was the strongest as 23 players were drafted. Fast forward to 2000. Rice went unnoticed by the NFL until 2003 when Ryan Pontbriand and Brandon Green were drafted in the 5th and 6th rounds respectively. The Owls, once again, went unnoticed for six seasons until 2009 when James Casey and Jarett Dillard were drafted in the 5th round. The NFL didn’t select any players from Rice in 2010.
But, in 2011, 2012, and 2013, the Owls saw 4 players drafted; Cheta Ozougwu and Scott Solomon in the 7th round in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Tight Ends Vance McDonald and Luke Willson were drafted in the 2nd and 5th rounds by the San Francisco 49er’s and Seattle Seahawks respectively. Willson earned a Super Bowl ring as his Seahawks defeated Denver 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII.
This season, Bailiff stands a chance to see a fair number of his Owls get the call including Phillip Gaines, who wowed the nation with the 5th fastest official 40-time of 4.38 at this year’s NFL Combine.
Chris Boswell is the no. 1 rated kicker in the draft. Hence, just looking at the overall results of the program since 2007, combined with mounting attention from the NFL, there’s little question that the NFL should be watching more closely, says NFL Network Analyst, Mike Mayock.
“As far as the program, it’s no doubt. You mentioned the names, (James Casey, Jarett Dillard, Luke Willson, and Vance McDonald). It’s kind of fun to see. I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t continue.”
WHAT ABOUT THE BIG TAILBACK
We haven’t seen or heard much regarding Charles Ross who was voted team MVP. He has worked out for some NFL teams who should like his size. He’s a big back with speed at 6-foot-one, 235 pounds. Ross rushed for 1,280 yards last season which ranks fourth in school history.
When asked about the possible draft position for Ross, Mayock was honest.
“The big tailback Ross is an interesting guy. Now, I haven’t heard any draftable grades on him yet. Now, he could be drafted late. But, he’s a big strong kid with production.”
Ross finished his career as the second ranked ball-carrier in school history with 2,689 yards and 15 touchdowns. However, it’s more about the position versus the talent and size of the player, said Mayock.
“The running back class in general has been devalued. Typically, only about 21 to 23 running backs are going to get drafted and there are a significant number of 225-pound backs. I kind of categorize them. I go with the smaller backs, then 218 (pounds), and 225. There’s a bunch of those guys in this draft. I think he’ll be a priority free agent with an ability to make a team.”
Other players to watch for are Cody Bauer, Donte Moore, Paul Porras, and Turner Petersen.
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