Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Tuesday, September 10, 2013

By Sammy Batten

Country boy grooming physique for Pirates

Mobile Palmetto State tackle Rice thrives on protecting 'my quarterback'

By Sammy Batten
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Growing up in rural South Carolina, Messiah Rice loved just about any activity that could be done outdoors.

"I was very active,'' Rice said. "I'd climb trees, throw rocks, anything just to be outside. I played all sports, too, but football was the thing I preferred. I was an aggressive type, and I was real big and tall at a young age. I started playing Pee Wee football and I just fell in love with it.

"It was something I was really good at. People always told me I would be successful in that sport.''

Those predictions have come true for Rice, now a 6-foot-7, 270-pound lineman at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School in Orangeburg, SC.

Entering his third season as a varsity starter at left offensive tackle, Rice has attracted scholarship offers from Football Championship Subdivision power Appalachian State plus Charlotte and Liberty. But East Carolina, which was the first school to extend a scholarship offer back in March, gained the verbal commitment from Rice on August 28.

ECU offensive line coach Brandon Jones handled the recruitment of Rice and made quite an impression.

"Coming into my eleventh-grade year I was just an unknown lineman,'' Rice said. "But Coach Jones, he came in with my first offer. He welcomed me with open arms and said he was willing to teach me. They told me I was the No. 1 (offensive line) recruit on their board.

"I started to do some research on the school and found out they have great academics and that their football program has sent a lot of (offensive) linemen to the league (NFL). Plus, I love the coaching staff. All those things made my decision easy.''

Rice, who is also the starting center on Orangeburg-Wilkinson's basketball team, has experienced some significant physical growth over the past year that's enhanced his ability on the football field. He's always been tall he was already 6-2 as a 12-year-old but with that height came a slender frame.

Rice was also playing basketball, which didn't help him retain weight. He is the starting center on the Orangeburg-Wilkinson's basketball team.

But since his junior season, Rice has added more than 20 pounds to his frame.

"It was stressful,'' Rice said of adding the weight. "I took protein and everything. I think it's going to really help my production in football.''

Rice has already enjoyed a productive high school career, according to Orangeburg-Wilkinson coach Tommy Brown. He helped the Bruins achieve a 6-5 record last season and earn a spot in the state 3-A playoffs.

Capable of running 4.91 seconds in the 40-yard dash, Rice can bench press 290 pounds, squats 385 and carries a 3.6 grade point average.

"Athletically, he has great feet and is a really good pass blocker,'' Brown said. "We run a spread offense and multiple sets, so it's basically what they (ECU) do. Potentially, he can be a pretty good offensive tackle at the next level.''

Protecting the quarterback, Rice says, is his strength.

"I don't like to see my quarterback get hit,'' Rice said. "I'm a mobile guy and have good footwork, so my strength is pass blocking. I still need to work on my run blocking, but I'm pretty good all around.''

Rice is the third offensive lineman committed to ECU's recruiting class, joining Kyle Erickson from Fayetteville's Jack Britt High School and Erik Lenzen from Fort Lauderdale, FL.

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09/10/2013 05:06 AM