May 16, 2008

Is AL LB Rice still favoring Ole Miss?

Spring practice ends tonight for Eufala, Ala., outside linebacker Hans Rice when his team faces Benjamin-Russell in a jamboree game in Alexander City, Ala.

It's been quite an interesting month.

Rice has added 10 pounds of muscle and is "continuously getting bigger now," he said. His 40-yard dash time is down to 4.5 seconds and a time in the 4.4s is suddenly attainable. The experiment to try him at wide receiver has been wildly successful, so much so that several schools are now recruiting him as an offensive weapon. Finally, offers continue to roll in.

Earlier this week, North Carolina State joined the fray, extending a scholarship offer to the 6-foot-3, 195-pounder. Rice will make the trip to Raleigh, N.C., to check out the Wolfpack's facilities and the N.C. State campus next month.

Through all the changes, however, one thing has remained steady. Rice remains Ole Miss' to lose.

"I talk to Coach D (Ole Miss assistant Ron Dickerson Jr.) a lot," Rice said. "Right now, I'm open, but I know my top school. In my mind, it was pretty much a guarantee. Now I might wait a little longer to commit. I guess my visits to the schools will be big. I still say Ole Miss is No. 1."

Rice said Ole Miss leads Central Florida and North Carolina State, in that order. Troy, UAB and South Alabama have also offered, but those schools are well behind. Auburn continues to show heavy interest, Rice said, but the Tigers have not issued an offer.

As has been the case since going to Ole Miss' junior day in early April, Rice wants his mother to see the Ole Miss campus and Oxford before making any firm decision. His mom will accompany him to Oxford, Raleigh, Orlando and Birmingham on a swing of key visits soon.

"We really haven't had a chance to get away," Rice said. "I want her to see Ole Miss. June will be the month. If the visits go real well, I might (commit) then. But I'm not going to jump the gun too quickly."

A big factor, Rice said, will be academics. Rice is bright and articulate and well on his way to being a full qualifier. He is still undecided about his college major, though he is leaning towards a career in sports medicine or chemical engineering. He's unsure about the academic situations at North Carolina State and Central Florida, and he plans to learn more when he visits those campuses. Ole Miss, meanwhile, "has what I'm looking for academically."

On the field, Rice has thrived at wide receiver. Some schools are also starting to recruit him as a big safety. Ole Miss has consistently recruited Rice as an outside linebacker, which is likely a strong selling point.

"I love to hit, so I have to say I prefer defense," Rice said, laughing.

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