Lynchburg (Va.) Liberty Christian Academy is not on the overwhelmed path for school recruiters so offensive deal with Zach Rice needed to go discover the highlight. He did a few of the all-star occasions for center schoolers however any momentum they helped him construct on the recruiting scene rapidly fell off. With the pandemic slowing his recruitment much more, Rice and his mom, Mary, have been in search of methods to jumpstart his recruitment. In June of 2020, they made the virtually 4 hour drive from Lynchburg to the Virginia Seaside Sportsplex to indicate off his skillset and his inventory took off like a rocket.
The 6-foot-6, 305-pound offensive deal with noticed groups from across the nation begin providing him. Rice, a five-star within the Rivals250, ended up taking visits to varsities like Florida, Penn State, Clemson, Virginia Tech, and a few others however the groups that rose to the highest of his recruitment have been Alabama, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Virginia. He took official visits to every of his prime 5 faculties aside from North Carolina. Rice, nonetheless, did take a number of unofficial visits to Chapel Hill. The one different college to get him on campus a number of instances was Virginia.
Ultimately, it was the Tar Heels that got here away with Rice’s dedication, their highest ranked dedication since Donte Moss signed with North Carolina within the 2009 class.
“Initially, they’ve a Corridor of Fame coach in Mack Brown,” Rice stated. “I might say the Virginia setting had loads on me. I am speaking about how there are such a lot of guys from Virginia there. Tony (Grimes), (his dad, Deon) Glover, all of the Virginia connections I’ve there and the way they embrace Virginia over there, is a delight factor. Quite a lot of the opposite faculties, there weren’t many Virginia guys on the roster and I really feel like we’ll take over in that class.
“Dre Bly was a giant issue,” he stated. “I grew up with (five-star defensive deal with) Travis Shaw. Bryson Jennings, his uncle went to my college so I am actually cool with the Jennings household. His uncle additionally went to high school with my uncle so I do know their household and we’re fairly cool.
“I needed to play with George (Pettaway) and Omarion (Hampton),” stated Rice. “That’s going to be thrilling. Drake Maye, I’m so excited to play with him and possibly Sam (Howell) stays for an additional yr.
“I really feel comfy there,” he stated. “I really feel prefer it’s a spot I could be myself. I really feel prefer it’s a spot I can succeed.
“Quite a lot of the folks there already suppose the identical,” Rice stated. “All they’re lacking proper now could be just about a great offensive line. Their offensive line has been struggling however I noticed their development final yr.”
“I believe Zach actually feels comfy there across the children, across the setting, and across the coaches,” stated Rice’s mom, Mary. “I believe that coach Mack Brown is excellent. His resume speaks for itself. Him and his spouse, you could not meet extra real, enjoyable, and caring folks. Coach Brown has verbalized and been very intense about how he is very devoted to Zach’s improvement, his profession, and ensuring every part goes effectively for him, not simply soccer. He is dedicated to Zach as a younger man, not only a soccer participant.
“They’ve made us really feel very welcome there,” she stated. “I believe Zach has developed an excellent relationship with coach Dre Bly. He is actually inspired by what (offensive line coach) Stacy Searels is doing and the way he’s very enthusiastic about Zach’s improvement. When Zach labored out for them they have been actually excited. They see him seeing the sector very early. There aren’t ensures however I believe Zach would have an excellent alternative to play as a freshman, probably. He has to earn all that and we wish to earn that. If he is ready to have that honor, we wish it to be one thing he is labored arduous for.
“Coach Searels has put guys within the league,” she stated. “We all know coach Mack Brown has put guys within the league. They perceive that course of and so they’re dedicated to creating Zach to get there.”
On the impression of their numerous connections to UNC- “I do suppose it was a giant issue however Zach would know higher than I do,” she stated. “I believe that he sees what coach Dre Bly is constructing and he sees what he is doing with ‘Virginia to North Carolina’ and getting this stage of recruits there. I do suppose it is necessary and he sees that as one thing that performed into his resolution, seeing the excessive stage recruits which might be coming to North Carolina and seeing the place it is trending. You couple that in with figuring out Mack Brown’s historical past and also you see the potential rising. I do suppose all of that performed in strongly.
“He is constructed a relationship with these Virginia guys,” she stated. “Zach will let you know he is not going to choose a faculty primarily based upon one child. That may form of be ridiculous. However seeing the best way recruiting is trending does have an effect. You see what the long run might appear like, the place it could go, and the place this system goes and it is thrilling.
“In fact, we’re excited in regards to the Virginia guys,” she stated. “He is very into the place he is from, his state, his hometown, and his heritage.”
Although Rice would not get a lot in-game expertise in opposition to Energy 5 prospects, he has displayed elite traits and checks just about all of the containers. He has the dimensions, power, and quickness to match up with practically any defensive lineman that traces up throughout from him. He has the flexibleness to play with good leverage as a run blocker and does a pleasant job of driving defenders off the ball. Coaches like to see offensive linemen end their blocks and Rice takes delight in that, holding a operating tally of what number of pancake blocks he is had to date this season. Rice would not get a lot work as a move blocker throughout video games however within the camp setting he has proven the footwork, endurance, hand placement, sense of timing, and aggressiveness that ought to give school coaches a number of confidence.
With Travis Shaw already onboard, Rice offers North Carolina their second five-star within the 2022 class. The final time the Tar Heels signed two five-stars was the 2007 class with Marvin Austin and Dwight Jones. The North Carolina program has been recruiting very effectively during the last couple cycles however they’re missing expertise alongside the offensive line. That unit has struggled this season so Rice will plug a really massive gap in North Carolina’s depth chart.
The ripple results of Rice’s dedication could possibly be felt for years within the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Tar Heels have owned the recruiting path in Virginia this yr. 4 of the highest ten gamers within the state are dedicated to North Carolina and the Tar Heels have commitments from six Virginians, two greater than they do from their very own state. Rice’s dedication might additionally assist the Tar Heels land famous person receiver Andre Greene Jr., a Virginia native that lists North Carolina as one among his prime contenders.
Rice’s dedication to North Carolina speaks volumes about their capability to type a way of neighborhood and luxury stage that may overcome sturdy household ties to convention rival Virginia.