SMU wide receiver Rashee Rice is lighting the nation on fire this season.
Rice is thriving in the Mustangs’ high-tempo offense. The North Richland Hills, Texas native has already accumulated 62 receptions for a career-high 982 receiving yards and six touchdowns through eight contests. A big-play threat waiting to happen, Rice is averaging an explosive 15.8 yards per reception.
A physically impressive receiver, Rice is a dynamic athlete with acceleration and the long speed necessary to stretch opposing defenses. Rice is a menace in the open field that creates extra yardage for himself after the catch. Rice is simply one of the most impressive prospects in college football.
The No. 82 overall player in our latest TDN100 update, Rice spoke exclusively with The Draft Network. Rice discussed what he offers as a pass-catcher, how he approaches route-running, the threat he poses in the open field, and why playing in Rhett Lashlee’s high-tempo offense has prepared him for the next level.
JM: SMU is getting ready for a big game against Houston this weekend. The schedule in November also features Memphis, Tulane, and South Florida. What’s the mindset like around the program as you prepare to enter a stretch of your schedule that will define your season?
Rashee Rice: We’re coming out here ready to work every single day. We’re taking things week by week, one step at a time. We’re focused on preparing for Houston on Saturday. That comes first and foremost.
JM: We’re excited to monitor how SMU wraps up its season. When we turn the tape on, we see a dynamic receiver prospect with the long speed necessary to make explosive plays. How did you craft such explosive abilities?
Rashee Rice: I worked really hard this past summer. I knew I was going to be one of the focal points of our offense and in our wide receiver room especially. I had to dig deeper than ever before. I better prepared myself this past summer than any previous offseason. I’m working harder than ever before.
JM: You’re dynamic in the open field as a run-after-catch threat. You’re extremely elusive in the open field. How did you develop those aspects of your game?
Rashee Rice: I’ve been able to translate the explosion I’ve created for myself in the weight room. I became explosive in the weight room first and foremost. I found a way to translate that explosion to the field on Saturdays. Sometimes I do things that I don’t actually prepare myself to do. I know I have the natural athletic ability necessary to make magic happen on the field.
This is how you start a game. A big play by Rashee Rice for 68-yards! pic.twitter.com/xtHK3PQuTu
— Full-Time Dame 💰 (@DP_NFL) October 14, 2022
JM: How do you approach route-running? What are some of the ways you create the separation?
Rashee Rice: It’s me against you. That’s my first step, always. It’s me against the guy in front of me. I know that. Honestly, I won’t let one man beat me. I’ll never let that happen. That’s my personal approach on a snap-by-snap basis. I can’t let one person beat me on the field. I can’t let the person in front of me get the best of me.
JM: We love that confidence and approach. Do you have a favorite route to run?
Rashee Rice: Not necessarily, no. I just love having the ball in my hands. When I get the ball in my hands, it doesn’t matter how it got there. I’m just trying to make something explosive happen after the catch.
JM: I’ll put you in a little scenario then. Would you rather score a 75-yard touchdown, or make four-plus catches on a long drive that still ends with a touchdown?
Rashee Rice: I would definitely take the 75-yard touchdown. That gives me a chance to showcase my separation. If I’m scoring a 75-yard touchdown, it means I ran from the 25-yard line to the end zone. A score like that highlights my speed and explosiveness. I probably made a play ball and made something happen in the open field after the catch if I scored a 75-yard touchdown.
JM: Even when you’re not as involved, you’re drawing penalties and causing issues for the defense. We especially noticed that in the TCU game. How do you stay involved in the offense when you’re not seeing as many targets as you usually do?
Rashee Rice: That’s an area of my game that’s grown mentally. I’ve learned that I obviously can’t get the ball on every single play. If I’m running a fade route as hard as I can, I’m opening up a backside crossing route for my teammate. Our offense all falls into place as a result if everybody is doing their job with and without the ball in our hands.
JM: Speaking of, you’re an aggressive blocker that fights to create running lanes for your teammates. What do you enjoy about blocking?
Rashee Rice: I enjoy doing the things that other receivers don’t because I know it helps me separate myself from the pack. I love football because it allows me to go to war with my brothers. If I have to put my body on the line to block for my running backs, then that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I want to see them get into the end zone. It’s not just about me scoring touchdowns.
Rashee Rice may be the best WR in the 2023 NFL Draft class you haven't heard of.@_RyanFowler_ breaks down Rice's season so far and why he can have success at the NFL level.#NFLDraft | #PonyUpDallashttps://t.co/h7B2sRRbuM
— The Draft Network (@TheDraftNetwork) September 27, 2022
JM: You’ve flashed that selflessness throughout the season. The offense is averaging 35.6 points per contest. It’s firing on all cylinders. What do you most enjoy about playing in Rhett Lashlee’s offense?
Rashee Rice: Man, I love playing in coach Lashlee’s offense. It’s an Air Raid at the end of the day. There’s never going to be a game where we don’t throw the ball a bunch. That’s the most exciting aspect of the offense. Personally, I know that I can always get open in our offense. Coach Lashlee is going to make sure that we get the ball in the hands of our playmakers.
JM: Speaking of, SMU has been developing receivers at an efficient rate as of late. Guys like Danny Gray, James Proche, and Reggie Roberson Jr. come to mind. What did you learn from those guys, and why is Rashee Rice next in line?
Rashee Rice: I’ve taken examples of all three of those receivers you mentioned. James Proche was always an amazing practice player. I guarantee you he’s still an amazing practice player today. Reggie Roberson overcame so much adversity from an injury standpoint. He fought through that to make it to where he wanted to be. As far as Danny Gray goes, he’s such an explosive receiver.
If I could build one person out of all three of those guys, I’ve tried to build myself in their image (laughs). That’s exactly what I do. I try to take a little something out of everybody’s bag (laughs).
JM: We love that. Which receivers do enjoy studying? Do you model your game after anybody in particular?
Rashee Rice: Not necessarily, no. I don’t really model my game after anyone. People might compare my game to other receivers but I just go out there and try to make the plays that I know I can make. I’ve learned from the receivers I’ve had in front of me. I’d give credit to those three receivers we just talked about. That’s how I approach that personally.
JM: You called the offense an Air Raid. Lashlee’s offense has a reputation for being friendly to play in. SMU’s offense allows you to take advantage of spacing and free releases. How do you address those concerns in relation to making a transition to the pro game?
Rashee Rice: Playing in the NFL has always been my lifelong goal and dream. I’m going to keep the same attitude I have now. I’m going to show up ready to work every single day. I’m going to do my job. Even when I’m not getting the ball, I know I can block my butt off and help put our offense in advantageous positions.
JM: I’ve appreciated your time today. In closing, what are your goals for the remainder of the season?
Rashee Rice: We’re 4-4 right now and we have a goal to finish with a winning record. We have some big games ahead of us. We’re having fun right now. I don’t have many personal goals. I would love to produce 1,000-plus receiving yards but I’m just ready to continue stacking victories. If we do that, everything else will fall into place.
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