One of the top players in the 2022 recruiting cycle made his much-anticipated commitment Thursday, as five-star offensive tackle Zach Rice chose North Carolina over Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Virginia live on CBS Sports HQ. Rice made the announcement surrounded by teammates, family and friends in Lynchburg, Virginia, and the news was met with a large applause from the crowd.
"The difference was obviously I want to play for a Hall of Fame head coach. Mack Brown is amazing," Rice said. "We're on the come up right now, I really believe that, and the only thing I can do is get better."
Rice added that he plans to arrive on campus in January as an early enrollee, in time for spring practice ahead of the 2022 season.
Rice ranks as the No. 1 offensive tackle in 2022 class and the No. 7 overall prospect according to the 247Sports Composite. The 6-foot-6, 282-pound lineman has been compared to former Alabama and current Cleveland Browns tackle Jedrick Wills, with recruiting analysts pointing out how Rice has "fared well" against top prospects in camp settings — something that scouts wanted to see given his competition at the high school level playing at Liberty Christian Academy.
247Sports' national recruiting analyst Brian Dohn notes that with Rice's big frame and shoulder width, he has "ideal left tackle size with strength."
Multi-sport athlete played on state class 3A semifinal team as junior. Agile and high-level athlete. Moves well in space. Plays with attitude and nastiness. Strong at point of attack and uses his lower body strength well. Initial punch is forceful and plays with heavy hands. Once engaged remains locked on and drives legs. Finishes blocks well. Effective down blocker from right tackle position. Shows ability to pull and move well in space. Can scrape and get to second level. Has body control to pinpoint second-level defenders. Has agility to cover the edge against speed rusher. Is patient in pass pro and does not lung often. Consistency with hand placement needed. Has to continue to work on bend to be more consistent with sinking hips and winning leverage battle. Has to refine kick step. Multi-year starter at top 10 program. NFL first round potential.
This is a huge addition to North Carolina's 2022 class that already ranked in the top 15 nationally prior to his commitment. Steve Wiltfong said on CBS Sports HQ that Rice moves the Tar Heels up to No. 9 in the 247Sports Composite, and it addresses one of the biggest needs for the offense in the offensive line. After recruiting the quarterback and skill positions well the last couple of cycles, Rice becomes an instant impact contributor to the offensive line.