Tahj Rice, a former Kentucky Future Star, is the 15th ranked player among the nation’s collection of defensive tackles in the 2018 class and the top-rated defensive tackle in both the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the Midwest Region according to Scout.com. Tahj Rice, again according to Scout.com, is a 4-star prospect who announced a commitment to the Duke Blue Devils by video posted on the online site for Louisville’s newspaper The Courier-Journal.
Tahj Rice is 6’3″ tall and possesses speed which completely belies his 320 pounds of heft. Rice can play the 3 technique, where he devastates interior offensive linemen who line up across from him at DT with a bull rush powered by a bench press of 370 pounds and 680 pound squat. Though not called upon to do this in HS, Rice can slide out to the 5 technique, where he can use both his strength and his 4.8 second 40 yard dash time and 4.4 Shuttle to exhibit really quick get-off and up-field burst. As we have before stated, vertical leap and running speed are considered correlated. If anyone doubts the 4.8 second 40 time or the 4.4 second pro-shuttle (which might be even faster) for the 320 pounder, now might be a good time to report his vertical leap has been measured at 35 inches…just saying.
What may be even more impressive about Rice is the amount of athleticism, speed, explosion, and power he has attained while his only being 17 years old. That can’t be right, can it? Rice, who doesn’t turn 18 until August 13, was featured, in a Scout.com article, which gathered information from Rice’s trainer, Chris Vaughn. Vaughn discussed with Scout.com his young prodigy’s abilities and strength. How is it even possible a kid that young be that big, fast, strong, and explosive? Sure, some of it may be genetic, but maybe, it’s the training.
Rice trains at Aspirations Fitness Center in Louisville, Kentucky. Chris Vaughn, Rice’s trainer, when interviewed by Scout.com a year ago, was quoted as saying Tahj is genetically blessed to say the least. He’s got some of the strongest legs I’ve seen on any level, let alone a 16 year-old-kid, (who’s 17 as of the publishing of this article). Rice and Louisville Waggener Traditional High School’s Wildcat teammate, Jairus Brents, were both nominated to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January of 2018.
Now, here’s the craziest part of the Tahj Rice story. I got the privilege of speaking with Tahj personally and did quite a bit of research for this article, and I learned that Rice hails from Portland, a west end neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky. Rice was enrolled as a freshman at DuPont Manuel Magnet, but removed for the stated reason Rice, according to Manuel…would never be successful academically. Rice then enrolled at Waggoner, involved himself in every part of student life from leadership roles to civic organizations and became (and still is today) a model student leader. Rice then took and made a 23 on his ACT on the first take. Talking with Rice over the phone, let me tell you, one comes away very impressed with his erudition. As well spoken as he is either the Ivy League or near-Ivy League seems like a perfect fit for Tahj.
Rice, with scholarship offers to practically everywhere, including the hometown Cardinals, has elected to commit to an academic, but not necessarily football, powerhouse, Duke University, over more traditional football factories. When inquired as to why, Rice told me it centered around the strong relationship he has built with Coach Cutcliffe and his coaching staff. So Rice is going to spurn traditional football powers to play FBS football, in a Power 5 conference, for a legendary coach, at an Ivy League caliber school? Man, there is nothing young or immature about Rice, physically or mentally. That Rice sure is smart, n’est-il pas?
Kentucky Prep Gridiron is proud to proclaim Tahj Rice one of the best, if not the very best, player in the 2018 class within the Commonwealth of Kentucky. If Rice doesn’t make it to the NFL, it really won’t matter, as an education from Duke opens a lot of doors and grants plenty of opportunity. Cheers to Tahj Rice who put the student back in the turn student-athlete. Featuring him has been our pleasure. Remember ballers hit the books in the classroom and when you step between the chalk lines…PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE!