*Photo by Gordon DeLoach – @flashpho
A new era: How Baylor’s 2017 recruiting class fared…
After an explosive rise to dominance under Art Briles that included a Heisman Trophy, two Big 12 Championships, the most prolific offense in America over a four or five year stretch, and a home field advantage that was rivaled by only few programs, the Baylor Bears were in firm position to not only be one of the top programs in Texas and the Big 12, but the nation.
Unfortunately, with all that success came a horrific sexual assault scandal.
A 2017 recruiting class primed to be far and away the best class in Baylor history was dismantled, and with added and expected attrition of all sorts throughout the program, it looked as if recruiting and football in general in Waco was never going to be the same again.
Fast forward to December 6, 2016 and a new era of Baylor Football began with Matt Rhule. Baylor’s 2017 recruiting class had gone from as ranked as high as 4th best in the nation (based off of 247 recruiting services) to one lone commit. ONE COMMIT with just under two months until national signing day. This is what Matt Rhule stepped into, but through all the talks of “lacking Texas ties” and a dead program, Rhule not only assembled a full recruiting class – he shattered expectations, piecing together the 40th ranked class in the nation (247 recruiting).
Landing commitments from players who had previously been committed to programs such as Florida State, USC, TCU, Houston, and SMU, Rhule proved that he, a “Yankee”, can come to Texas and a program like Baylor and recruit with the best.
Out of those 2017 commits, playing time as a freshman was not only an option – it was necessary. 15 saw the the field and players such as QB Charlie Brewer, who was recently named Big 12 co-freshman of the year, RB John Lovett, RB Trestan Ebner, WR Gavin Holmes, CB Harrison Hand, and DT James Lynch showed immediate promise.
Playing a true freshman is never an ideal situation, and while a number of the 2017 commits produced at a high level, ideally they would have been redshirted. It’s all part of the rebuild however, and now that recruits have seen year one of Matt Rhule’s Baylor Bears, they are taking notice – even after an embarrassing, injury-ridden 1-11 season.
Recruiting is recruiting, and nothing is ever set in stone until papers are signed, but Matt Rhule and staff have done a tremendous job of not only recruiting, but getting commits to stay committed after the worst season record-wise in Baylor history. These recruits know that while both coaching and play on the field needs to drastically improve, this past season has somewhat of an asterisk next to it. New schemes, a gutted 2016 recruiting class, coaches jumping from the American Athletic Conference to the most prolific offensive conference in college football, and injuries handicapped what could and should have been a much better year. But aside from the Baylor faithful, all anyone will remember is 1-11, and rightfully so.
The 2017 and 2018 classes represent the future of Baylor football. They know it. They are willing to embrace it. They can get this program back where they were.
2018 Baylor Football Commits
December 1, 2017: There are 68 days until National Signing Day and just 19 days until the new early signing period. Baylor currently sits with 19 commits and the 30th ranked class in the nation (247 recruiting), and their highest rated commits might still be yet to come. They have three four-star commits, fifteen three-star commits, and one two-star punter on board. Most of these are currently considered hard locks to remain Bears, but as expected, there are a few who could potentially flip elsewhere. Below is a breakdown of each commit.
*rankings and numbers updated December 12, 2017
12/12/17: Baylor currently holds the 30th ranked class in the nation with an average commit rating of 86.24 – They have 2 four-star commits, 17 three-star commits, and 1 two-star commit.
ATH – 4* Byron Hanspard Jr. – DeSoto, TX – 247 Composite Rank: 289
Baylor’s most recent commit also happens to be their highest rated one. Byron Hanspard Jr. is a 6-foot athlete who can be used in many different ways. Although he played wide receiver at DeSoto, the Bears plan on bringing him in as a cornerback. Hansard Jr. boasts top speed and is sure tackler in open space, something the Baylor secondary desperately needs. It’s possible he could play as a freshman with the limited depth on at cornerback, but this is a guy who could and should be starting by his sophomore season.
Other notable offers: Oregon, Ole Miss, Oklahoma State, Arkansas, West Virginia, Mississippi State, Kansas State, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
WR – 4* Joshua Fleeks – Cedar Hill, TX – 247 Composite Rank: 307
Joshua Fleeks is Baylor’s highest rated offensive commit. A big reason he chose Baylor is due to former Cedar Hill head coach Joey McGuire being on Baylor’s staff. He is listed as a wide receiver but Baylor probably won’t solely use him out wide. He can line up at wide receiver, in the slot, in the back field – pretty much anywhere on the field they can get him the ball. Think of the way Oregon used superstar DeAnthony Thomas or how current Bear Trestan Ebner was utilized in the offense this past season. That’s how Fleeks could be used at Baylor.
Other notable offers: Georgia, UCLA, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Illinois
OT – 3* Connor Galvin – Katy, TX – 247 Composite Rank: 389
Perhaps the single most important commit of the ’18 class is Connor Galvin. A primary reason for Baylor’s 1-11 season was the awful play of the offensive line. Galvin gives Baylor a cornerstone type left tackle to build around. Ideally he would be starting at left tackle by his redshirt sophomore season but he could very well compete for a starting spot on the right side by his second season assuming current left tackle Jake Fruhmorgen stays for his senior season.
Other notable offers: Florida, TCU, UCLA, Colorado, Texas Tech, Minnesota
RB – 3* Stanley Hackett – Pasadena, TX – 247 Composite Rank: 403
Baylor has certainly targeted speed demons in the run game, but they also would like to keep a big, boulder back on the team. Stanley Hackett is a man among boys, standing at 6’3, 193 pounds. Baylor currently has two bigger backs on the roster in Terence Williams and John Lovett. Williams could potentially be gone after this past season so Hackett could step right in and compete for carries behind Hasty and Lovett.
Other notable offers: UCLA, Texas Tech
APB – 3* Craig Williams – Crosby, TX – 247 Composite Rank: 425
Baylor’s third four star, Craig Williams, is not only one of the most explosive players in Texas, but the country. Standing at just 5’9, 170 pounds, Williams is in the mold of former Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk, but possibly even more dynamic. Baylor is currently loaded at running back so Williams will be far down the pecking order, but if he doesn’t redshirt, he will be an immediate contributor on special teams in the return game.
Other notable offers: Auburn, Oklahoma State, Mississippi State, Utah, Virginia Tech, Colorado, Arizona State, Washington State, Texas Tech, Minnesota
WR – 3* Kalon Barnes – Silsbee, TX – 247 Composite Rank: 444
Under Art Briles, the Bears were known for world-class speed and athleticism. Matt Rhule wants to keep that athletic identity. Enter Kalon Barnes, current holder of the fastest Texas 4A state track 100-meter time at 10.22 seconds. For Baylor fans, a comparison for him could be a slightly larger Tevin Reese, but with more route running potential. It isn’t a stretch to say Barnes would be the fastest player in Baylor’s history. He certainly will be one of Baylor’s more explosive offensive players over the next 5 years.
Other notable offers: Georgia, TCU, Texas A&M, Texas, UCLA, Iowa State, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Arizona
DT – 3* Joshua Landry – Houston, TX – 247 Composite Rank: 481
Joshua Landry should be in line to be the best defensive commit in the very early Matt Rhule era. A powerful and quick lineman, Landry brings what Baylor is currently missing – a defensive tackle who can get to the quarterback. Landry could also transition to defensive end when he gets to Baylor. The bottom line is he gets to the quarterback, and Baylor has lacked that over recent years. Some have reported that Texas could be a huge threat, but they have not offered yet. That will definitely be something to watch for, but for now Landry is a Bear commit.
Other notable offers: Nebraska, Arizona State, Iowa State, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Arizona
TE – 3* Bralen Taylor – Cuero, TX – 247 Composite Rank: 628
This past season wasn’t an example of it, but Baylor is going to use their tight ends. One of three currently committed is Bralen Taylor, a giant among men. Taylor is 6’7, 221 pounds as a senior in high school, and while raw, the upside is pretty ridiculous. He’ll be a top redzone target when he sees the field, but even more intriguing is the potential of lining him up as an outside receiver in some packages. When he hits the strength and conditioning program he is going to be a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators.
Other notable offers: Georgia, Florida, Miami, Nebraska, Oregon, TCU, Oklahoma State
S – 3* Christian Morgan – Porter, TX – 247 Composite Rank: 687
Christian Morgan is another commit who has a good chance of playing on day one. At the 2017 Nike Football Opening, Morgan scored the highest SPARQ rating in America at 144.0. He’s simply one of the absolute best athletes in the country. With Baylor’s issues at safety, Morgan has the athleticism and size to compete for playing time as a freshman. He’s also in the mold of what Baylor looks for in a strong side linebacker so he could find playing time there as well.
Other notable offers: Vanderbilt, Iowa State, Arizona State, Texas Tech
OLB – 3* Joseph Ogunbanjo – Houston, TX – 247 Composite Rank: 715
A standout at one of Baylor’s camps, Joseph Ogunbanjo is a raw, but interesting prospect. He’s probably too small to play on the line but getting after the quarterback will be his speciality. He’ll probably be used in a similar way as linebacker Eric Ogor this past season or what they intend to do with DeMarco Artis. Ogunbanjo is definitely on the “project” side of the spectrum, but the reward could be very high after multiple years in the strength and conditioning program and learning from defensive line coach Elijah Robinson and linebacker coach Mike Siravo.
Other notable offers: Utah, California, Texas Tech, Arizona State, Arizona
OT – 3* Casey Phillips – Franklin, TX – 247 Composite Rank: 812
Casey Phillips was a fantastic get by Matt Rhule. A physical tackle, he could be viewed as the future right tackle alongside Connor Galvin as soon as his redshirt sophomore season. Phillips is one of the more athletic tackles Baylor has had in quite some time and just like Galvin, he could be challenging for a starting spot as early as his second season. Baylor will have to hold off TCU and Oklahoma State for his services though.
Other notable offers: TCU, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech
TE – 3* Christoph Henle – Arlington, TX – 247 Composite Rank: 818
Another tight end in the mix. Christoph Henle could be in line to play significant snaps as a true freshman. He already has a grown man’s body at 6’5, 245 pounds. What will determine his playing time will be how fast he adjusts to blocking college defensive ends and linebackers. If he progresses at that he very well could be the best tight end on the roster as a true freshman.
Other notable offers: California, Illinois, Kentucky
CB – 3* Mark Milton – Friendswood, TX – 247 Composite Rank: 855
Milton fits the profile of what Phil Snow looks for in his defensive backs: tall and speedy athletes. Milton is a wide receiver and running back but the Baylor staff is taking him as a cornerback. He’s an extremely raw prospect for that side of the ball, but his speed and size will be much needed additions to Baylor’s secondary.
Other notable offers: Missouri, Virginia, Minnesota
OT – 3* Jackson Kimble – Southlake, TX – 247 Composite Rank: 865
Jackson Kimble is another early offensive lineman taken by Baylor, and the third from Southlake Carroll that they have taken the past two seasons. Kimble will get the opportunity to play as soon as his sophomore season, but ideally he will be redshirted. TCU and Arkansas are also after him, so Baylor will have to hold off late potential pushes from those programs.
Other notable offers: TCU, Arkansas, Texas Tech, Minnesota, Arizona State
WR – 3* Jackson Gleeson – Mansfield, TX – 247 Composite Rank: 905
Jackson Gleeson is one of the more intriguing commits for the Bears. Like fellow receiver commit Kalon Barnes, Gleeson has world-class speed. He currently stands at 6’1, 160 pounds so gaining weight and strength is a must, but you cannot teach speed. Gleeson will most likely be redshirted, but could be fighting for significant playing time by his second season. There might not be a faster receiving duo in the 2018 recruiting class than Barnes and Gleeson.
Other notable offers: Nebraska, Iowa State
S – 3* JT Woods – Cibolo, TX – 247 Composite Rank: 956
JT Woods has been one of the most pro-Baylor commits of the ’18 class and one the staff is extremely high on. While raw, he’s a 6’2 athletic freak with elite speed, and is extremely intelligent, holding offers from Yale, Brown, and Navy . Ideally, he will redshirt, but if he bulks up fast he could see the field next season. Like Milton, Woods fits the exact profile of a Phil Snow cornerback.
Other notable offers: Auburn, Houston
OL – 3* Ylijaah Hall – Bryan, TX – 247 Composite Rank: 1080
The fourth and final offensive line commit of Baylor’s ’18 class is 6’5, 290 pound Ylijaah Hall. He’s another raw prospect who will most definitely be redshirted. While Galvin and Phillips are more “sure things”, Hall has a ways to go in his development, but the staff loved what they saw at one of their camps. He should provide solid depth on the line over his college career.
Other notable offers: Houston, Stephen F. Austin
TE – 3* Ben Sims – Clark, TX – 247 Composite Rank: 1118
Ben Sims is in the same mold as fellow commit Christoph Henle, standing at 6’5, 241 pounds. Baylor currently has two tight ends on their roster: redshirt freshman Tyler Henderson and converted defensive end Rob Saulin, who played sparingly last season before a season-ending injury. Baylor is taking three tight ends with the intention of playing them early, and Sims, along with Henle, figures to battle for a starting position from day one.
Other notable offers: Auburn, Houston
DE – 3* Marje Smith – Marshall, TX – 247 Composite Rank: 1577
After a catching the coaches’ eyes at a summer camp, Marje Smith was offered and committed almost immediately after. Smith is definitely a project, as he hardly had any high school production prior to his senior season where he made a huge jump statistically with 41 tackles, 3 sacks, and 17 tackles for loss. While he is very thin, he stands at 6’6 and is one of the faster defensive ends in Texas. With his athleticism his upside is pretty high, but it will probably be at least 3 years until he contributes on the field.
Other notable offers: Stephen F. Austin
K – 2* Isaac Power – Parker, CO – 247 Composite Rank: 2409
Baylor didn’t forget about special teams while on the recruiting trail. They picked up U.S. Army All-American punter Isaac Power from Colorado. Baylor’s current punter, Drew Galitz, suffered a season-ending leg injury earlier this year so depending on how he heals, Power very well could hold punting duties as a freshman. Special teams is a big focus for Rhule, and landing one of two Army All-American punters could pay dividends in the future for this program.
Other notable offers: None
Other 2018 recruits to watch for
WR – 4* Tommy Bush – Schertz, TX – 247 Composite Rank: 193
QB – 4* Gerry Bohanon – Earle, AR – 247 Composite Rank: 229
S – 4* Cam’ron Jones – Mansfield, TX – 247 Composite Rank: 299
WR – 3* Tyquan Thornton – Miami, FL – 247 Composite Rank: 308