Baylor football loads up on bruisers

Baylor coach Art Briles said the Bears still have scholarships remaining and will likely sign more players.

Baylor football coach Art Briles might need to order a few extra truckloads of beef when his 2011 signing class sits around the dinner table.

The Bears’ 19-player recruiting class is heavy on offensive and defensive linemen. Massive guys who are light on their feet seemed to be Baylor’s theme on Wednesday’s national signing day.

“This is without a doubt the strongest O-line and D-line class that’s been put together at Baylor in many years,” Briles said. “We found exactly what we were looking for on both sides of the ball. We found high-motor defensive guys who are tough and intelligent. Offensively, we found big, long guys who have a presence.”

Highlighted by Cedar Park four-star offensive tackle Spencer Drango, Baylor signed four offensive and five defensive linemen. A fifth offensive lineman, Euless Trinity’s Nila Kasitati, signed with Oklahoma after he had verbally committed to Baylor.

However, Cypress Creek running back Jermichael Selders signed with Baylor after he had verbally committed to West Virginia.

Despite a late push by the University of Texas, Drango stuck with Baylor. Drango is one of the highest-rated linemen that the Bears have ever signed, ranking as the No. 203 overall player on Rivals.com’s national recruiting list and ranking No. 15 nationally among offensive linemen by ESPN.com.

“The great thing about Spencer first and foremost is his loyalty to Baylor University and our football program,” Briles said. “As you develop relationships with players, that’s something you really grow to appreciate through this process. Physically, he’s 6-6 and 285 pounds, and is a guy with a great presence about him. He has it all: size, speed, strength, purpose and a great mental attitude as far as approaching the game and his academics.”

Joining Drango on the offensive line are Boys Ranch’s LaQuan McGowan, Dallas Lincoln’s Desmine Hilliard and Kilgore’s Pat Colbert. McGowan dominated Class 1A linemen, but he’s also mobile enough to be a presence on his high school basketball team and is a state champion in the shot put.

“LaQuan might be the biggest guy in the state,” Briles said. “He’s 6-6 and 335 pounds and can slam a basketball any way you want it slammed. There is not a better looking physical specimen in the state of Texas than him.”

Leading Baylor’s new defensive line recruits is Midway’s Beau Blackshear, who has considerable quickness for a 6-5, 270-pound player. Blackshear was named the Tribune-Herald ’s Super Centex Defensive Player of the Year after collecting 20 tackles for losses and seven sacks while forcing three fumbles.

“In Beau, we really got a great athlete who can play the defensive line,” Briles said. “He’s a big kid with live feet. He’s got a high motor and a winner’s mentality. He’s a can’t-miss guy.”

Euless Trinity’s Suleiman Masumbuko, Daingerfield’s Donald Bryant and Copperas Cove’s Trevor Clemons-Valdez are three other defensive linemen with great promise. Masumbuko is a native of Rwanda who fled during the 1994 civil war and has lived in Texas since 1996.

“Suleiman is just a powerful, tough, focused and driven D-lineman,” Briles said. “He’s a very mature and self-disciplined individual that we are excited about having on campus. All these guys had choices, good choices, and they decided to come to Baylor, and that tells me we’re moving in the right direction.”

Nick Johnson, a former Waco High standout, played offensive line at Navarro College but has been working with the defensive linemen in conditioning workouts after enrolling in January.

Like last season, Baylor is bringing in a big class of defensive backs. Kilgore College’s Josh Wilson and Lago Vista High School’s JeMarcus Johnson are already attending classes at Baylor, while junior college transfers David Whitmore of Iowa Western Community College and Kenny Morton from the College of the Sequoias are expected to arrive this summer.

Morton is a former all-state player at Northside High School at Warner Robins, Ga., and is the only signee in this class who didn’t play high school football in Texas. Morton will have three years of eligibility remaining after collecting 47 tackles and three interceptions for the College of Sequoias in Visalia, Calif.

“He’s a playmaker,” new Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett said. “He has an understanding of the game, he has the maturity and he’s very physical. I’m familiar with his high school program since I’ve coached at LSU. They are very well-coached and have high competition.”

Bennett is also excited to sign Mesquite Horn linebacker Kyle Boyd after he had originally committed to Iowa State. Bennett is planning to give middle linebacker Chris McAllister a look at defensive end, so the Bears needed an inside linebacker.

While Baylor didn’t sign a lot of skill position offensive players, Briles believes he’s bringing in quality with Tatum running back B.J. Allen and Allen receiver Jonathon Lee. Allen rushed for more than 3,000 yards and 37 touchdowns in his last two years at Tatum, while Lee caught 91 passes for 1,721 yards and 24 touchdowns in his last two seasons at Allen.

“B.J. is an electrifying athlete,” Briles said. “I see him playing a running back or inside receiver position for us. Jonathon is a big, powerful receiver. We’re deep at receiver and we weren’t going to take a guy unless we really thought he could contribute, but with Jonathon we certainly feel he can do that. He’s big, rangy and fast and has a lot of desire.”

Selders didn’t play his senior year after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament, but Briles said his recovery is going well and is anxious for his arrival at Baylor. Selders rushed for 1,533 yards and 23 touchdowns for Cypress Creek as a junior.

“He was a high scholarship-offer guy from all over the nation,” Briles said. “He tore his ACL in September and was committed to West Virginia. He came down for a visit last week, and we think he can really be a good football player. He’s a downhill runner and a tough kid who is very physical. A lot of times when you have something taken away from you, you end up wanting it a lot more.”

Briles said Baylor still has two or three scholarships remaining and will likely sign more players in this class. Briles said Baylor could still bring in a punter since since senior Derek Epperson has exhausted his eligibility, but he’ll evaluate how Ben Parks punts during spring drills.

757-5716