Briles, Baylor continue to look to trenches in recruiting

Cedar Park offensive lineman Spencer Drango is one of the jewels of Baylor's recruiting class.

Cedar Park High School offensive lineman Spencer Drango is a bright kid who plans to major in business or mechanical engineering after he arrives at Baylor this summer.

Though education is a high priority for Drango, Baylor’s recent success with placing linemen in the NFL draft is also a major factor.

The St. Louis Rams selected offensive tackle Jason Smith with the second overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft, and the Denver Broncos chose center J.D. Walton in the third round last year. Offensive tackle Danny Watkins could be picked in this year’s draft.

“They’ve been putting linemen in the league, and that’s one of the reasons I decided to go to Baylor,” said Drango, a four-star recruit. “I also really like the coaching staff. I like their style and the way they interact with players. Baylor just felt right to me.”

Baylor is feeling right for a lot of offensive linemen in the 2011 class.

While Drango is the jewel of Baylor’s recruiting class so far, four other high school linemen have verbally committed to the Bears — Kilgore’s Pat Colbert, Boys Ranch’s LaQuan McGowan, Dallas Lincoln’s Desmine Hilliard and Euless Trinity’s Nila Kasitati. The NCAA national signing day is Feb. 2.

Additionally, Navarro College offensive lineman Nick Johnson signed in December and is already enrolled at Baylor.

Adding depth to fronts

From the moment he arrived in November 2007, Art Briles saw that Baylor needed much more depth in its offensive and defensive lines. It’s begun to pay off — all five starters in Baylor’s offensive line last season were Briles’ recruits, including Watkins and 2009 four-star recruit Ivory Wade.

With six offensive linemen among 17 commitments in the 2011 class, the Bears are continuing to add muscle up front.

Drango committed to Baylor last July, but the offensive tackle’s connection to the university goes back a lot further.

“I’ve visited Baylor a lot because my brother, Brad, goes there,” Drango said. “Baylor has great academics, and that’s real important to me because I know football won’t always be there.”

Ranked No. 29 in the state by Rivals.com, Drango is Baylor’s highest-rated player and is one of the top offensive line prospects in the state.

Though University of Texas commitments like Galena Park’s Sedrick Flowers, Hallsville’s Josh Cochran and Klein Collins’ Garrett Greenlea are ranked higher, most recruiting experts believe Drango belongs among the best.

“You can make an argument that Drango is the best offensive lineman in Texas,” said Randy Rodgers, who operates an Austin-based recruiting service. “He’s a great student and is big and physical. He’s a guy who can play early because he’s so smart.”

At 6-6 and 285 pounds, Drango already has a massive build, but he believes he can put on more weight.

“Baylor’s offense is familiar to me because we ran a similar style in high school,” Drango said. “It’s up to the coaches if they want to redshirt me. I’d be OK with it to get my size up.”

While Class 4A Cedar Park is on the beaten path for college recruiters in the Austin area, the Baylor coaches looked to the Panhandle to find McGowan at Boys Ranch. At 6-8 and 345 pounds, McGowan towered over linemen in his Class 1A district.

After getting up to 375 before the football season, McGowan dropped 30 pounds to increase his quickness.

“LaQuan realized he was way too heavy and knew that he had to lose weight to get quicker,” Boys Ranch coach Mike Lozano said. “He’s a hard worker who enjoys the weight room and can dominate when he wants to. He had some trouble with smaller players, but whenever he went against somebody with fairly good size, he’d manhandle them.”

McGowan is staying in shape by playing basketball for Boys Ranch.

“He’s a phenomenal basketball player and is scoring points at will,” Lozano said. “He’s quicker now and is moving up and down the court better than he had the last couple of seasons. When he gets a chance, he goes for the LaQuan dunk with that big old arm of his.”

Basketball seems to be a trend for incoming Baylor offensive linemen. The 6-5, 280-pound Colbert is playing post for Kilgore High School.

“Pat’s athletic ability shows on the court,” Kilgore coach Mike Wood said. “He’s an inside guy who does a great job on the boards.”

Wood believes Colbert has the size and athletic ability to play guard or tackle for Baylor.

“Pat is blessed with height and size, but what really separates him is his agility, footwork and quickness,” Wood said. “That’s why he projects well at the college level. Pat certainly isn’t through growing. He can put on more weight and be a 300-plus pound lineman.”

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