It might not be the best idea to challenge Baylor’s quartet of freshman wide receivers to a relay race.
KD Cannon, Davion Hall, Chris Platt and Ishmael Zamora burned up tracks all over the state in high school and now they’ve brought that speed to the Baylor football team.
They’re not just fast, they have receiving skills and big-time playmaking ability. Baylor coach Art Briles said he wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of them played immediately this season.
“It’s just what we were saying in February when they signed — it’s the best receiving class in America,” Briles said. “If anybody wants to debate it, I’m here. It’s not debatable. As good as they are now, they’re just babies learning how to crawl. Once we get them up and teach them how to run and play, they’re going to be pretty phenomenal.”
In May, Cannon blew away his competition at the Class 4A state track meet with a blazing 10.3 seconds in the 100 meters for Mount Pleasant. Platt won the Class 4A 400 meters for Willis three straight years before coming in second as a senior. Zamora won the Class 5A 110-meter hurdles for Aleif Elsik last year and took second in the long jump this spring.
Hall graduated from Texarkana Liberty-Eylau in December to enroll early at Baylor last spring, but can also run with anybody.
All four wanted to play in a fast-tempo offense where they could use their speed and receiving skills, and Baylor fit the bill.
“I knew how fast Baylor’s offense is and they’re going to put up numbers every game,” Cannon said. “You’re going to get the ball and have a good chance.”
Cannon is the most highly touted of the four freshman receivers, ranking No. 34 nationally among all players in the 2014 class by Rivals.com.
As a Mount Pleasant senior, Cannon made 80 catches for 1,252 yards and 16 touchdowns to earn a spot on the U.S. Army All-American team. He put up even bigger numbers as a junior by making 104 catches for 1,597 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Cannon saw how former Baylor receivers Kendall Wright, Josh Gordon and Terrance Williams developed their skills and became NFL receivers, and he wants to do the same.
“It kind of attracted me and was motivation that I could be great like the rest of them,” Cannon said.
Though Cannon played in a pass-oriented offense at Mount Pleasant, the adjustment to Baylor’s tempo has been a major change. Even fast guys like Cannon have to learn to run plays faster. Briles doesn’t use a playbook, so players learn the offense through repetition and visualization.
“The speed of this offense is unbelievable because you’re running a play every six seconds,” Cannon said. “It was kind of hard at first but I’m getting used to it now. You’ve got to get in a lot of reps because it’s real different than other offenses.”
While Cannon is a sleek 5-11 and 160 pounds, Hall is a big, physical receiver who stands 6-2 and 200. A shoulder injury kept him out of the majority of spring practice, but he’s come back strong with an impressive preseason camp.
“It (the injury) was disappointing, but I still learned the offense,” Hall said. “It came naturally and I got better.”
Hall did a little bit of everything at Liberty-Eylau, catching 24 passes for 526 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 166 yards and five scores as a senior. He was also an outstanding defensive back, and ranked No. 38 nationally on the ESPN Top 300 recruiting list for 2014.
Though he was recruited by SEC schools like Alabama and Texas A&M, Hall was attracted to the success of Baylor’s wide receivers and the program’s recent winning history.
“Baylor’s wide receiver tradition played a big part,” Hall said. “They throw the ball a lot and are one of the best teams in the nation.”
Neither Platt nor Zamora put up big numbers in high school. Platt finished with 20 catches for 372 yards and three touchdowns as a senior while Zamora made 18 catches for 334 yards and three scores.
But they both thought they could explode in Baylor’s dynamic offense. They’ve been learning the ropes from older receivers like All-American Antwan Goodley and Jay Lee.
“I didn’t really get a lot of passes in high school because we were a run-based offense,” Zamora said. “But I saw the success they’ve had here with receivers like Josh Gordon and Terrance Williams. I’ve also picked up a lot from Antwan and Jay Lee about using your body to get open.”
The 6-4, 195-pound Zamora is the tallest of the freshman receivers while Platt is the smallest at 5-9 and 160 pounds. They both feel fortunate to play with all-Big 12 senior quarterback Bryce Petty.
“It’s a relief and it gives me comfort knowing he’s a veteran quarterback who is going to give me a catchable ball,” Zamora said.
BEAR FACTS: Redshirt freshman running back Johnny Jefferson suffered a knee strain during Monday’s practice and is listed as day to day. ... Baylor coach Art Briles doesn’t foresee many changes in the depth chart before the Aug. 31 season opener against SMU. “There won’t be any drastic changes, maybe two guys on each side of the ball, probably more so on special teams.”... Senior receiver Antwan Goodley has made Sports Illustrated’s preseason All-America team.