Winning the Big 12 championship has given Art Briles’ football program a whole new visibility in the recruiting world.
With its uber-paced offense, cool uniforms and metallic gold helmets, Baylor has suddenly become a hip place to be.
A gorgeous $260 million stadium opening next month on the Brazos doesn’t hurt Briles’ sales pitch either.
For Baylor, it has all translated into a huge jump on its 2016 recruiting class. The Bears have already landed five verbal commitments from players on the verge of entering their junior year of high school.
It’s an unusually large number of early commitments for Baylor or anybody. TCU has two 2016 commitments while Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech have one apiece. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State don’t have any so far.
“Winning the Big 12 has made a lot of recruits see they’re the real deal,” said Port Arthur Memorial running back Kameron Martin. “They can hang with anybody and they can do it again. I feel like Baylor is an underdog team that is rising up and can win the national championship.”
Martin was among a flurry of 2016 players who committed to Baylor last week. The biggest news was when massive Silsbee offensive lineman Patrick Hudson switched his commitment from Texas A&M to Baylor. He’s expected to be ranked among the top offensive linemen in the country when Rivals.com unveils its top 250 high school players in the 2016 class.
Martin is an all-purpose back with game-breaking speed who rushed for 1,040 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore last season. The Bears landed another burner when Navasota receiver Tren’Davian Dickson made a commitment.
“It was a no-brainer,” Dickson said. “It’s a good school and a great offense for receivers.”
In the opening week of June, Baylor nailed down its first two 2016 commitments from Grandview quarterback Zach Smith and Pflugerville Hendrickson defensive back Keshawn Somerville.
The 6-4, 220-pound Smith already has the size and arm strength of a college quarterback. Starting for the Grandview varsity for the first time as a sophomore last fall, Smith passed for 3,093 yards and 33 touchdowns.
Since Baylor has produced one of the best offenses in college football for the last three seasons, recruits are lining up to play for Briles. Dickson saw how productive former Baylor receivers like Kendall Wright, Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese were in Briles’ offense, and wants to join the club.
The 5-11, 166-pound Dickson showed his big-play ability for Navasota last season as he made 39 catches for 823 yards and 13 touchdowns. He likes the way Baylor spreads the wealth to all of its offensive skill people.
“When I went to their camp, they gave everybody a chance to use their skills,” Dickson said. “Even if you’re not the No. 1 receiver, you can catch a lot of balls. I feel like I can use my athletic ability. Their offense impresses a lot of people.”
Martin said he already has 24 scholarship offers including Florida and Florida State. But Baylor was the first to offer as he entered his freshman year at Port Arthur Memorial.
During the last two years, he’s developed a close relationship with the Baylor coaches. Though he still has two years of high school football remaining, he knows he wants to play for Briles.
“Some of the top schools have recruited me, but I didn’t have a relationship with other coaches like I have with Coach Briles,” Martin said. “We talk about football and life. When they offered me a scholarship as a ninth grader, that was my first offer and I knew they trusted me.”
Like every other Baylor offensive recruit, the speed and production of Briles’ attack attracts Martin. He’s seen how effective running backs can be since the Bears have produced a 1,000-yard rusher each of the last four years.
“My style is very fast and I have great vision,” Martin said. “Sometimes I’ll run over you, but mainly I try to get out of the way and score a touchdown.”
Both Martin and Dickson plan to be in Waco for the opening of McLane Stadium Aug. 31 when the Bears host SMU. They’re anxious to spend their college careers playing in Baylor’s jewel on the Brazos even though it will still be a couple of years down the road.
“Man, it’s going to be a real good feeling playing in a stadium that’s just been built,” Martin said. “We’re going to make a lot of noise and see a lot of people there, and we’re going to do some things.”