Coming off one of the most successful seasons in school history, Baylor coach Art Briles’ winning streak continued on the recruiting trail.
Highlighted by some premier defensive recruits, Baylor signed its highest rated class of the Briles era Wednesday as it placed 30th in Scout.com’s national ratings. It’s the highest ranking since Baylor’s 2002 class finished 21st.
“It’s the most talented class we’ve signed, and it’s reflective of how our 2011 season went,” Briles said. “Finishing with 10 wins, winning a bowl game, having numerous All-Americans and RG3 (Robert Griffin) winning the Heisman Trophy all had a lot of significance in this class, along with the prospect of a new on-campus stadium.”
Most importantly, Briles believes his 23-player class addressed Baylor’s biggest needs. While the Bears signed talented offensive players like dynamic Richardson Pearce receiver Corey Coleman and promising Garland quarterback Seth Russell, their focus was to sign defensive players to impact a unit that finished near the bottom of the Big 12 in most categories.
Briles believes Baylor hit the jackpot with four-star recruits like San Antonio Sam Houston defensive end Javonte Magee and Euless Trinity linebacker Brian Nance. The 6-5, 265-pound Magee is ranked the No. 7 defensive end in the 2012 class by Rivals.com after he collected 11 sacks in the fall. Rivals.com rated Baylor’s class No. 43 nationally.
“You’d have to dust off a few Texas Football magazines to find a more heralded defensive recruit to sign with Baylor,” Briles said of Magee. “He’s extremely agile, athletic and is a person who just possesses everything you look for on that side of the ball. He could have gone anywhere in the nation, but he chose Baylor.”
Nance is rated the No. 18 outside linebacker prospect in the country by ESPN.com. After a junior year when he collected 160 tackles, 13 sacks and six interceptions, Nance came back from an ACL tear last summer to finish with 67 tackles and five sacks in eight games as a senior.
“After his ACL surgery, Brian just kept getting better and better,” Briles said. “He’s just a great football player, a sideline-to-sideline guy. We’re really excited to get him here and get after it full-tilt.”
Baylor signed 14 players who could end up on defense, including four linemen, four linebackers and six defensive backs.
Joining Magee on the defensive line are Denton Ryan’s Dominique Banks, Humble’s Zorell Ezell and McKinney Boyd’s Jamal Palmer.
Baylor’s new class of linebackers includes Pearland’s Kendall Ehrlich, Riverside (Calif.) Community College’s Eddie Lackey and Sealy’s Shamycheal Chatman. Chatman was a late commitment after he cleared up some academic issues, and Briles is glad to have him on board.
“Shamycheal is a great, great player,” Briles said. “He can run, he has played defensive end and linebacker, and has a tremendous upside. We think we’ll be able to develop him through our strength and training and coaching on the field.”
1st in line
Baylor’s first verbal commitment in this year’s class was Stephenville’s Aiavion Edwards, who announced his intentions on Jan. 30, 2011. Edwards was a talented high school running back, but will play safety for the Bears.
“He stayed true to us all the way through,” Briles said. “He’s a big kid who can run and make things happen for us on the football field. He’s extremely fast and physical.”
Baylor’s only local recruit is Midway defensive back Orion Stewart, who helped the Panthers reach the Class 4A Division I state championship game.
“You always keep your eye on good talent and people who can fit your system, and Orion does that,” Briles said. “He has great leaping ability and can make plays on the ball. If we can get players who fit into our system from around here, we’ll take them.”
Though Port Arthur Memorial’s Terrence Singleton was a Class 5A all-state quarterback, he could play defensive back or receiver for the Bears. At 5-10 and 175 pounds, he’s a tremendous athlete who has exhibited great leadership on the field.
“Terrence is just an extremely gifted player,” Briles said. “He’s tough, aggressive and fast, and he elevates people around him. If you walked into Memorial High School, the one guy who has the respect of the people is Terrence.”
Baylor’s biggest offensive catch is Coleman, a first-team Class 4A all-state receiver who made 69 catches for 932 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushed for 567 yards and 15 scores as a Richardson Pearce senior. During his last three years of high school, he amassed 3,864 all-purpose yards.
“He’s a big-time player and a great young man with a tremendous upside,” Briles said. “Once he gets involved in our system, the sky’s the limit and we’re going there. We were very excited about him committing to us early. He fought off people and stayed loyal to Baylor. He’s going to have a great career here.”
With Griffin headed to the NFL, Baylor signed Russell, a 6-3 dual-threat quarterback who passed for 1,502 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushed for 471 yards and seven scores as a Garland senior. Russell decided to sign with Baylor recently after originally committing to Kansas.
Replacing Griffin’s arm
“Without question, RG3 came into play,” Briles said. “If he had stayed in college, we probably wouldn’t have taken a quarterback. But we stayed in contact with Seth since last June and kept him aware of RG3. Now, he gets to come to a great place that knows how to use quarterbacks. He’s excited and we’re excited.”
Besides Coleman, Baylor also signed Carrollton Hebron receiver Kiante’ Griffin and Cypress-Fairbanks receiver Kaleb Moore. Moore is an intriguing prospect who has a history as a high jumper and long jumper but only recently began focusing on football.
“Kaleb will be extremely dynamic,” Briles said. “He’s a 24-foot long jumper, a 47-foot triple jumper and a 6-8 high jumper. This is a guy who has really just started playing football two years ago. We think the sky’s the limit for him because he can do a lot of things on the field with his athletic ability.”
Another interesting prospect is Linden-Kildare’s Rashodrick Linwood, who was a dual-threat high school quarterback who will play running back and receiver for the Bears.
“He came to camp last summer and was the highlight of the camp,” Briles said. “He just took over when he stepped on the field and made plays on the offensive side of the ball. He’s extremely explosive, fast, passionate and mature.”
Baylor also signed Burkburnett running back Devin Chafin, who rushed for 1,246 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior. He also caught 40 passes for 400 yards and four scores as he was named Class 3A second-team all-state.
Already stocked on the offensive line, Baylor signed only two players including Wylie’s Kyle Fuller and Port Arthur Memorial’s Tre’Von Armstead. Athens offensive lineman Cameron Bailey, who had committed to Baylor, is expected to play junior college football due to academic issues.
All of the new players are from Texas except Lackey, a native of Murrieta, Calif., who signed in December and is enrolled at Baylor this semester.
“We’re always going to recruit Texas,” Briles said. “We feel good about what’s in our backyard. Eddie is the lucky one because he got to come to Texas and play football.”
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