With a late signing day push highlighted by Odessa Permian’s multi-talented Peyton Powell, Baylor filled needs across the board in its 2019 class and made a major move in the national rankings.
The Bears jumped from No. 40 to 34 in Rivals.com’s rankings by adding several key components to their recruiting class on Wednesday, which kicked off the NCAA’s early signing period.
Besides Powell, Baylor capped its 19-player class with three late out of state additions: offensive linemen Blake Bedier and Davis DiVall and tight end Sam Snyder.
“I’m pleased with it, we’ve got enough guys that we can move forward,” said Baylor coach Matt Rhule. “I thought we really had to rebuild on the defensive and offensive lines. Not rebuild from a bad sense, we’re losing four seniors on the offensive line and we’re losing four seniors on the defensive line. So this enabled us to go out and get some young talent.
“I think the biggest thing is we think we’re going to get nine guys in here mid-year (in January) who can participate in the spring. That’s really exciting for us.”
Powell, the No. 29 recruit in the state, is a dual-threat quarterback who could play several positions for the Bears. As a senior, Powell passed for 1,514 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushed for 460 yards and seven scores for Odessa Permian.
Powell chose Baylor over a multitude of suitors, including Texas, Oklahoma and Ohio State.
“He was really sought after with tons of opportunities,” Rhule said. “He’s a leader, he’s dynamic, he’s tough, explosive, and really just went our way today. We’re going to give him a shot at quarterback. But he’s a guy who can play anywhere on the field.”
Bedier should make an instant impact for Baylor’s offensive line after making second-team All-America at Snow (Utah) College. After originally not playing college football out of Lehi, Utah, the 6-6 Bedier decided to give the game a shot at Snow College as he bulked up from 220 to 295 pounds.
“He said he would try football and walked on to a junior college and played a little bit one year, and this year had a great year,” Rhule said. “He was on three Division I visits last week, everyone fighting for his services. He’s a little bit of a late bloomer, but the fact that we’ll have him here over the spring, he can learn from our coaching staff and work in the weight room. I just love his personality and demeanor. He’s a great fit for us.”
Baylor signed DiVall out of Bridgton (Maine) Academy while Snyder will join the Bears from Fleming, Fla., High School where he made 18 catches for 505 yards and six touchdowns, averaging a remarkable 28.1 yards per catch.
While Powell is the highest-rated Texas recruit in Baylor’s class, five other players from Rivals.com’s Top 100 in the state will join him.
Rated No. 44, Qualan Jones is a powerful running back with superb pass catching ability who helped Cedar Hill Trinity Christian win the TAPPS Division II state title with a perfect 14-0 record. As a senior, Jones rushed for 1,251 yards and 18 touchdowns and added 19 receptions for 456 yards and six scores.
“He’s big, fast, 225 pounds and ran a 4.4 at our camp,” Rhule said. “He’s a loyal guy and comes from a great family. I just love being around him, and I think he’s going to be that big, physical power back that we’re looking for, especially with Jalen Hurd being done.”
Coming in at No. 56 in Rivals.com’s rankings, San Antonio Jay quarterback Jacob Zeno is a dual-threat quarterback with a big arm and good mobility. As a senior, Zeno passed for 1,387 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushed for 423 yards and 12 scores.
A four-star recruit by ESPN, is rated the No. 7 pro-style quarterback in the nation.
“He’s tremendously accurate, really one of the early leaders of the class, really loyal,” Rhule said. “You know he’s an Elite 11 quarterback, he’s a guy who had offers everywhere. He’s not afraid to compete, he’s confident but also extremely humble. He has as good a throwing motion as you’re going to see for a young guy.”
Round Rock Cedar Ridge’s Jaylen Ellis is an explosive receiver ranked No. 57 who made 46 catches for 1,153 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior.
A three-star recruit by Rivals.com, Ellis was chosen for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and was heavily recruited as he picked Baylor over Texas, Michigan, Tennessee and Arizona.
Both Zeno and Ellis committed to Baylor early and constantly encouraged other recruits to stick with the Bears.
“In this social media age where you’re talking to each other and you’re playing video games in separate states and talking to each other over a headset, guys develop relationships,” Rhule said. “At the end of the day, there’s a tough decision for kids, and they have to make the best decision for themselves. But I think they begin to form connections.”
Baylor’s other two Texas top 100 recruits are Beaumont United safety Tyrone Brown at No. 85 and Tomball’s Logan Compton, the No. 89 recruit who will play defensive line.
The only local signee was Temple defensive end T.J. Franklin, who collected 39 tackles with 11 for loss and six sacks while adding 11 quarterback hurries.
“T.J.’s a guy who has been committed to us for a long time,” Rhule said. “He’s a guy who has really grown into his body this year. He’s a big athlete. I think he’ll be good enough to help us right away, and with Ira (Lewis) and Greg (Roberts) and Xavier Jones and all those guys leaving, we’ll need some immediate help, but also some guys who can develop into big-time players.”
Franklin will be among a big group of incoming defensive linemen, including Compton, Monroe (N.Y.) College end Niadre Zouzoua, Houston Klein end Harrison White, Waller lineman Gabe Hall and Odessa Permian lineman Matt Jones.
Baylor also stocked up its defensive backfield with Brown, Amarillo Tascosa’s Brandon White, Plano Prestonwood Christian’s Solomon Turner and Hakeem Vance from Hattiesburg, Miss.
Several Baylor commitments didn’t sign Wednesday, but could sign during the NCAA’s second signing period in February, including Sunrise (Fla.) Piper High School defensive back Cecil Powell, wide receiver Yusuf Terry from Imhotep Institute Charter School in Philadelphia, and Paris High School offensive lineman Elijah Ellis.
Baylor is also still in the running for highly-rated offensive lineman Isaiah Hookfin from Dulles High School, who is also being recruited by Texas.
“If we have room, I think we’d still take one more defensive lineman if we could,” Rhule said. “I think we’re always looking for the best available player. We’re really kind of full in the secondary, kind of full in some other areas, but maybe a receiver or on the offensive or defensive lines if the room allows.”