Twenty days after he became Baylor’s head football coach, Dave Aranda added five players to the Bears’ 2020 signing class on Wednesday’s NCAA national signing day.
Baylor’s class is small with only 17 players, including 12 from the early signing period in December. But Aranda addressed some needs by signing quarterback Blake Shapen, offensive lineman Micah Mazzccua and a trio of safeties in Mike Harris, Chateau Reed and Alfahiym Walcott.
“I’m so proud of our staff for putting together a recruiting class,” Aranda said. “A lot of the connections that the previous staff had made, we were able to build off of that. There’s a few that when I came that were guys that I knew about. But the majority of them were guys that we were on, that we had identified.”
Aranda hit the ground running after he accepted the Baylor job on Jan. 16 following a four-year stint as LSU’s defensive coordinator that culminated with a national championship on Jan. 13 when the Tigers beat Clemson.
In 10 days, Aranda and his staff visited a mind-boggling 270 Texas high schools. Though Baylor didn’t sign any Texas high school players on Wednesday, Aranda began laying the groundwork for future classes.
Aranda has relied a great deal on the three former Texas high school coaches he retained from Matt Rhule’s staff, including outside linebackers coach Joey McGuire, tight ends coach Shawn Bell and football relations staff member David Wetzel.
“It was a great reception,” Aranda said. “Having the opportunity to meet with coaches and see some of the top talent out in the state, see some of the kids coming up here in the years to come was a benefit to us. So we will get it started quickly and I’m excited about that start.”
An ESPN four-star recruit, Shapen chose Baylor over USC, UCLA and Arizona State. He had previously been committed to Arizona State but reopened his recruitment in early December.
The dual-threat quarterback passed for 2,049 yards and 24 touchdowns while rushing for 324 yards and five scores as a senior for Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport. Rated the No. 1 shortstop in Louisiana in the 2020 class, Shapen also plans to play baseball for the Bears.
Aranda worked with BU baseball coach Steve Rodriguez in helping to convince Shapen to sign,
“I’m so proud and happy to be associated with Coach Rodriguez and his staff,” Aranda said. “They really hit it out of the park and were a big, big help in landing Blake. What I love about that, No. 1, is just the team effort in recruiting. And then No. 2, just the athletic potential for someone that plays two sports and the dedication and the pure athleticism it takes. So that’s a win-win for us.”
Mazzccua had been previously committed to Michigan before he flipped to Baylor on Jan. 19, just three days after Aranda became the head coach. The massive 6-4, 340-pound offensive lineman from St. Frances (Md.) Academy is projected to play guard for the Bears.
“I have known about Micah for a while,” Aranda said. “I was very excited to build a connection with Micah and his ability to play offensive guard for us and fill those interior spots. He can pull, he can base, base-block with the best of them, and finish people.”
Reed had already verbally committed to Baylor before Rhule left to coach the NFL Carolina Panthers. At 6-2, 175 pounds, the Lawton (Okla.) High School star brings good size at safety.
“Chateau Reed is such a raw and lanky athlete,” Aranda said. “A guy that has a lot of flexibility. We are looking at him at safety, but he has played multiple positions. I think his best playing days are surely ahead of him. I’m looking forward to utilizing him in the center field, as well as the deep half.”
Harris is a highly-recruited safety from Phenix City (Ala.) Central High School who chose Baylor over Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee. As a senior, he collected 75 tackles, two interceptions and recovered a fumble.
“I remember Mike from back when I was at LSU,” Aranda said. “We had him at camp and were always impressed with his tape. Mike is going to have the ability to play nickel, safety, blitz, cover, and set edges. He is an explosive athlete and I’m so excited to see what we can do with Mike.”
Walcott is a transfer from Butler (Kan.) Community College who will have three years of eligibility remaining for the Bears. As a freshman, the 6-2, 187-pound defensive back amassed 70 tackles and 14 pass breakups while intercepting three passes.
“I like his length, his size and speed ratio, his play-making ability,” Aranda said. “He can play corner, he can play safety. There are times that he could be down in the box and be back in the half at the middle of the field. His flexibility allows for us to have a great tool in terms of attacking with our back end.”
Aranda said he signed the three safeties because of their flexibility to play different positions.
“There are some safeties that will grow into linebackers, there are some safeties that could play nickel,” Aranda said. “There are some safeties that could be cover safeties, other safeties that could be back end, deep middle of the field or half-field safeties. A lot of those guys run really well, which allows you to build those units with really good speed. We had a shortage there, and I feel like we’ve addressed that. And I think that’s going to be a real strength for us moving forward.”
Aranda and his coaching staff have had a chance to meet many of the 12 December signees, and he’s glad they’re on board for the new era of Baylor football.
“We were able to bring quite a few of them back on campus,” Aranda said. “There were a few that came this last weekend. Throughout the state recruiting, in a lot of the schools that we visited, we would stop by and I would visit with families and we invited them to come on back. It was great to connect, and for them to meet their coaches and for them to spend time with me.”
Baylor hoped to sign a sixth player on Wednesday, but Manor defensive lineman Princely Umanmielen signed with Florida. Aranda said Baylor could still add some players before next season if they fit the team’s needs.
“We’ve got a couple spots available,” Aranda said. “I think you’re always going to look at what comes our way transfer portal-wise. I think we’re going to keep our eyes open and our ears close to the ground, kind of see what comes of it.”
Trib Top 100: Texas’ best 2020 high school recruits and where they’re headed
Trib Top 100: Texas’ best 2020 high school recruits and where they’re headed
|Hudson Card*||6-2||170||Lake Travis||Texas|
|Haynes King*||6-2||175||Longview||Texas A&M|
|Malik Hornsby+||6-3||180||Ford Bend Marshall||Arkansas|
|Deuce Hogan+||6-4||205||Grapevine Faith Chr.||Iowa|
|Chandler Morris+||5-10||172||Highland Park||Oklahoma|
|Zachary Evans*||6-0||195||Houston North Shore||Undecided|
|Seth McGowan*||6-0||215||Mesquite Poteet||Oklahoma|
|Taye McWilliams+||6-1||205||Lamar Consolidated||Baylor|
|Ty Jordan+||5-9||180||West Mesquite||Utah|
|Tahj Brooks||5-11||218||Manor||Texas Tech|
|Frank Brown||6-0||180||Houston Sterling||Arizona|
|John Gentry||5-10||196||Houston North Shore||Utah State|
|Jaxon Smith-Njigba*||6-1||185||Rockwall||Ohio State|
|Demond Demas*||6-3||180||Tomball||Texas A&M|
|Loic Fouonji*||6-4||194||Midland Lee||Texas Tech|
|Parker Washington*||5-11||195||Richmond Travis||Penn State|
|Marvin Mims+||6-1||168||Frisco Lone Star||Oklahoma|
|Troy Omeire||6-5||202||Ford Bend Austin||Texas|
|Ja’Lynn Polk||6-3||185||Lufkin||Texas Tech|
|Thaddeus Johnson||6-0||180||Beaumont West Brook||SMU|
|Daniel Jackson||6-2||210||Cibolo Steele||Iowa State|
|Devin Price||6-3||185||A&M Consolidated||Texas A&M|
|Collin Sullivan||6-1||195||Round Rock||Purdue|
|Latrell Caples||6-0||185||Lancaster||Boise State|
|Trent Pullen||6-2||271||Connally||Oklahoma State|
|Seth Jones||6-0||180||Pearland Shadow Creek||Baylor|
|Elijah Yelverton||6-5||235||Cedar Hill Trinity Chr.||Iowa|
|Blake Smith||6-5||240||Southlake Carroll||Texas A&M|
|Nick Patterson||6-4||325||San Antonio Chr.||Undecided|
|Drake Dabney||6-6||230||Cypress Ranch||Baylor|
|Brandon Frazier||6-7||237||McKinney North||Auburn|
|Nate Anderson*||6-5||260||Frisco Reedy||Oklahoma|
|Akinola Agunbiyi*||6-4||315||Sugar Land Kempner||Texas A&M|
|Andrej Karic+||6-5||280||Southlake Carroll||Texas|
|Ty’Kieast Crawford+||6-7||310||Carthage||#Kilgore College|
|Jaylen Garth+||6-5||285||Port Neches-Groves||Texas|
|Michael Nichols||6-4||255||Justin Northwest||TCU|
|Smart Chibuzo||6-5||311||Missouri City Hightower||Texas A&M|
|Damieon George||6-7||345||Houston North Shore||Alabama|
|Courtland Ford||6-6||300||Cedar Hill||USC|
|Logan Parr||6-4||278||Helotes O’Connor||Texas|
|Joshua Bankhead||6-4||325||The Woodlands College Park||Texas A&M|
|Tyler Bailey||6-5||290||Edinburg Vela||Undecided|
|Bernard Broughton*||6-6||285||Cypress Ridge||Texas|
|Alfred Collins*||6-6||284||Bastrop Cedar Creek||Texas|
|Chad Lindberg*||6-6||297||Clear Creek||Georgia|
|Robert Wooten||6-3||230||Stafford||Virginia Tech|
|Alec Bryant||6-3||230||Pearland Shadow Creek||Virginia Tech|
|Drew Sanders*||6-5||212||Denton Ryan||Alabama|
|Prince Dorbah*||6-4||215||Highland Park||Texas|
|Brennon Scott+||6-2||233||Dallas Bishop Dunne||UNLV|
|Corey Flagg||6-0||215||Houston North Shore||Miami|
|Jaylon Jones*||6-2||185||Cibolo Steele||Texas A&M|
|Xavion Alford*||6-1||184||Pearland Shadow Creek||Texas|
|Jahdae Barron*||5-11||175||Pflugerville Connally||Baylor|
|Ryan Watts+||6-3||186||Little Elm||Ohio State|
|Chr. Gonzalez+||6-1||180||The Colony||Colorado|
|Bryson Washington+||6-3||192||Houston King||Oklahoma|
|RJ Mickens+||6-0||187||Southlake Carroll||Clemson|
|Jalen Kimber+||6-0||167||Mansfield Timberview||Georgia|
|Joshua Eaton+||6-2||185||Aldine MacArthur||Oklahoma|
|Kitan Crawford+||5-11||190||Tyler John Tyler||Texas|
|Avery Helm||6-2||170||Fort Bend Marshall||Florida|
|Darius Snow||6-2||205||Carrollton Hebron||Michigan State|
|Collin Gamble||5-10||185||Argyle Liberty Chr.||California|
|E.J. Smith*||5-11||194||Dallas Jesuit||Stanford|
|Devon Achane+||5-9||170||Fort Bend Marshall||Texas A&M|
|Devon Graham||6-1||175||Keller Central||Oklahoma|
|Jaden Hullaby||6-2||200||Dallas Timberview||Texas|
|Myles Price||5-9||165||The Colony||Texas Tech|
|Michael Henderson||6-3||225||Irving Ranchview||Oklahoma|
|Brian Darby||6-0||200||A&M Consolidated||Oklahoma|
|Korie Black||6-0||165||Connally||Oklahoma State|
|*Top 30 recruit|
|+Top 50 recruit|
|#Committed, not signed|