Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Aside from Mr. Heisman himself, Robert Griffin III, Waco DT Andrew Billings might be the most-important recruit Baylor has signed in the Art Briles era.
At 6-2, 315-pounds, Waco HS DT Andrew Billings is an enormous human being capable of incredible things on a football field. At times this season he simply dominated games from the DT position, something that's not easy to do. He'd then turn around and do the same to opposing lineman on offense, convincing some he might actually be better-suited for that side of the ball in college.
Billings' recruitment hasn't been the roller coaster we've become accustomed to lately with one commitment followed by another and switches galore, but he did make Baylor fans sweat. He announced his commitment today, the last day before Signing Day, having taken his time to visit all three schools, host their coaching staffs in his home, and look through all of his options. Rumor is that the choice was so close that this morning he had decided on TCU. This afternoon he committed to Baylor.
I wanted to write something long and flowery about how big of a deal this commitment is for Baylor, but I'm almost too excited to do so. You start with the fact that he's from Waco and almost have enough without saying anything more. But then you realize how talented, strong, and quite simply big he is and you really get pumped. I've long felt like defensive linemen are the true difference between really good and actually great teams in college football, at least on defense. It's not the linebackers or the secondary, though having good players there obviously helps, it's the linemen. Having the talent to get to the QB and/or stuff the running game (instead of relying on scheme and risky gambles) is the most consistent way to disrupt an offensive game plan; if you can't do either of those things, even mediocre offenses can beat you.
Recently, Baylor hasn't really done either of those things, a major reason why our defense was ranked in the 120s for most of the last two seasons. We haven't gotten pressure on QBs, meaning our CBs have to cover for five seconds or more, something it's just not possible to do in this league. The QBs are too good, the offenses too talented, to give them that kind of time.
But even more than his potential play on the field-- you need know no more about it than that he could see significant playing time as a true freshman-- convincing Andrew Billings to come to Baylor is important because of who we beat out for him. Though his final three consisted of Baylor, TCU, and Texas, Billings held (by my count) 22 offers from BCS schools including Oklahoma, Mississippi State, Texas Tech, and basically the rest of the Big 12. Texas A&M, despite not showing an offer on his profile, almost certainly would have extended one had he visited.
We're not going to get better than we have been without winning these kinds of battles. I believe in our coaching staff as much as the next guy, but not giving them the tools to succeed through recruiting asks too much. Getting players like Billings goes a long way to equalizing the talent disparity that had become the norm. I'm not saying we're going to supplant Texas and OU as the favored destination for the top kids (at least not immediately) or even catch up to a resurgent A&M. I'm not that in-the-tank for Baylor. But momentum matters, and this commitment, combined with a strong start to the 2014 recruiting season, shows that Baylor has it in spades. And I strongly believe it's only going to get better from here.
He may not be the highest-ranked recruiting in this class-- that honor goes to 5* WR Robbie Rhodes-- but I have a hard time saying he's not the biggest because of where he rates in relation to the average Baylor defensive line recruit. We don't get guys like this on the defensive line, or at least we haven't in the past. We did today. We'll be celebrating this one for a long time.
Congratulations, Andrew, and welcome to Baylor!