Art Briles and Baylor Football are on one heck of a run in the last week or so with 5 2013 commits and 2 announced transfers (I'll tell you about the second in a bit) in what is supposed to be a recruiting quiet period centered on the spectacles known as the conference media days. The latest in the commitment parade might be my favorite of the bunch; TE Gus Penning, a December grad from the JUCO ranks of Riverside Community College in Riverside, California, gave his oral pledge today after an unofficial visit this past weekend that he described afterward in glowing terms. He has said all the right things about his commitment.
Before we look at Penning's statistics, I'll say that I expect for this commitment to mark a shift in Baylor's recruiting focus for this class. Before securing Penning's commitment, Baylor had been on somewhat of an offering spree with respect to TEs. When Christian Morgan committed to FSU last month, he did so as one of only two offerees at the position, the other being Durham Smythe, a Texas commit. That loss spurred an offers to Beau Sandland, another JUCO TE from California who is ranked as one of the top JUCO recruits in the country, and Brian Bridgewater, a HS recruit from Louisiana. Probably sensing that we didn't have much of a chance with either one, the coaches reached out to Penning, caught his ear, and got him on campus to seal the deal.
Unless one of the aforementioned players changes their mind, I don't see us taking another primary TE in this class. If we were to get Ricky Seals-Jones, I could see him at TE at some point in the future, but he's not being recruited there now. That means we should probably consider ourselves "full" at TE, and brings the position total on offense to:
QB: 1 (Johnson)
RB: 1 (Jefferson
TE: 1 (Penning)
WR: 3 (Rhodes, Fulks, Jones)
OL: 1 (Kulmaviita)
That's "only" 7 recruits out of 18 committed (though it's possible that Wesley Harris could play offense eventually) with 1 offensive lineman. By my estimate, we need at least 4 in this class, including a center, preferably 5, so when I say that we're going to see a shift, I mean that it will be toward recruiting the lines, both offensive and defensive, hard. We'll see how it works out.
But enough of that, let's talk about Gus Penning below the jump!
Before you say anything, yes his HUDL profile has Grand Rapids CC listed as his school. He played there last year (his freshman season in JUCO) before they shut the program down and he found a new home at Riverside. He'll play at Riverside this coming season before graduating in December and coming to Baylor. Transferring in that way will give him 3 years to play 3 for us and the chance to participate in spring drills much like Eddie Lackey did this past season. Something else he has in common with Lackey is Riverside itself; I have a sneaking suspicion that Baylor's relationship with Riverside because of Lackey (he went there last year if that wasn't clear) put them onto Penning's trail to begin with.
I don't claim to be an expert in analyzing film or projecting players,* so take everything I say about these guys with a grain of salt. That said, when I watch Penning's film, I see a player who is probably more advanced as a blocker than a pass-catcher at this point and needs to improve on his route-running before he's a true offensive weapon. The good news is that he has all the physical tools you could want in a TE and if I had to choose, I'd probably take someone more advanced in blocking at this stage than catching, anyway. I'm confident that Briles and company can teach him to run routes and catch footballs. Wanting to block and doing it well from the TE position are not always things you can tech.
*Incidentally, I'm still looking for someone to bring on staff here at ODB who is an expert at these things, or at least more so than I am. You don't have to have formal training or experience, just an eye for the game and a passion for Baylor football If you are interested in coming on board in that role or any other relating to Baylor Athletics (I'm always on the lookout for skilled writers who love Baylor), please email me at OurDailyBears@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you.