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Evaluating the Newest Football Signees — Part 1

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Evaluations of Kyron Drones, Tevin Williams, Devin Lemear, Javon Gipson, Romario Noel, and Tate Williams.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Baylor Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

It’s that Time Again ... !

Baylor signed 18 guys in this early signing period, and I’ll be doing in-depth reviews of all these guys here on ODB over the coming days.

These evaluations always take more time than anything else I do, but I have always enjoyed them. When I watch sports I like to have as much information as possible about the guys on the team. As an Astros fan, I loved following the minor leagues because it would give me more insight as young guys joined the team. For Baylor, I like to evaluate the signees that way when they hit the field over the coming years I have a summary of information about them that helps me know what they’re good at and bad at and what I should be looking out for.

Anyway, these are a lot of work but I hope you enjoy them. And I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below. I don’t pretend to be an expert, though I do think I’m pretty good at this. You can look back at my posts from years past and see that I generally have a pretty good feel for guys. I’m liable to miss on some guys, of course. Some guys I love will flunk and some guys I’m iffy on with become great. It’s just the nature of the beast.

My Version of a Rating System

In my years past reviews I’ve lobbed insults at the recruiting services for what I think are obviously silly rankings. Usually this involves slapping low grades on guys from small towns or other under-recruited areas that clearly have superior talent. So I decided to create my own of sorts. Here are the basics:

S+: NFL bound barring a major injury or other anomalous setback. These are national level recruits that any school in the country should take. Baylor doesn’t usually sign many of these.

S: As good as you can expect for a reasonable Baylor recruit; i.e., guys that Baylor put at the top of their board and got. They’ll have significant NFL potential and will be all-conference guys barring injury or other happenstance.

A: A very solid program addition. These guys are likely starters or significant contributors. Not #1 on your recruiting board type guys, but close. These guys fit more in the fringe NFL potential range with significant all conference potential. In a good recruiting year, the bulk of your class should be A and above.

B: Solid program addition, but guys that I foresee likely just providing depth or have a tougher road ahead to become a significant contributor. Basically, while guys I grade as “A” are very likely starters, guys I grade as “B” I’d predict could become starters but are less likely. Taking these types of guys is still worth it if you’ve missed on other targets and they still provide value to the program.

C: This is where I get iffy on prospects. These guys I project as most likely just depth or I don’t see working at the position they’re being recruited at. Perhaps worth the take if you missed on other guys.

D: I totally disagree with Baylor taking them.

As you can see, this grading system is Baylor adjusted, so a guy I grade as an S for Baylor I wouldn’t grade as an S for Alabama. But I think this type of system is more valuable for understanding what Baylor is getting and how well Baylor is hitting their mark.

A note about positions. This rating system is an attempt to objectify an inherently subjective enterprise, of course, so the difference between positions is hard to quantify. This is most notable at QB. For example, I have Kyron Drones rated as an “S.” I think if everything goes right for him he’s a probable NFL QB. But QBs aren’t really “NFL bound barring an injury” like say, a WR is.

One other thing: I can’t give everyone a great grade. As I said this past season when I was negative about some aspects of the Baylor football team, positive praise is meaningless if you’re not willing to be honestly negative. Just because I don’t see it with a guy doesn’t mean he is doomed; I guarantee you there isn’t a single staff in America where every assistant coach and recruiting staffer feels equally about a prospect. Staffers and assistant coaches have to fight to get guys offered and pursued all the time. Disagreements are natural and just how it goes. For the few guys in this class that I don’t like as much as the others, I hope they take it respectfully and I understand that I can’t just slap an S+ on everyone, that would be meaningless. I hope the best for everyone!

With that said, let’s jump in!

Kyron Drones, QB. 6-2 205 lbs. Pearland, TX. Shadow Creek HS.

Rating: S

Full game vs Pearland HS Drones is about as good as it gets for a Baylor QB prospect, probably the best Baylor has taken since Jarrett Stidham. Standing at 6-2 and with the frame to easily play at 215, Drones is about as prototypical as it gets for a really good college QB prospect.

Strengths

  • From Day 1 on campus he will have the best pocket presence of any Baylor QB. He’s really good at sensing the rush and side stepping guys all while keeping his eyes downfield. He’s always looking to throw.
  • Above average arm, can easily reach 55+. Enough arm strength to consistently threaten the wide side of the field with quick and medium game. There’s a play where he rolls to his left (very difficult for right handed QBs) and gets enough on a throw to get it 50+, another where he rolls to his right and gets 55 on it; on neither throw did it look effortful. One of the most impressive throws I saw was him hit a deep out route to the field while getting the ball over an underneath defender. It is a 30 yard throw on the money with plenty of arm strength. That’s the kind of throw that most college QBs can’t make and college defenses prefer to ignore. If Drones is playing for Baylor, the entire field will be at play.
  • Shows the seeds of a QB who can really mental process. Multiple instances in film of him looking off coverage, moving safeties, and hitting guys deep behind the manipulated defenders. He also shows the ability to execute the modern RPO game, there are multiple instances on film of him reading apex defenders and hitting receivers open in zone coverage.
  • Can do enough with his feet to threaten zone read game and make guys miss on QB draws. But won’t be a dynamic runner in college. He’s a guy who will get up to 215-220 lbs and just be hard to bring down, particularly with his acumen in the pocket.
  • Overall has a great demeanor and plays with a cool, calm, and collected manner. He knows his physical ability and plays assured.

Weaknesses

  • Takes too many chances with his arm. For every few plays that wow you, he’ll have another few where he tries to force the ball into coverage. The good news is that I never saw an instance of this where he did this on his first read, it was always when he had exhausted the normal play and was taking a chance after scrambling or moving on. He’ll likely throw more INTs than your average good P5 QB.

Overall

Incredible get for Baylor and great job by the staff to hang onto him despite a horrid offensive season. I’m particularly excited about his ability to mental process and get the ball down the field. A guy like Drones will be able to maximize all of the speed that Baylor has recruited so far. I think there is a significant chance that Drones is starting in 2021. Not the most likely outcome, but as an early enrollee he’ll be in the running.

Tevin Williams, CB. 6-1 183 lbs. Stillwater, OK. Stillwater HS.

Rating: S

Tevin is my highest rated defensive commit both for who he is and how well he fits into Aranda’s system. He’s a true press man corner with size and speed, something that is very difficult to get out of high school. He has the requisite speed to play CB on an island. About a 10.7-11.00 100m guy and looks to be a solid 6 foot.

Tevin plays very aggressively. He likes to get up in WRs faces and gets involved in the run game. He won’t be a guy you have to worry about shying away from either opposing WRs or RBs. Brings great ball skills after playing on both offense and defense. Can high point the ball and be a guy you don’t want to throw at in jump ball situations.

Demonstrates a real intelligence for the game. Tons of plays where he is diagnosing screens or route combinations, which is another must in Aranda’s defenses. Has an awesome highlight where he is playing CB in cover 2, so he is responsible for the flat. He jams his WR and redirects him and then comes off him to flatten the #2 receiver who came into his flat on a quick out.

As I said, I have Tevin as the highest rated defensive commit in the class. His potential is sky high and you’ve gotta love his likelihood of reaching it being coached under Aranda and Brian Stewart. He’ll be able to lock down guys in the boundary and be a playmaker on balls in the air. He’ll also be a real asset in run defense. Virtual lock to become a starter at some point. The closest guy I can think of with him is former bear Xavien Howard, both are 6-1 guys who excel in press man and have terrific athleticism for their size. Obviously that’s a lofty comparison, but I am extremely high on Tevin.

Devin Lemear, S. 6-0 175 lbs. Manor, TX. Manor HS.

Rating: C

A project at the crucial safety position for Aranda and Roberts, Lemear is a really good linear athlete who flashes the potential to be a good around the box safety or STAR. I’ve heard that his broad jump is great which shows on film—he can really explode with his hips and looks great moving forward.

Ultimately, I’m lower on him than others are. From his highlights, he doesn’t look to be overly comfortable playing in space and I don’t see much evidence of him being able to carry vertical routes. For him to reach his potential he’ll need to get really comfortable playing around the line of scrimmage and be a force in space. The issue with that is I’m not sure he has the frame to get much bigger than 175 or so to allow him to play closer to the box. Basically, I think he has the attitude of a box player but I’m not sure if he can get his body in a position to play there. If he can I think he can become a good player.

I listened to his interview with Grayson over at sicem365 and he is clearly a great kid. I hope for the best for him and for him to maximize his potential.

Javon Gipson, WR. 6-2 205 lbs. Richmond, TX. George Ranch HS.

Rating: S

Javon is a guy I am very high on. A long, lanky, and FAST WR who wasn’t able to put up elite numbers because of subpar QB play. He looks to be a legit 6-2 or 6-3 and can just eat space on DBs with long strides. Like Denzel Mims, he’s deceptively fast in that he takes big long strides and just eats space.

His size and arm length mean he will always be a threat on back shoulder throws and other throws that the QB can make even when he is covered. Furthermore, for having such long legs he is quick and efficient in and out of his breaks.

Both his ability and his highschool situation naturally make me think of Denzel Mims, a guy who displayed freak athleticism in high school but had a QB who couldn’t take advantage of him. As a downside, I’ve heard from people who are more familiar that his hands are probably average. Essentially, Gipson has everything you need to get open every down. It’ll just be a matter or whether he can develop the plethora of WR skills and have good enough hands to make the tough catches. His potential is as high as anybody’s in this class.

Romario Noel, CB. 6-2 202 lbs. Cypress, TX. Cy Ranch HS.

Rating: A+

Romario is a guy you need to know how to watch film to understand how good he is. Teams almost never threw his way, so to see his movement skills you have to watch him in run support and other situations to see his athleticism (I was unable to find a full game tape anywhere). For instance, watch this clip below:

I understand that this may not look like anything special. But this is Noel playing CB to the wide side of the field playing cover 2 read. He is watching the #2 receiver (the guy who catches the ball here) to see if he stays short. When he does, he explodes from the wide side of the field and stops the WR immediately after he catches the ball. These kind of movement skills from a guy his size are special.

A truly freaky athlete at his size, his lateral explosion is off the charts. He’s tall and has long legs but retains the ability to really explode laterally and forward. He’s a guy who can go from flat-footed to in the backfield very quickly. STAR, where he can track down ball carriers, carry verticals, and pass rush is an ideal position for him. There are some other guys with serious upside in this class (namely Tate Williams, Tevin Williams, and Javon Gipson) but Noel is right up there with them.

He’s not a potential inside linebacker like I’ve seen some proffer. I doubt he gains much more weight, you just want him around 210 where he can retain all his twitchy athleticism. The closest comparison I can think of for him is former Baylor great Travon Blanchard. I cheated on his rating giving him an A+ because I couldn’t decide between an S and an A. I think he’d be a virtual lock to be an all conference player at STAR, while his prospects at CB are a bit more iffy for me. But if he can stick at CB the gamble is worth it.

*update* Baylor listed him at CB on signing day, and it seems like they will start him there. If he can make it work at his size, it’s a homerun. As said, he has tremendous lateral skills and obviously has long arms. The main question will be whether he has enough long speed.

Tate Williams, OL. 6-4 270 lbs. Wall, TX. Wall HS.

Rating: S+

Williams went from unranked to one of the highest ranked guys in this class, but if the services had any cajones he’d be ranked even higher. He’s a national prospect, IMO, and probably one of the handful best OL in the country. I’ve given him the S+ and spoiler, he’s the only S+ in this class. He’s probably the best pure prospect Baylor has signed in years. I understand people are worried about how he’ll translate from small school ball to P5 and then the NFL, but at some point you have to trust your eyes. Tate has it all.

It’s actually pretty simple for him. For his size, his athleticism is off the charts. I don’t have any testing info for Tate, but I can guarantee you he blows past the NFL averages for OG’s, which are a 101 inch broad jump, 7.82 3 cone, 5.27 forty, and 28.4 inch vertical. He simply explodes off the ball and is a phenomenally fluid athlete.

OL film is hard to get through, you have to watch a ton to get a feel for what a P5 OL looks like vs what a G5 does, FCS, etc. I wouldn’t claim to even being close to an expert on OL. But I have learned a few tricks for things that absolutely translate from HS to college. One is to watch how OL carry themselves while they’re on the move. You want them to look natural when they’re pulling; i.e., the spine at a forward angle but not too hunched over and definitely not standing upright. Tate looks great on the move, and will immediately be the best athlete on Baylor’s OL.

OL running schemes are limited by what the OL can do. Coaches can draw up all sorts of crazy blocking schemes that work on paper, but if you ask an OL to do something he can’t do it’s pointless. Tate will allow the coaches to draw up some really tough angles which call for him to reach back against his body at difficult angles. These are the kind of things that are the difference between college and NFL lineman. I don’t think Baylor has taken an OL of Tate’s caliber since I started following in 2011.

So he’s one of the country’s best OL and playing small high school ball, the film is of course hilarious. Wall doesn’t run pass protections of any kind, so he’ll have to learn that which might be the only thing that keeps him from starting as a freshman. Either way, Aranda mentioned that he thought one reason for poor OL play in 2020 was due to not having depth which could push the starters everyday in practice. Tate will come in and immediately do so, which should elevate the play of the OL even if he isn’t starting.

He’s slated to play OG, though I think he could play OT if Baylor tried him there. Given how Baylor struggled with OG play recently, I think they want to get him in there to start pushing guys immediately. After a year in the weight room, he’ll become a 6-4 295 lb super athlete who packs a serious punch. I think he’ll be starting by his second year on campus. If he was enrolling early I’d predict him to start as a freshman.

Conclusion

That’s it for part I, be on the lookout for parts 2 and 3. Baylor signed 18 guys, I’ll be breaking these up into 6 guys each.

Hit me up in the comments below with your opinions/questions/comments/etc. Thanks for reading everyone!