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Baylor’s 2020 Recruiting Class: Part 2

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Baylor Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Hello everyone, thanks for reading again. Here’s a link to the first edition in case you missed it:

I’m going through this class in alphabetical order, this one beginning with safety Mike Harris. Here’s a helpful overview of the class that Baylor athletics published:

Mike Harris. Defensive Back. 5-10, 160 lbs. Phenix City, Alabama.

Testing Results: 4.52 forty, 4.23 shuttle, 34.9 inch vertical.

Versatility is the name of the game in modern defense. As the spread offense has become more or less ubiquitous in college football, the need for versatile defensive backs who can handle multiple responsibilities has expanded. Defensive football is becoming more and more “positionless.” The difference between a safety, a linebacker, even some defensive lineman is becoming more and more blurred. Thus, having guys who can perform multiple duties allows you to be more flexible as a defense, and makes it harder for offenses to gameplan against specific looks. It is clear that Aranda likes Harris specifically for this versatility, “Mike is going to have the ability to play nickel, safety, blitz, cover and set edges.”

As can be easily ascertained from his film and testing numbers, Harris is an extraordinary athlete. The combination of his forty, shuttle, and vertical put him in the upper echelon of Big 12 defensive backs. The only thing against him is his somewhat shorter stature at 5-10.

At his high school, Harris played safety mostly to the boundary, erasing the QB’s easiest reads to the short side of the field and coming up hard against the run. He demonstrates and excellent all around game, proving himself adept at covering receivers out of the slot, providing deep help over the top, and triggering quickly as a run defender. In the modern game, you need safeties who can start 10 yards off the line of scrimmage and get to the ball carrier fast, as demonstrated by Chris Miller and Grayland Arnold here:

Harris easily compares to former Bear Chris Miller. Both are supreme athletes who play violently despite their relatively smaller stature. I think Harris provides a little bit more versatility, however, particularly with his ability to cover over the top and out of the slot.

Harris is a guy who you want to get involved as much as possible. It is yet to be seen exactly how Aranda will want to deploy his safeties, but my guess is that he fits as a safety who frequently spins down to the box in run support, much like how Aranda utilized Grant Delpit at LSU. Harris was one of the most important signees in this class both because of his ability and the lack of numbers Baylor has at the safety position. Depending on his ability to pick up the defense, I’d pick Harris as one of the guys most primed for early playing time.

Mose Jeffery. Offensive Line. 6-4, 344 lbs. Longview, TX (via Kilgore junior college)

Testing Results: None

Jeffery had an interesting recruitment, reportedly choosing Baylor over Iowa State despite ISU giving him the opportunity to enroll last Fall. That means Jeffery is a guy who was really sold on Baylor, electing to wait a semester and enroll this recent January. He will have three years to use two years of eligibility.

Jeffery is a guy the old stuff really liked, as evidenced by their taking him in the first place. Baylor has a lot of scholarship OL. Generally, you don’t take a junior college player at a position where you have a lot of depth unless you really like the player or don’t like the guys you already have. It is impossible to know how much of each it was, but the first is always a requirement.

Jeffery shows typical interior lineman JUCO tape. He’s massive, shows nimble feet, and does a lot of damage when he gets his hands on you. At Kilgore he was used a lot as the lead blocker in psuedo-insert schemes where he leads in the lead gap ahead of the RB. He’s not an elite athlete by any means but good enough to be a high level starter. He reminds me of former Baylor played Jarrel Broxton, another junior college product who turned into a good starter for Baylor.

There’s a lot of unknowns on Baylor’s OL and a plethora of interior types. Jeffery will have his work cut out for him to become a starter. Whether he does comes down to how well he learns the scheme and what his conditioning level is like. Expect him to redshirt in 2020 and have two years to fight for a starting role.

Seth Jones. Wide Receiver. 5-11, 175 lbs. Pearland, TX.

Testing Results: 4.47 forty, 4.21 shuttle, 34.4 inch vertical.

Jones is rated as a low 3* recruit, which to me is probably the most baffling rating in this class. It could possible be a result of him committing to Baylor early and then not getting any further attention, but that’s a poor excuse.

Jones is an elite athlete. We grow numb to hearing “he has 4.4 speed!” but it is no joke. Combined with his great shuttle (which measures short area quickness) along with great vertical (good measure for explosion and acceleration) he is a terrific all around athlete.

Many times, when you have a receiver who is sub 6 feet with this kind of athleticism you dream about converting him to cornerback. The reason that Jones can stick at WR is that he doesn’t play like he is under 6 feet, he attacks the ball in the air which gives him the ability to win jump ball despite his shorter height. Shorter guys tend to be branded as slot WRs, but Jones is a guy you’ll probably see playing on the outside and fighting to win downfield. He’s good enough in short spaces, but with his best abilities to win downfield and make contested catches his best spot is outside.

Jones reminds me a lot of current Oklahoma State wide receiver Tylan Wallace. Both are somewhat shorter guys who do their primary damage on go routes and stop routes and can really high point the ball in the air. They have similar base athleticism, as well (Wallace went 4.58 forty, 4.2 shuttle, 33.9 vertical, so basically Jones is just a bit faster).

Baylor’s WRs are relatively stacked right now but Jones has a bright future. He’ll need to gain strength to consistently beat press coverage on the outside but after that he has all the potential to be an All Big 12 performer.

Micah Mazzccua. Offensive Line. 6-4, 340. Philadelphia, PA.

Another interesting recruiting story, Mazzccua was a longtime Michigan commit who the old staff made contact with and scheduled a visit for in the second signing period, and he actually visited the same weekend that Aranda was hired. Whether he was pushed out at Michigan or what the story is there, I don’t know and it doesn’t particularly matter for evaluation purposes.

At 6-4, 340lbs, Mazzccua is clearly a massive human. Generally high school OL north of 300 lbs first need to lose a bunch of bad weight before they’re a legitimate option on the field, and Mazzccua is no different. Despite being so large, he’s more athletic than I would have figured.

Mazzccua is primarily playing at guard for his high school team, which looks like some sort of powerhouse school as their entire OL looks D1 sized. His HS liked to use his athleticism, as Mazzccua is doing a lot of pulling and leading out front on screens. He’s obviously massively powerful and shows a lot of potential as a mauling guard.

He’s athletic pulling around and leading on screens, but I don’t know that if he has the lateral quickness to play tackle, but I wouldn’t rule it out. I imagine they’ll stick him at left tackle and see what happens, he can always slide in later. He reminds me a lot of current Baylor LG Khalil Keith, naturally massive humans who are at their best when targeting smaller guys while on the move.

A.J. McCarty. Cornerback. 5-11, 173 lbs. Brownwood, TX.

Testing Results: 22.54 200m dash, 51.36 400m, 47’6 triple jump.

I love players like McCarty. From a smaller school at Brownwood, he’s probably the best athlete at the school, playing football, basketball, baseball and running track, all of which has hurt his football development in the short term but will help in the long run.

McCarty doesn’t have a single elite trait but does a lot of stuff above average. His speed is adequate for a Big 12 skill player but he’ll never be a burner. What is special about him is that he brings the total package. The reason that athletes who play multiple sports are often better in the long run (especially at an all-around game like football) is all of the random situations that you can never practice for where you can instinctively draw upon various experiences. You can see this on his film, where makes play after play that requires overall athleticism and instincts (his catch and run at 2:20 is a good example—his ability to maintain balance there through traffic is something that doesn’t come naturally for most players).

The question for McCarty is where he ends up. I can see him at any of CB, S, nickel, or even at WR. Generally you put a guy at corner and don’t move him until he proves it ain’t gonna work, but I could see McCarty’s highest upside at safety if he shows a tough mindset. His varied background and natural instincts mean he could be a guy you want to have around the ball as much as possible as opposed to sticking him on an island at corner. His extensive experience both playing baseball and playing WR will be a real asset for his ball skills.

McCarty will need a few years to get up to speed after playing 4 sports at a small high school. After that I think he will have serious potential as a versatile defensive back that could slot in at a variety of positions. I think he could be like former Texas defensive back P.J. Locke, who was a terrific nickel type who lived around the football.

Taye McWilliams. Running Back. 6-1, 205 lbs. Richmond, TX.

Testing Results: 4.48 forty, 4.23 shuttle, 38.3 inch vertical.

I’m not going to lie: I have a bias against big and tall running backs. They tend to dominate in high school but leave a lot to be desired in college. The name of the game for running backs is quickness—you’d rather give the ball to Darren Sproles on 4th and inches than Yao Ming or a sumo wrestler. So, when I initially saw that Baylor had received a commitment from a 6-1 running back, my first thought was I hope he wants to play LB. My go to example for this is TCU’s Sewo Olonilua and Darius Anderson. Sewo was a much higher rated recruit, and had a decent career at TCU, but Anderson was always the better RB in my eyes, despite his being about 6 inches shorter and much less of a “physical freak.”

I think McWilliams can be a pretty good RB. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’d have even more potential as a safety or linebacker, but he can stick at RB. Here’s the main difference between McWilliams and other tall RBs (think Sewo or former bear Terence Williams): he’s really damn fast. Often times the problem with the big and tall RBs is they don’t bring enough upside to the table. College LBs and DL aren’t afraid of them, and falling forward for 3 to 5 yards per carry just isn’t that valuable in the long run. What you need at RB is a guy who can make defenses pay when they make a mistake and McWilliams is just that. His run at 2:10 is a prime example.

McWilliams is a guy you want to get the ball in spots where he can quickly get up field and run. The longer he stays behind the scrimmage, the more time for college defenders who equal him in size to meet him in the back field. He’s dominant on screens out of the backfield because of the boom or bust nature of those plays. Because of his size, he’ll probably be mistaken by most fans as a power back, whereas in reality he’s home run hitter in a linebacker’s body.

Baylor’s running back room is pretty stacked right now so if he stays there he probably won’t see the field much for several years. I think his highest upside is as a safety/linebacker like Aranda used Jacoby Stephens (6-1, 228 lbs) at LSU this past season, but he certainly does enough at RB to get you excited. You see him get compared to Sewo a lot but because of McWilliams’ much better speed it’s not that good of a comparison. As a runner he reminds me much more of someone like current Texas RB Keontay Ingram (6-0, 220 lbs), but Ingram is quicker while McWilliams has better long speed and acceleration.