Since I've been watching recruiting for this site and elsewhere over the last few years, very few commitments have truly surprised me. Sure, guys have committed early or somewhat out of the blue, but you typically have some idea beforehand that it's a possibility since offers are reported pretty widely now and recruits are so active on social media. The last commit Baylor received before today that really shocked me was 2016 RB Kameron Martin, simply because I thought he'd take a lot longer to make a decision and had just about everybody in the country after him.
Today's commitment of J.W. Ketchum shocked me, and I'll tell you why. In March, SI's Thayer Evans reported that Baylor WR coach and recruiting coordinator Kendal Briles was under investigation for alleged recruiting violations. He was later cleared completely in April of this year. The player he was supposedly recruiting at the time? Houston Lamar's J.W. Ketchum, who was being looked at by Texas, A&M, and Baylor as an athlete. Immediately before Briles the Younger was cleared, Ketchum had ruffled a few Baylor fan feathers by committing to the Bears as an April Fool's joke, then immediately taking it back. I don't know if either situation played a role in it, but after that point, it seemed like interest between the two sides waned. Nobody knew what position he'd play (or be willing to play) in college, and we even started hearing that Ketchum might not even hold a "committable" offer at all.
Apparently he did, since he just announced his commitment on Twitter (for real this time) immediately after Briles tweeted his now-familiar announcement that a new Bear had joined the fold:
#832 #DreamBigDreamBaylor— Coach Art Briles (@CoachArtBriles) October 26, 2014
Let's take a closer look at the newest Bear, our 14th commit for the 2015 class:
Name: J.W. Ketchum III
School: Lamar HS (Houston, TX)
Weight: 201 pounds
Rankings: Composite: 87.77 (3*), 247Sports: 89 (3*)
Profiles: 247Sports, Rivals, Scout, ESPN
Offers: Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas, Auburn
Videos: HUDL (private, grrrr), Youtube
Don't let the 3* ranking fool you: Ketchum is absolutely one of the best athletes in the state of Texas for 2015, as evidenced by an offer sheet that is second to none. No, the question with Ketchum is not if he can play football at the next level, the question is where. In HS, he's the QB because he's the most athletic player on his team and probably always has been. In college, that might not and probably won't still be true, and his size (he's listed variously at or just below 6') might force a move. Still, there were rumors early in his recruitment (unconfirmed rumors, mind you) that he only wanted to play QB, rumors that might explain why his recruitment has been so hard to figure out.
My guess is that he eventually moves to DB at Baylor, though I have no inside information to that effect. I see a recent trend of Briles and co taking uber-athletic HS QBs and moving them across the ball to take advantage of their awareness. For me, a guy with Ketchum's build and athleticism could excel at safety in the spot now occupied by Terrell Burt or even move down to corner. You just get him on campus and then figure it out later.
This commitment, while awesome, puts Baylor in a really interesting spot going forward. With 13 commits now and a projected class size around 16 or 17 at the most, we're short on scholarships but long on potential Bears. We've seen several highly-ranked recruits like Malik Jefferson, Kris Boyd, and Holton Hill, among others, start to take a closer look at Baylor over the past few weeks, and it really looks like we might get one or more of those guys. This commitment could help with Hill, especially, since Ketchum and Hill go to the same high school and are reportedly close. The only question then is how many (potential) DBs you want to take, since we already have Jordan Tolbert, Tony Nicholson (another HS QB) at CB, and Jameson Houston and Montrel Wilson at S. Do we want a class of 6-7 DBs? Maybe. That's definitely something to watch.
For now, though, welcome Mr. Ketchum to Baylor! I believe his Twitter account (@official_JK3) is private, so if you want to follow the newest Bear, you're going to have to ask.