In exactly one month, on February 3, the regularly enrolling members of the recruiting class of 2016 will sign their National Letters of Intent, pledging themselves to their future schools of the next four or five years (unless, of course, they transfer).
So far, Baylor's 2016 class has come together swimmingly, with the now 20-member group earning themselves a #10 national ranking as of this writing. And with those 20 spots taken, it's the perfect time to take a look at where the other 4/5 might go, assuming the common projections about how many we're going to take are actually correct.
In doing this, I'm limiting myself solely to guys that already have offers and not considering anyone that hasn't indicated a mutual present interest in the Bears. This is simultaneously a Dream Five, since it includes guys that we probably won't get, and not one, since I'm not including guys we really have no shot at bringing in. We'll take them one at a time in no particular order.
The Metroplex DE:
On December 18, 4* Allen DE Levi Onwuzurike announced a top 4 of Baylor, Washington, Michigan, and Arizona State. He's since canceled a trip to Tempe, apparently removing ASU from consideration, and been rumored to be close to committing virtually any time. The only two predictions on 247Sports' Crystal Ball are for Washington, apparently because the Washington 247 guys think he's headed their way. If Allen stays in Texas, he'll spend his college years in Waco, and there's a strong feeling that he will stay close to home.
If Baylor lands Onwuzurike, he'll be the second 4* DE in this class after Trophy Club's Brandon Bowen, and the pair should give the Bears quite a bit to work with going forward. Levi is listed at 6-2.5 and 243 pounds on his 247Sports profile, and there's been some speculation in the past that his eventual position might be DT in college.
The Mammoth JUCO OT:
When Branton Autry committed to Baylor right after Thanksgiving, he gave the Bears an impact player on the OL, where we'll have to replace 4/5 starters going into next season. Now, Baylor wants another in the form of the massive Nassau CC OT Malcolm Pridgeon, who is listed at 6-8, 303 pounds and will apparently enroll in the summer. Baylor is the favorite according to the Crystal Ball, which shows Rutgers as the biggest threat to land Pridgeon. Look out for Florida, where Pridgeon visited in December, and Arkansas, who recently offered, as well.
The SEC Flip:
With all the dysfunction in Aggieland right now, schools are lining up to take shots at various Texas A&M commits. One of the most prized potential flips is Army All-American DE Mark Jackson, who took an official visit to Baylor for the weekend of the Texas game and will reportedly visit Texas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma in succession prior to NSD. A&M boards seem almost resigned to the fact that Jackson will likely decommit from their class, but he hasn't done so yet, at least officially. It's hard to handicap Baylor's chances here since he already visited our campus in December and probably won't get a chance to return. If we can land Onwuzurike, Jackson become less of a need, but it really does seem like Baylor would love to have both.
Unfortunately, Jackson's HUDL profile is set to private, but you can see two videos if you click the 247Sports link above and go directly to his profile there.
The Pac 12 Flip:
With LaQuan McGowan, Gus Penning, and Trevor Clemons-Valdez graduating, and Tre'von Armstead leaving the team for as-yet undisclosed reasons, Baylor has a grand total of 2 scholarship tight ends on its roster going into 2016: soon-to-be junior Jordan Feuerbacher and redshirt freshman Sam Tecklenburg. Considering how important that position has become to our offense as a lead blocker out of the backfield and occasional passing threat, that's not nearly enough. Thus enters 4* Stanford commit Kaden Smith from Flower Mound Marcus.
Before anyone gets too excited at the prospect of landing one of the best TEs in the country, I don't expect this one to happen by any means. In addition to being one of the absolute best academic schools in the country, Stanford is arguably the best possible destination for a TE in the college game. Still, Baylor has a clear need at the position and has communicated such to Smith, and there's at least some interest should things not work out on the Stanford end.
The B1G Flip:
In December, Baylor made its first offer of the last couple of months to Penn State commit kicker Quinn Nordin. It was a surprising move for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that Nordin goes to school in Rockford, Michigan, hardly a hotbed of Baylor recruiting activity in the past. This was one that, when I heard it, I figured was nothing more than a flyer on a target of potential interest.
Then Nordin took to Twitter a few days later to announce that he'd be taking an official visit to Waco some time before NSD alongside Penn State, where he is currently committed, and Michigan, his home-state school. While we haven't heard since whether that visit will go forward or not, I have no reason to think to this point that it won't, and that's enough to make the list.
Unfortunately, Nordin's HUDL profile is also set to private, but you can see a couple of videos on his 247Sports profile, and there's this from the most venerable of sources, Youtube:
Honestly, it looks like his family took the HUDL video and put it on Youtube rather than just making his HUDL profile public.
The Longshot Playmaker:
One of the top remaining uncommitted players in Texas, if not the country, is Nacogdoches safety Brandon Jones. Yesterday, the 5* playmaker took part in the Under Armour All- game in Orlando, where it was reported earlier in the week that Baylor had made Jones' final 4 alongside Texas, A&M, and Oregon.
I list Jones as a longshot for the Bears because, quite frankly, he is. For months, all I saw on him was that he was headed to College Station. Crystal Ball still reflects that belief with 79% of 24 predictions showing maroon. But the recent instability down that way has more than a few people thinking that he might head elsewhere, and though Texas is apparently the favorite should he decide collies aren't that great, Baylor is in the mix. Coach Dishman has made it his highest priority.
The latest video on his HUDL page is his sophomore highlights from 2014, so I won't post it. Suffice to say that should Jones decide to shock the world and don the green and gold, he would be the highest-rated defensive recruit in the Art Briles era at #15 in the country, and his commitment would be an absolute coup. I don't know if he'd start immediately, but he'd certainly contribute as a true freshman. He's that good.
As I mentioned, the above list is made entirely of players that already have Baylor offers. Over the next month, there will be more that pop up as we either identify new deserving recruits or move on to fallback options. When/if those offers go out, we'll talk about them at that time.
Since this list has just 6 names on it, and there are far more than 6 possible players out there for Baylor to snag in the coming weeks, a big part of trimming things down was identifying/projecting Baylor's remaining positional needs for the 2016 class. As you can probably tell, I'm projecting those needs as follows:
HS DE -- Could be filled by Onwuzurike, Jackson, or both.
JUCO DT -- If Billings goes pro this year, we could probably use another JUCO DT in addition to Jeremy Faulk. But there don't appear to be any on the horizon at this time.
JUCO OT -- With Patrick Hudson and J.P. Urquidez committed, Baylor doesn't need any HS OTs. But we do need someone to come in immediately and compete for playing time while those two develop. Thus, Pridgeon.
Kicker -- Yeah...
I'd argue that we also need another HS DT to go with Bravvion Roy and possibly a big RB to pair with Kameron Martin, but I don't where we'd go for either spot at this time. If you're wondering why we might need Jones since we already have 6 HS DBs in this class ... he's a 5* player that has shown significant interest. You take them all day long, regardless of need.