First, thanks for the patience everyone. Busy week for me.
As always, I am using 247's composite recruiting rankings to talk about the signees in reverse order.
#12: Jared Atkinson, WR, 6-2 200 lbs. Horn HS, Mesquite, TX. HUDL Highlights
Analysis: Atkinson is a height-weight-speed freak. It's hard to overstate this, but most guys that are 6-2 don't have the speed he does, and most guys who have the speed aren't already 200lbs. Atkinson is already so physically imposing I thin he could catch 5 screen passes a game in 2016 and nobody would realize he is a true freshman.
Timed at 10.52 in the 100 last year, he is one of the fastest players in the state. It also probably makes him the second fastest player in this class, behind Devin Duvernay.
He plays to his strengths well. He uses his height to high point the ball, his strength to work through traffic in the screen/short game, and his speed to finish plays off. When he gets a full head of steam few players will be able to catch him in the Big XII.
So, height, weight, speed, it sounds like the perfect WR, what's the deal with 3* ranking? Well, this is funny thing about recruiting rankings, and something Briles has preyed upon.Atkinson actually played QB all of his JR year, which means recruiting services were evaluating him as an athlete for the majority of his prospect status. Once players are ranked, recruiting wonks, as humans, are highly suspect to anchoring bias; i.e. it becomes hard for the mind to move from "3* athlete" to "elite WR." I think if Atkinson put his senior tape up as a junior, he is a consensus 4* WR.
Player Comparison: This one was relatively easy, because not a lot of guys have so much speed while playing with a lot of short-area strength. Atkinson reminds me of Ishmael Zamora. Atkinson is faster, but Zamora is also taller.
Position: WR. I expect he will play X (Jay Lee outside WR who lines up on the side with the Y, the inside receiver). The X receiver generally catches more screen passes, where Atkinson can use his strength and size.
Outlook: I don't foresee a future where Atkinson doesn't at least play a significant role later in his Baylor career. As I've said multiple times to this point, guys with his combination of athletic skills just don't come about very often. Atkinson will be a force in the screen game, similar to how Zamora will be this fall. Expect him to challenge to be a kickoff returner early on.
#11: Jeremy Faulk, DT, 6-1 295 lbs. Garden City CC, Garden City, KS. HUDL Highlights
Analysis: Faulk is a really stout looking DT who plays with good explosion. Garden City actually moonlighted him at running back from time to time, to give you an idea of what kind of explosion he contains at 6-1 295. Faulk shows great ability to attack the OL at the point of attack, shed him and get to the ball-carrier. This is probably the single most important thing a DT has. People like to go wild about DTs who are pass rush threats, and it is very valuable to be sure, but being able to shed OL in the run game is the most essential thing a DT needs to do.
Not to be diminished, however, Faulk shows good pass rush skills. I expect him be a 2-4 sack guy, which is pretty valuable at DT. HE has a good base which should allow him to put on more weight. Expect him to play around 305 lbs.
Player comparison: It is a lofty comparison, but if Faulk meets his potential he looks like Oklahoma DE/DT Charles Walker. Walker dominated the Baylor OL this past year, and it was mostly because when RBs would get near him, Walker was able to shed the OL at make the tackle for minimal gain.
Position: Out of necessity, I think Faulk will play Nose Tackle (what Andrew Billings played). I think his perfect position is as a DE in the 3 man front, but out of necessity he'll stay at NT.
Outlook: Faulk will play immediately, the only quesiton is whether he will start. Faulk's immediate competition is two guys who haven't played much (Ira Lewis and Andrew Morris). I'd bet on him starting.
#10: B.J. Autry, OG, 6-3 320 lbs. Coffeyville CC, Coffeyville KS. HUDL Highlights
Analysis: I wrote more extensively about Autry here.
You often hear the, probably overused, phrase "X player is EXACTLY what Y team looks for in Z position." But that is not an exaggeration with Autry. Baylor loves using massive, mauling guards who can pull and flatten LBs. Autry is a massive dude. While not as tall as many Baylor guards have been (Cyril Richardson was 6-5, Broxton wwas 6-5, Muir 6-6), Autry certainly has the size width and base to play OL.
In 2016, Baylor ran a lot of lead-tackle pulling with Spencer Drango. But Baylor has shown since Briles got here, that they generally like to pull with their best OL. For example, when Cyril Richardson played Left-Guard next to Spencer Drango, Cyril was doing a lot more pulling. When you watch Autry's tape, you see much of the same thing. Pull, find the defender, plant him in the ground, repeat.
Autry does a good job of remaining engaged with defenders and playing to the whistle. At OL you can't just be a big body, you have to play with an edge, and Autry does just that.
Player Comparison: Cyril Richardson. Big. Powerful. Excellent puller.
Position: Autry is a guard all the way. His feet are good enough to where he can play tackle in a pinch, but his strongest position is guard.
Outlook: Look, I'm not saying he was promised a starting spot, but Autry was recruited by everybody. I think he recognized the opportunity to play early. This was a massive get for Baylor, the highest rated JUCO guard at a position of need for Baylor. It remains to be seen whether Autry will earn the right to start, let alone be the main pulling O-lineman, but it wouldn't shock me to see him earn that role sooner than later. Baylor's power scheme is relatively simple as far as O-Line standards go, so Autry, as an early enrollee, should have plenty of time to learn the system and compete for a spot. I'd wager that Autry is a starting guard come the fall.
#9: Zach Smith, QB, 6-4 220 lbs. Grandview HS, Grandview, TX. HUDL Highlights
Analysis: It's kind of funny to see a Briles QB rated so (relatively) low, isn't it? One of my favorite things about Briles is when he talks about QBs. Throughout the years, several reporters have asked Briles what he looks for in a QB, and Briles always responds with something like this, "Leader. Intelligent. Humble. Responds to adversity well. And the physical tools are nice."
To summarize, when Briles talks about what he wants in a QB, he talks almost exclusively about things that recruiting rankings can't capture. As most of y'all know, Smith was Baylor's only QB offer (besides consensus #1 guy Shea Patterson in Florida). Briles offered him before most recruiting sites even knew who he was. A small town guy, Smith is one of the most prolific HS QB's the state has ever seen, ending up in the top 10 in career TD passes. Small town QBs are notoriously difficult to evaluate, because many times they deal with bad OLs, or just 1 WR threat, etc. However, there are several things from Smith's tape that are obvious, regardless of classification.
First, Smith has a cannon for an arm. A very successful pitcher in baseball, Smith has tons of natural arm strength. Second, he has the size. Baylor lists him at 6-4 220, which is just massive for a guy who just graduated high school. He only needs to put on 10-15 lbs and he'll be at the weight Bryce Petty played at.
Smith has great accuracy down the field, his film replete with him delivering the ball in stride to downfield WRs. I really like how Smith keeps his eyes downfield while moving in the pocket. He looks to have a natural feel for the position -- which at QB is as important as anything else.
About the only thing that leaves anything to be desired is Smith's dual-threat ability. He did run some zone-read in high school, to decent success, but I don't think he is quick enough to be a consistent threat in the Big XII. His athleticism is probably at the level of pre-back injury Bryce Petty. Nothing to scoff at, but not a guy you're looking to carry the ball more than ~5 times per game.
To summarize, Smith is an enormously successful guy that Briles hand picked. That's exciting in and of itself.
Player Comparison: It's kind of cheating, but Smith is very reminiscent of Petty. Big dudes that can just flat sling it.
Position: QB. #analysis
Outlook: This is where it gets tricky for Smith. The biggest thing he has going for him, as far as playing time is concerned, is that Stidham did not redshirt. It's also possible that the QB job could be open as soon as 2018 if Stidham leaves after his junior year. However, Kellen Mond is behind Smith, which could create some great competition. If Smith plays, he'll be really good. Playing time is the biggest question.