In case you, like me, were suspended from Twitter for all or part of yesterday’s National Signing Day festivities and/or just didn’t pay attention at all, Baylor Athletics went viral yesterday not because we signed a slew of 5* recruits but because of the efforts of what I believe is called the “Visual Media” team led by Taylor Bryan, Baylor’s assistant athletic director for external operations. According to TheAthletic (discussed more below), Taylor’s team includes Addison Skaggs, Jordan Burgess, and Patrick Clancy.
Rather than introduce each of our prospects through the standard highlight video set to rap music, as is customary in this sort of situation (and something they also did in case that’s what you wanted to see), Baylor decided to do something nobody has ever done before: procure custom puppets for each recruit and then make a video for each puppet. If that sequence of words makes little sense to you, you’re not alone—the videos were initially met with incredulity and some skepticism (even from me) before being accepted and lauded for what they truly were: an extremely creative, novel, and well-produced way to draw attention to the recruits, first, and the Baylor brand at large, second. Suffice to say that by the end of the day and the posting of the penultimate video including Coach Rhule himself, the puppets had been met with nearly universal praise (save a few of our rival schools) and had truly gone viral. They even managed to make me come out of semi-retirement to spend far too long putting this post together.
And the results are undeniably and overwhelmingly positive; the effort was a complete success. As of this writing, I’ve seen positive stories from virtually every major media outlet that covers or even thinks about college football, led by TheAthletic’s deep dive into the process behind the creation of the videos, which I won’t spoil. I saw a segment on ESPN about the puppets, which were also highlighted in their NSD tracker, and there are now stories on Yahoo!, USA Today, and CBSSports, among others. Notable people outside the Baylor bubble to voice their support or enjoyment of the puppets include Pete Thamel, formerly of the New York Times, Dan Wetzel, Andy Staples (who apparently also talked about it on his podcast yesterday), Brian Davis of the AAS (notable because he covers UT), Gabe Ikard (former OU player), and Greg Powers from Scout. I could keep going.
But you’re not here to see me list of all the people that thought the puppet videos were hilarious and well done (they are); you don’t need that reinforcement. You’re here because the title of this article promised you the Ultimate Guide to Baylor’s 2020 National Signing Day Puppets, and that’s what I’m going to give you.
Baylor signed 12 of its 15 current commitments yesterday and had videos for each and every one of them (as well as one for Matt Rhule himself that we’ll get to at the end), but there’s two things I’ve yet to see: all of the videos posted together for each viewing and pictures/screenshots of each puppet used. We can fix both of those things right now. Let’s go in chronological order by the time the videos were posted, and before you ask, yes I went through each video to find the best view of the puppet, took a screenshot, and downloaded them into a “puppets” folder on my desktop.
Don’t make it weird.
OLB Will Garner—Spring, TX (Klein HS)
Long, fast linebacker @will_garner42#20Below pic.twitter.com/0ciiy4A83J— Baylor Football (@BUFootball) December 18, 2019
CB AJ McCarty—Brownwood, TX (Brownwood HS)
Super skilled 4️⃣-sport athlete@adonismccartyjr#20Below pic.twitter.com/3WxgE3ipRe— Baylor Football (@BUFootball) December 18, 2019
LB Brooks Miller—West Monroe, LA (West Monroe HS)
Rangy linebacker with cover skills— Baylor Football (@BUFootball) December 18, 2019
S Devin Neal Jr—Lexington, KY (Frederick Douglass HS)
Freaky athlete in the secondary @DevinNealjr1#20Below pic.twitter.com/vY6ORJUEmR— Baylor Football (@BUFootball) December 18, 2019
TE Drake Dabney—Cypress, TX (Cypress Ranch HS)
Big-time weapon in the red zone @DabneyDrake09#20Below pic.twitter.com/JhlqKvXLQI— Baylor Football (@BUFootball) December 18, 2019
DE James Sylvester—Newton, TX (Newton HS)
Do-it-all defensive lineman ✅@big_onion24#20Below pic.twitter.com/AQQ6ImWl4p— Baylor Football (@BUFootball) December 18, 2019
WR Seth Jones—Pearland, TX (Shadow Creek HS)
In case you didn’t notice, this puppet was actually driving a mini Baylor truck with green smoke coming out of it and wearing mini Jordans. Bonus pic time!
Top-notch route runner @iamsethjones_#20Below pic.twitter.com/Xae001Y9pS— Baylor Football (@BUFootball) December 18, 2019
JUCO OL Mose Jeffery—Longview, TX (Kilgore J.C.)
Mauler from #bEASTTexas @doitallbigmo#20Below pic.twitter.com/3Fg8CmlQvB— Baylor Football (@BUFootball) December 18, 2019
RB Taye McWilliams—Rosenberg, TX (Lamar Consolidated HS)
All-purpose back @TayeMcwilliams#20Below pic.twitter.com/TgicexOsyQ— Baylor Football (@BUFootball) December 18, 2019
OL Gavin Byers—Colleyville, TX (Colleyville Heritage HS)
This one was difficult because the best looks of the puppet are in the bathroom mirror, but I wasn’t going to follow the recruit...’s puppet into the bathroom. Only weirdos follow recruits into bathrooms.
Nimble and athletically gifted. @Gavinb_89#20Below pic.twitter.com/pRu8uBreYh— Baylor Football (@BUFootball) December 18, 2019
CB Jahdae Barron—Pflugerville, TX (Connally HS)
Shut-down corner ❌@DAETHEREAPER#20Below pic.twitter.com/VD0ZE8Kogk— Baylor Football (@BUFootball) December 18, 2019
DE Anthony Anyanwu—Sachse, TX (Sachse HS)
Explosive athlete @Tony_Kingt#20Below pic.twitter.com/rd1EN4xgqL— Baylor Football (@BUFootball) December 19, 2019
I had to take these last two out of order because Anyanwu’s signing occurred later in the evening after the video below came out at 3:30.
As you can tell, each of Baylor’s signing recruits had a custom-made, individualized puppet for them. These are not the same puppets just redressed in puppet clothes (which are also amazing, for the record). But once the reality of the puppets set in, the people wanted more. We wanted a Coach Rhule puppet, and we were not to be denied.
Others have said it already. I will repeat: if there isn’t a @CoachMattRhule muppet wearing a #voodie by 5 PM, we riot. #MuppetCrootmasCarol— SMOCKPUPPETSONLY.COM (@OurDailyBears) December 18, 2019
To be honest, I didn’t think we’d get it. Surely they didn’t anticipate this demand and get one made for Rhule himself, right? Surely not. There’s no way they’d do th—
HEAD COACH MATT RHULE—New York, New York
Oh yeah they did. They really did, smock and all. But that’s not actually my favorite view of the Rhule puppet from the video. This one is.
That’s a Puppet Matt Rhule writing “Process” over and over Bart Simpson-style on a whiteboard. We have crossed over into some incredibly meta territory here, and I honestly don’t have words for it.
A special announcement... pic.twitter.com/YCnRhGiYTj— Matt Rhule (@CoachMattRhule) December 18, 2019
So there they are, all the puppets and their videos in one place for your enjoyment. I would note that in the process of making this post, I noticed something that should underscore how effective these videos really were. As I said above, Baylor made a puppet video and a more traditional video for each of our recruits. Just based on some quick math in an excel spreadsheet that I happened to have open for this, the puppet videos were viewed about 8x more than the more traditional videos. Here’s the breakdown as of this writing in a screenshot because our editor doesn’t like excel.
Those numbers are skewed by the fact that Jones pulled in 289k views on his puppet video (for comparison, Rhule’s got 150k), but the results are clear—people love the puppets.
And they should for no other reason than they brought us this, courtesy of the gifmaster Nick Pants.
It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.