Offensive standouts join Baylor football

Photo credit: Penelope Shirey

By Jakob Brandenburg | Reporter

The first recruiting class of the Matt Rhule era at Baylor is officially in the books. On Wednesday, 27 players signed their National Letters of Intent to enroll and play football at Baylor next season.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about this class is that only one player was committed to play for Baylor when Rhule was hired as head coach in December.

At Baylor’s National Signing Day press conference, Rhule explained how Baylor, despite recent turmoil, really sold itself to recruits.

“It’s still an elite, not a great, an elite education,” Rhule said. “It’s still, everywhere you turn, championship-caliber athletics programs, championship-caliber facilities. There are so many kids that have grown up in the church, grown up with having a relationship with a God, and this is a place that sticks to its Christian core and Christian commitment.”

Baylor football built its reputation on fast-paced, high-powered offenses, leading the country in scoring three straight seasons from 2013-15. This new class of offensive recruits, which includes three players in ESPN’s top 300 prospects, is expected to return the Bears to their electrifying ways.

The quarterback position may be the highest profile spot in football. The signal caller for Baylor’s 2017 class is Charlie Brewer from Lake Travis High School in Austin, TX. The 6’1” 190 pound Brewer set the national record for completion percentage and led Lake Travis to the 6A Division I State Championship this past season.

Brewer graduated high school early and is already enrolled at Baylor this semester. Rhule seemed confident in his new quarterback.

“For us, it was, hey, we believe that he has a chance to be a starting quarterback in the Big 12 and help us win the Big 12 Championship,” Rhule said.

Joining Brewer in the backfield are running backs Abram Smith and Johnathan Lovett. Smith, Abilene High School’s all-time leading rusher, is also already attending Baylor this spring. Lovett is a tall running back at 6’2” and one of the highest rated players out of New Jersey.

Some of the highest-ranked signings in Baylor’s class were at the receiver position. R.J. Sneed from Cypress Ranch High School in Cypress is 6’2” while also possessing ideal speed and agility. Trestan Ebner from Henderson runs a 4.40 in the 40 yard dash, making him one of the fastest players in the country. Rounding out the group of playmakers is All-State selection Gavin Holmes from Northwest High School just outside of Fort Worth.

Co-Offensive Coordinator Matt Lubick talked Wednesday about the new receiver group.

“They really have a chance to play early,” Lubick said, “because they’re intelligent, they have confidence in themselves and they work hard.”

Skill players can’t score without a solid offensive line, and that position seemed to be a point of emphasis for Rhule and his staff.

“[I’m] really excited to replenish the offensive and defensive lines and begin to build a foundation of a program that we can win up front with,” Rhule said.

The headliner of the group is Xavier Newman from state power Desoto High School. ESPN has Newman ranked as the second best center in the country, and he’s played at several different positions along the line.

Newman is joined by a pair of teammates from Carroll High School in Southlake in tackle Henry Klinge III and center Ryan Miller. Baylor also received signatures from tackle Eleasah Anderson out of Houston and 6’5, 320 pound Khalil Keith from Alpine, Ala. Completing the group is Jason Moore from Independence High School in Frisco. Moore chose Baylor over several offers from Ivy League schools.

Additional offensive aid may come from four-star athlete B.J. Thompson from England High School in Arkansas. The 6’6” Thompson played tight end and receiver in addition to defense and showed a penchant for out jumping defensive backs.

Lubick said it’s still to be determined which side of the ball Thompson will play on.

“He is a guy that does have a great skill set, and I’d love to have him,” Lubick said.

Following a month of hard work, Rhule and his staff had it pay off and put together a recruiting class full of on-field potential and young men eager to be agents of change at Baylor.

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