National Signing Day: Bears stress defense, O-line with 19 recruits

Jed Dean | Lariat Photo Editor Coach Art Briles introduces Baylor’s 2011 recruiting class at Wednesday’s press conference. The group features 19 players, including four junior college transfers. Eleven will serve on the defensive side, and another four add offensive line depth.

By Chris Derrett
Sports Editor

It did not take coach Art Briles much time to determine the Bears’ 2011 recruiting needs. Bidding farewell to senior leaders like safety Byron Landor, defensive tackle Phil Taylor and linebacker Antonio Johnson, Baylor placed a premium on defensive players.

On behalf of his team, Briles officially announced Wednesday a class of 19 players who chose green and gold.

“I’d like to look at it as the first victory of 2011 today with our signing class,” Briles said. “Our depth has gotten better; our needs have diminished a little bit. What we really got to be was selective with the guys we brought on campus to be future Baylor Bears.”

The Bears inked 19 athletes, including four junior college transfers, all on the defensive side of the ball.

Those transfers, Navarro College defensive lineman Nick Johnson, College of the Sequoias defensive back K.J. Morton, Kilgore College defensive back Josh Wilson and Iowa Western defensive back David Whitmore, could see playing time immediately.

“We want our guys coming in thinking that they need to play now. Is it realistic always? No,” Briles said. “We’ve got some guys that can come in and play. I don’t want to throw them out there individually, but we have some people that can help us next year, no doubt.”

Johnson, Morton, Wilson and Whitmore are four of the 11 defensive recruits. Johnson was slated to join Baylor’s offensive line, but Briles chose to employ his 6-foot-3, 290-pound frame on the other side.

The most highly acclaimed recruit, however, is offensive lineman Spencer Drango. The Cedar Park standout was ranked the No. 23 offensive lineman in the country by and given four stars.

But Briles doesn’t take much stock in numbers.

“If they fit what we’re looking for and they happen to be a one-star, great. If they happen to be a four-star, outstanding. Because what some people perceive as the best guy may not always be the reality. And the reality is getting people we think really fit what we’re looking for,” Briles said.

Drango is one of four offensive lineman, a group whose athleticism has Briles excited. Lincoln’s Desmond Hilliard could win a state title in discus throwing, Amarillo’s LaQuan McGowan packs a 335-pound punch, and Kilgore’s Pat Colbert’s versatility allowed him to play tight end earlier in his high school career.

While Briles emphasized defense and offensive linemen, the Bears did pick up a few offensive weapons as well. Headlining the skill position recruits is Tatum’s B.J. Allen, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound player recruited as an athlete. Briles says Allen will most likely serve as a running back or inside receiver in future years.

“B.J. is probably one of the more dynamic players we’ve signed in the last two or three years without a doubt. He’ll win state in 300 hurdles this year,” Briles said. “He is a guy that can run, that is really elusive.”

Cypress Creek running back Jermichael Selders was a late, unexpected addition that could join the mix as well. Jonathan “Jay” Lee is the lone receiver, one whose speed could make him a deep threat like sophomore Josh Gordon.