By Matt Larsen
Make no mistake, on paper Baylor’s 2011 recruiting class is nothing to get too excited about.
With the fewest four (or five) star recruits to find their way onto the list since head coach Art Briles’ first season at the helm, in 2008, one would immediately question the success of this year’s efforts on the recruiting trail.
The Bears also slid a few slots in the national recruiting class rankings, going from No. 39 in the nation in 2010 to No. 47 in 2011.
While the sheer numbers may not be there (Baylor hauled in the fewest total number of recruits in the Briles era) and the stars may be in short supply, Baylor’s 2011 recruiting class seems to possibly be Briles’ best-fitting class yet.
We all have those birthday-gift shirts that never seem to fit quite right.
For the Bears, this class is hand-crafted and tailored to fit like your favorite suit coat.
As the Bears say goodbye to Rotary and Lombardi Award Watch List member and senior offensive tackle Danny Watkins, and look to a starting offensive line with two seniors and junior, they usher in four-star tackle and Cedar Park freshman Spencer Drango.
Drango anchors what Briles tabs as the best lineman class in school history, featuring two three-start recruits and one two-star addition.
On the defensive side of the line, the Bears will also replace one key departing member in nose guard Phil Taylor, who posted more tackles last year (28) than any other member of the D-Line, and look to bring some youth to a starting line that will likely boast two seniors and a junior.
New defensive coordinator Phil Bennett will also look to get to the quarterback a few more times this season (the Bears finished ninth in the Big 12 in sacks last year), and Briles believes the five new D-Line members will help them toward that end.
Most importantly, the Bears’ defense would be wearing nothing more than nicely tailored sleeves if this class did not include some help for the secondary that gave up 265 yards passing a game last year (10th in the Big 12) and managed just 10 picks.
The Bears also graduate three starters and five significant members of the secondary.
That’s where the five newest Baylor defensive backs come in.
Bennett also welcomes two three-star linebackers to his new unit that lost two members in Chris Francis and Antonio Johnson. Francis and Johnson finished with the third and fourth most tackles in 2010.
Newcomers Kyle Boyd and Devante Davis will fill those two vacancies.
At the offensive skill positions, the Bears remain youthful.
The one big departure will be running back Jay Finley, who ran for 1,218 yards and 12 touchdowns. Briles’ answer: all-state running back and state-champion hurdler B.J. Allen.
Six defensive starters, a senior-bowl O-lineman and a record-setting tailback say goodbye.
Say hello to 12 defensive recruits, a four-star offensive tackle and a tailback that runs a 4.4 40-yard dash. Baylor’s 2011 recruiting may not be flashy, but it seems to be just what they needed.
Matt Larsen is a junior journalism and religion major from Katy and a sports writer for the Lariat.