By Greg DeVries
Baylor’s recruiting class has drawn some national attention. ESPN ranked Baylor’s recruiting class at No. 28 in the country, just behind Oklahoma State and Oregon. There are only three Big 12 schools ahead of Baylor on the list: No. 15 Texas, No. 16 Oklahoma, and No. 27 Oklahoma State.
The Bears’ most highly touted recruit this year is wide receiver Robbie Rhodes. As a senior at Southwest High School in Fort Worth, Rhodes racked up 20 touchdowns, including 15 through the air. During his three years on varsity, Rhodes tallied 2,500 receiving yards and 751 rushing yards.
In high school, he was sometimes used on end-around plays because of his incredible speed. Rhodes even won the 4A state title in the 200m with a time of 21.06. He was also on the 4A state champion 4×100 team. This speed also earned him the kickoff return job for Southwest High School.
“He’s the No. 1-rated receiver in America,” head coach Art Briles said. “A guy that’s been loyal and faithful to us all the way through, whose going to have an outstanding future at Baylor University to help us continue our long line of success at the wide receiver position.”
Speed is only one aspect of Rhodes’ game that makes him a special receiver. He also has good, strong hands. He is able to go up into a crowd of defenders and come down with the football. Rhodes is also a smart receiver. He is able to adjust his route and come back to the football when needed. Rhodes will likely join a growing list of elite-level wide receivers that played for the Baylor Bears.
Baylor recruited Chris Johnson as a quarterback, but he also played defensive end while in high school. Defensive ends are athletes that have to have good footwork and hands. While high school quarterbacks can rely on raw athleticism, Johnson’s experience at defensive end will give him a solid framework of basic skills to continue to build upon during his tenure on the Baylor football team.
In Johnson’s junior year, he accounted for 900 yards of total offense and 13 touchdowns in just five games. He threw for seven touchdowns and four interceptions, and his completion percentage was just below 55 percent.
On designed quarterback runs and scrambles, Johnson averaged five yards per carry.
He finished his junior year with 431 rushing yards and 473 passing yards.
This dual-threat quarterback is elusive, but doesn’t have breakaway speed. His release is compact. He doesn’t have the long windup that some young quarterbacks have. This allows him to get the ball to receivers quickly. What he lacks in accuracy, he makes up for in raw arm strength.
Defense was not Baylor’s strong suit last season. While the defense did improve as the season progressed, the Bears finished the season ranked No. 96 in the nation in sacks with 19 on the season. When you consider that six of these sacks came in the Holiday Bowl against UCLA, it really sheds light on the fact that Baylor needs to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. That’s where Andrew Billings comes in.
Billings is a local kid from Waco High School. Though he played some offensive line, Baylor wants and needs him to fill its defensive tackle position.
“You talk Robert Griffin III, you talk Ahmad Dixon, you talk Andrew Billings,” Briles said. “These are big-name, big-time, stud players from Central Texas, who are staying in Central Texas, and making Baylor University a university that other high school students wish to be at.”
The first thing that stands out is Billings’ size and strength. This 300-pound lineman can squat 700 pounds and bench 470 pounds. If you throw Billings into the mix with sophomore defensive end and Penn State transfer Shawn Oakwood and junior defensive end and Holiday Bowl defensive Most Valuable Player Chris McAlister, the Baylor looks to be much improved next year on the defensive line.