By Nathan Keil | Sports Writer
On Feb. 1, 26 high school football players signed on the dotted line and committed to continuing their careers at Baylor and for head coach Matt Rhule next season.
Rhule had to play catch up as soon as he took over the reins of Baylor’s football program. When he arrived, he had only one player committed to the Bears for the 2017 season. After putting in long hours on the road and over the phone, Rhule is thrilled with the group of guys that has agreed to come join the Baylor program.
“We’re excited about this group of young men we signed today,” Rhule said. “We think they represent a great future for the Baylor football program.”
Of the 27 players who signed their letter of intent, 14 of them are on the defensive side of the football. Rhule insisted that it wasn’t necessarily a priority to focus on certain positions or one side of the football. Instead, it was about going out and getting great kids from the state of Texas and making a play for the best available players.
“Our coaches did a great job of running down leads,” Rhule said. “I think there was a plan to it. We wanted to make sure we found enough. We had positions of need. Make sure you find enough of the other positions and still try to get the best available players.”
Rhule would not have been able to do the job alone as he relied heavily on his support staff throughout the recruiting process.
Defensive line coach Elijah Robinson said that the recruiting process is all about relationships and how important it was for them as coaches to get out and get to know guys off the field.
“Our role is pretty much to identify players and go out and see the guys. We build relationships with their families and with their high school coaches,” Robinson said.
In looking to boost its defensive resume from last season, Baylor has added seven defensive lineman, three linebackers, and four defensive backs.
Joining Baylor on the defensive line is two time all-state defensive lineman Sanford, Fla. native DeMarco Artis, 247Sports’ No. 276 national prospect Gonzalez, La. Justin Harris, Round Rock native James Lynch, Allen native Cole Maxwell, Houston lineman Chidi Ogbonnaya, Pennsville, N.J. lineman Rob Saulin and England, Ark. native B.J. Thompson.
Incoming linebackers are La Porte’s own Terrel Bernard, Byron Jackson of Mansfield and Temple prospect Ashton Logan.
Logan is the lone 2017 prospect from the Central area. Rhule said that he was drawn to Logan because of his sheer athleticism.
“Ashton is a physical safety who will be developed into an outside linebacker prospect,” Rhule said. His athleticism and explosiveness show on both field and basketball court. He’s a hometown kid who is strong, physical and fast.”
When Rhule started the recruiting trail, he had one commitment: Stafford safety Jalen Pitre and according to Robinson, Pitre is the embodiment of Baylor’s mission statement.
Rhule even went as far to call him the “anchor” of the class for seeing through to his original commitment.
Joining Pitre in the defensive backfield are College Station cornerback Timarcus Davis, who is coming off of a torn ACL during his senior season. Cherry Hill, N.J., cornerback and Houston safety Trevon Lewis round out the 2017 defensive recruiting class.
Robinson said the goal in recruiting is to go and get versatile guys and that he and the coaching staff believe that they’ve brought in guys that fit that description.
“We recruit guys that are versatile and the guys we brought in have the chance to be that in our scheme,” Robinson said.
The season is still a long way down the road, but Rhule believes that this class has what it takes to make an impact not only on the football field, but more importantly in the community.
“This is a special group, who believe in Baylor and our future. They’ll have an opportunity to receive an elite education and be developed into outstanding football players,” Rhule said. “These are not only high-character guys, they are leaders—who represent this university well, on the football field, in the classroom and in the community.”
According to rivals.com, Baylor finished with the No. 32 overall recruiting class. The Bears will open their season on Sept. 2 against Liberty University.