By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor
With less than a month to put together a new coaching staff and hit the recruiting trail, Baylor football head coach Dave Aranda brought in five new signees to the Bears’ 2020 recruiting class for National Signing Day Wednesday.
“I’m so blessed to have all the help of the university and the campus in this recruiting process,” Aranda said in his press conference Wednesday afternoon. “I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been having kids on campus and parents and families that come tour inside and talk about the people here, how they’re treated, the welcome that they have gotten and the feeling of family they have. So, I want to say thank you to the Baylor campus.”
Highlighting the group of new Baylor players is Blake Shapen, a two-sport athlete from Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport, La, who was previously committed to Arizona State. Shapen reopened his recruitment in December and decided to go with the Bears over offers from USC, UCLA and Ole Miss. Rated highly as both a quarterback and a shortstop, Shapen will play both sports for the Bears and Aranda said it took a big team effort to bring convince Shapen to choose Baylor.
“What I love about that, No.1, is just the team effort in recruiting,” Aranda said. “And then No. 2, just the athletic potential for someone that plays two sports and just the dedication and the pure athleticism it takes. So, that’s a win-win for us. I’m so proud and happy to be associated with [Baylor baseball head coach Steve Rodriguez] and his staff. They really hit it out of the park and were a big, big help in landing Blake.”
A four-star football prospect according to ESPN, Shapen led the Eagles to a 6-5 record and was named first team All-District. He passed for 2,049 yards with 24 touchdowns and five interceptions during his high school career, adding 324 rushing yards with five touchdowns. Shapen is considered a dual-threat QB and ranks as the No. 16 player in Louisiana.
On the baseball diamond, Shapen ranks as the No. 4 player in Louisiana and the top-ranked shortstop in the state. Shapen participated in the 2019 Under Armour All-America baseball game at Wrigley Field in Chicago and is considered one of the country’s top baseball prospects as well as a top candidate for the 2020 MLB Draft.
Aranda said there was a need to recruit someone like Shapen to the quarterback position in this signing class.
“[we recognized] that we need to bring in a quarterback in this class,” Aranda said. “We identified Blake right away and were able to see just the intangibles such as toughness, smart, dependable, instinctive, able to create. He is also a shortstop and when he plays shortstop while he is playing quarterback I think is when he really jumps off the screen.”
Other than a quarterback, Aranda and his staff also brought in an offensive lineman and three new safeties to an already defensive-heavy recruiting class. Aranda said having depth at the safety position gives the program flexibility and strength.
“There are some safeties that will grow into linebackers,” Aranda said. “There are some safeties that could play nickel [back], so, two positions, and there are some safeties that could be cover safeties — other safeties that could be back end, deep middle of the field or half-field safeties. A lot of those guys run really well, which allows you to build those units with really good speed. We had a shortage there and I feel like we’ve addressed that.”
Mike Harris from Central High School in Phenix City, Ala., Chateau Reed from Lawton High School in Lawton, Okla., and Wilmington, N.C. native Alfahiym Walcott from Butler Community College are the three diverse safeties that were recruited by Aranda and his staff.
They also recruited Micah Mazzccua from St. Francis [MD] Academy in Philadelphia, into the offensive line. Aranda said he was excited to build a connection with Mazzccua as he was one of the first recruits he met with after taking over as head coach in January.
“I think when I first met Micah here, I was here for less than 24 hours,” Aranda said. “And so, I was very excited to build a connection with Micah and his ability to play offensive guard for us and fill those interior spots. He can pull, he can base, base block with the best of them, and finish people. He can jump set and cover people up.”
The five recruits that signed Wednesday join 12 other players that announced their commitments to Baylor in December and were recruited under former head coach Matt Rhule. Aranda said it was very important to meet with the previous commits and re-recruit them.
“We were able to bring quite a few of them back on campus,” Aranda said. “It was great to connect, and for them to meet their coaches and for them to spend time with me. We definitely made an effort. I think that was a big point of emphasis just form the start.”
According to Aranda, there are still a few spots left to fill in the Baylor roster and the staff will keep their “eyes open and our ears close to the ground” as they continue to search for players they feel will fit their program.
Baylor football will be back in action in the fall, opening the 2020 season against Ole Miss Sept. 5 in Houston.