- David Ubben, College Football
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If you haven't been keeping up, Baylor's crashing the national recruiting party. The Bears have hauled in two of the nation's top 300 players, and already have 13 commits who pledged to sign with the Bears next February.
Here's what he had to say about the Bears' already impressive haul:
Why has Baylor made the kind of impact on the recruiting trail this year that it hasn't in the past?
Damon Sayles: I think a lot of it simply is the new marketing brand. Heisman Trophy winners tend to get you a little more recognition in the college football world. Granted, Robert Griffin III no longer is there, but watching him allowed a lot of players to notice that Baylor's not a fluke. They can play in one of the nation's best conferences.
Who had the bigger impact, Art Briles or Robert Griffin III?
DS: Those who don't know football will automatically say RG3. As outstanding as Griffin was all of last year, you have to give credit to Briles and his coaching staff. They found a method that works on both sides of the ball, and it equated into national success. Of course, Griffin was a beast out there, as well. It'll be interesting to see if Baylor rises, falls or plateaus in 2012.
What's been the biggest surprise?
DS: From a recruiting standpoint, the biggest surprise has been the defensive numbers. You would think that with a Heisman-winning QB, offensive skill position players would be lining up to get their opportunity to shine. Actually, Baylor's picked up more defensive players in their 2013 class. Of the 13 commits, eight are defensive players, and a ninth, Kyle Fulks (Katy, Texas), could see time in the secondary.
Which players will be the biggest impact for the Bears?
DS: Baylor's top commit right now is four-star receiver Robbie Rhodes (Fort Worth, Texas/Southwest). He's the No. 5 receiver and No. 43 overall in the country. Rhodes is that good. He holds the Texas high school state record for single-game receiving yards (394) and also caught eight touchdowns in that game, which tied Earvin Johnson (Los Angeles/Cathedral) for the national single-game record. His potential is scary. Another player to watch would be outside linebacker Raaquan Davis (Heath, Texas/Rockwall-Heath), hard-hitting defender with good speed and the mean streak coaches like. Davis played on the same defense as Texas A&M commits Jordan Points and Jay Arnold. Collectively, it was one of the best trios in the state.
What big-time players are still out there for the Art Briles to reel in?
DS: Baylor needs offensive linemen for this class. Of the 13 commits, zero line up on the line to protect the quarterback. Four-star Andrew Billings (Waco, Texas) can play both sides of the ball, but he can be a great guard in the Big 12. Another four-star guard, Caleb Benenoch (Katy, Texas/Seven Lakes), recently opened his recruiting again after decommitting from Michigan State. Four-star offensive tackle Matt Beyer (San Antonio/Reagan) and three-star tackle Maurice Porter (Missouri City, Texas/Fort Bend Marshall) also are strong options and can benefit the Bears.
What does Baylor have to do to sustain this success?
DS: Success is simple. If you maintain relevancy, you sustain success. In order to maintain relevancy, you have to win games. Baylor's on the hot seat right now, because everyone is wondering if it can win without RG3. This is Briles' chance to show the world that as good as Griffin was, it takes a team of 11 on each side -- and some reliable special teamers -- to win a football game.
Where are the Bears in relation to their ceiling when it comes to success on the recruiting trail?
DS: I think they are on the rise. Keep in mind that five years ago, no one talked about Baylor the way they talk about the program now. It's a process, and the Bears understand that it'll take a while to consistently pull four- and five-star players. Baylor's hoping that with a couple more seasons like the one in 2011, that process will be a microwave one.
3hMax Olson and Jake Trotter
5dJake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson