Defensive Line: Big Phil and Four Athletes
11:14 A.M. THURSDAY, FEB. 19, 2009
JERRY HILL (EMAIL)
(Note: This is the second part of a series of blog reports on the football team's 2009 signing class.)
Since I began with the offensive linemen, let me look across the line at their neighbors on the other side and see what the Bears picked up in the way of help for the defensive line.
Although he's not technically part of this class, immediate help comes in the form of 6-foot-4, 345-pound defensive tackle Phil Taylor. A transfer from Penn State who started four games for the Nittany Lions as a sophomore in '07, Taylor came in last summer and had to sit out because of NCAA transfer rules.
And as good as Vincent Rhodes was, I've got to believe that Taylor makes the Bears better the minute he steps on the field.
I can still picture him tossing around freshman running back Jared Salubi last fall like he was a wet wash cloth. And that was on his first day to actually suit up.
"He's serious about being a really good football player and helping us win games," head coach Art Briles said of Taylor. "We're excited about him getting into live action and what he can bring to the table. He has toughness, passion, awareness . . . and then the physical presence."
From the high school ranks, the Bears landed four athletic defensive ends, including three that excel on the basketball court as well. Although I suspect that Rico Forbes, at 6-5 and 270 already, could easily morph into a defensive tackle. Assuming he puts on the "freshman 20," he could be a tackle by his redshirt freshman year.
Kelvin Palmer (6-5, 260) is another big defensive end, but he's also loaded with athleticism. He didn't even play football until his junior year at Dallas Adamson and averaged 11.4 points and 9.2 rebounds last year on the basketball team.
"We like guys that are able to excel in more than one sport," Briles said, "because it shows us that they compete on a yearly basis. And that's what it's all about is competing. We look for guys that like to get in the arena and get after it."
Houston Stratford's Terrance Lloyd and Everman's Deantre Harlan, who played wide receiver as a junior before switching to tight end and defensive tackle, definitely fit that bill as well.
"He's exactly what we'd like to find inside, a big physical kid who has a tremendous amount of ability," Briles said. "He's 6-4, 240, and not only a great football player but a great basketball player. He shoots the (3-pointers), handles the ball, does all those kinds of things. So he's a guy we're very excited to see how much of a complete player he can be for us once he locks in on football."
Overall, not as much immediate help as the offensive line, but clearly an upgrade in athleticism at that position.
Offensive Line: 'These Guys are Big'
10:33 A.M. FRIDAY, FEB. 13, 2009
JERRY HILL (EMAIL)
(Note: This is the first of a series of blog reports on the football team's 2009 signing class.)
Since offensive linemen rarely get top billing, I decided to lead off my look at the Bears' 2009 recruiting class with the big boys in the trenches. Of course, this is also a group that coach Art Briles said he would "stack up against anyone nationally."
Probably the best thing about this class of o-linemen is that it brings immediate help as well as stockpiling talent for the future.
With tackles Jason Smith and Dan Gay both gone after starting the last three years, there's a good chance that their replacements will be Marquis Franklin (6-7, 318) from Blinn College and Danny Watkins (6-5, 290) from Butte (Calif.) College. A native Canadian, Watkins has only been playing football for two years, but he enrolled in January and will go through spring training.
"When we bring JC players, we bring them to play. We don't bring them to watch," Briles said. "So they have to be pretty special if we're going to go out and recruit a JC player."
That means Philip Blake (6-3, 305) from Tyler Junior College will get a shot as well. But he has three years of eligibility remaining and might be more of a back-up in '09.
When you look at just the high school recruits, I'm not sure that Ivory Wade, Cyril Richardson, Jeramie Roberts and Stefan Huber isn't the best class of freshman offensive linemen that Baylor's ever had. Wade was originally committed to Texas A&M, while Roberts was pursued by Miami. And Huber is an all-state guard from Nederland, Texas, whose dad, Tighe Huber, played at the University of Texas.
I know offensive linemen usually don't play as true freshmen, but Wade just looks like a guy who could walk out there right now and start for a lot of college teams.
"Ivory is a powerful, big, strong player," Briles said. "He's intelligent, intense, dedicated, focused and driven. He's a guy that's very serious about being good."
All Four 'Horses' Have to be Ready to Run
With a rotation of four guards who can all light it up, the theory is that you can usually survive when one of them has an off night. And against the Paul Quinns and Southerns of the world, it's true.
1:05 P.M. TUESDAY, FEB. 3, 2009
JERRY HILL (EMAIL)
But as the last two games have shown, Baylor is just not good enough yet when one of its cylinders is not clicking.
Senior guard Curtis Jerrells was 2-of-10 from the field and had five points and nine turnovers in Saturday's 89-72 loss at Missouri. And then with ESPN's cameras here for "Big Monday," Jerrells was 0-for-7 and had a career-low four points in a 75-65 loss to No. 21 Kansas.
Just a year ago, Jerrells kept the Bears in it by going 11-for-21 from the field, hitting four 3-pointers and scoring 30 points in a 100-90 loss at Kansas. But he wasn't mired in a slump at that point.
"I know Curtis will be knocking down jumpers before long," head coach Scott Drew said, "because you can't keep a good player down long. I think all people go through slumps at times. The thing that's tough is in big games we need him to have a good game. He knows that, and his teammates are all behind him, his coaches are all behind him. If Sherron (Collins) goes 0-for-7, I know (Kansas is) going to struggle. (Jerrells) is the one player we depend on."
Between them, Henry Dugat, Tweety Carter and LaceDarius Dunn hit eight 3-pointers and scored 40 of the Bears' 65 points. And you also got a solid inside game from senior forward Kevin Rogers with 15 points, six boards and four blocks.
If Jerrells just hits his average - which fell to 16.2 points per game - Baylor wins by two.
"If you're playing a team that's maybe not a top-25 team, then you can have one of your horses not have a good game and still win," Drew said. "We're still not in that situation. I think we need to have everybody clicking to beat good teams. And we haven't had that in the last four games (all losses). The good thing is it's just a matter of time before it does.
"I think the guys that are slumping will get in the gym, we'll get things turned around, and I know we'll keep working to get better every day."
Before Chris Yandle (men's basketball contact for media relations and blogger extraordinaire) gets in my grill, I'm not panicking. But at 3-5 at the halfway point in Big 12, the Bears need to improve sooner than later. Saturday at Texas Tech would be a good place to start.
Just don't get Pat Knight riled up at you.