By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Putting the finishing touches on a recruiting class that is ranked as high as 24th nationally by ESPN, Baylor coach Matt Rhule added massive junior college offensive lineman Johncarlo Valentin (6-5, 330) from Philadelphia on Wednesday’s traditional National Signing Day.
“I think 330 is being generous. That was pre-Christmas weight or something,” Rhule said. “He’s a big, big man. I always want guys who are athletic. So, if they’re 250, 260, 270, and we can get them bigger, great. But, Johncarlo is a special athlete, and at 340, 350, he still moves like he’s a 280-pound man.”
Valentin, a four-star recruit who originally signed with Oklahoma after winning a Pennsylvania state championship at Imhotep Institute Charter School, spent the 2016 season at Lackawanna College and then last year at ASA College in Brooklyn, N.Y. He was rated the No. 1 junior college offensive guard by both ESPN and 247 Sports.
“He obviously had a lot of talent as a high school player being able to sign with Oklahoma from Philadelphia,” said Rhule, who recruited Valentin when he was the head coach at Temple University. “But seeing his junior college film this year, seeing the way he played – he played with a mean streak, finished plays, was physical. . . . He’s a big, powerful, physical young man, and I think he’s really going to help us in the offensive line as we move into next season.”
Restocking the offensive line was an obvious need in this class, with Valentin joining high school recruits Connor Galvin, Yylijaah Hall, Jackson Kimble, Casey Phillips and Princeton Pines. The Bears also had Division I transfers Christian Beard from UCF and Jake Fruhmorgen from Clemson sitting out this year.
“That was really out of necessity, sort of from the situation we inherited,” said Rhule, who moved tight ends Josh Malin and Sam Tecklenburg to tackle and center, respectively, last season. “I was really pleased with the guys we signed last year, both those who played and those who didn’t play and redshirted. And now to get some guys in here now, I think what was once a weakness eventually will be a strength.”
Rhule said the new December signing period worked out well for Baylor, because the assistant coaches “did a great job of building relationships and really a special group of young people that committed to us early, stayed committed through a season and really saw the promise of better days ahead.”
“They saw opportunity where some others saw adversity,” he said. “To have those guys sign, to have six of them show up (in January), to have Derrek Thomas transfer in from Temple as a graduate transfer, I think it really helped our team. It’s going to help for years to come. And it was great to add Johncarlo today.”
The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Thomas played for Rhule at Temple and made the move from receiver to cornerback as a redshirt sophomore in 2016 before being limited by injuries last season.
“At 6-foot-4, he has 4.3 speed, a 40-inch vertical. He’s just a tremendous, tremendous athlete,” Rhule said. “I think for him, he really wanted to play for (Baylor cornerbacks coach) Fran Brown. Fran is one of the best, if not the best, defensive back coaches in the country. Derrek recognized that our process, our way of doing things, playing for Fran, what it did for him and what it would do for him. I’m excited to have him join an already loaded defensive backfield, and I think he’s a guy that will play in the NFL for years to come.”
The other emphasis in the 22-player signing class was speed. Silsbee receiver Kalon Barnes, the defending 4A state champion in the 100, is expected to run for the Baylor track and field team along with receivers Tyquan Thornton and Jackson Gleeson and running back Craig “Sqwirl” Williams.
“We put a premium on finding some of the fastest players in the country,” Rhule said. “If we can be big, strong and physical, and also be one of the fastest teams in the conference, I think that will serve us really well, both on offense and on defense. We have a bunch of guys who are also probably going to be able to go out and run track. We have that kind of speed. And they’ll join what is already one of the fastest teams with Chris Platt, Denzel Mims and many more.”
Baylor football’s spring training will run March 15 through April 21, with the Bears opening the 2018 season with a home game against Abilene Christian on Sept. 1.
Football season ticket renewals and new season ticket requests are now available. Anyone renewing their season tickets on or before Friday, Feb. 9, will receive an invitation to a special spring football event, which will be held in mid-March.