August 20, 2013

Rivals 250 reveals Baylor's strength

One player offers a wealth of possibilities at wide receiver. The other is a slash type of defender who can fit perfectly either at safety or linebacker.

Texarkana Liberty Eylau's Davion Hall is tall and lean (6-3, 192), moves like he's 5-11 and can be physical when he's needs to be. Wylie's TK Rockwell has the size (6-0, 205) to play safety but the frame that could mature into a linebacker in college.

When Baylor is consistently pursuing and securing these types of prospects, it means building the brand name nationally remains on course.

These two join Mount Pleasant (TX) wide receiver KD Cannon -- No. 27 - in the newest Rivals 250 released on Aug. 20. Hall checks in at No. 131. Rockwell is at No. 230. Hall moved up from No. 133. Rockwell slid slightly from No. 227. Although Rockdale linebacker James David, previously ranked at No. 184, did not remain in the 250, he is still a 4-star recruit. That means that Baylor has four four-star recruits in its 2014 class.

To have three in this elite group ushers in another threshold for Baylor. The 2013 class had two members in Waco defensive tackle Andrew Billings and Fort Worth Southwest wide receiver Robbie Rhodes. In three previous seasons, Baylor had only one representative. Richardson Pearce wide receiver Corey Coleman appeared in 2012, Cedar Park offensive lineman Spencer Drango in 2011 and Waco Midway defensive back Ahmad Dixon in 2010.

Baylor's on-field success over the last three years has helped the program pursue players that it otherwise could not even touch as recent as 2009.

Several factors played into it:
<*> The 2010 team playing in a bowl game for first time in 16 seasons.
<*> Robert Griffin III winning the Heisman Trophy in 2011 and leading Baylor to its first 10-win season since 1980.
<*> The program returning to a bowl game in 2012 and validating that it was more than just a Griffin-led program.
Blend in wins against then-No. 1 Kansas State in 2012, a first-ever victory against Oklahoma in 2012 and a pair of wins over Texas and it gives highly rated recruits a reason to more than consider Art Briles' program.

With Hall, he became one of the first two Baylor commits on Feb. 2 when he attended the junior day. The relationship between him and the Bears coaching staff has been solid. However, Alabama entered the race within the last three months and is going to make this a challenge for Baylor to hang on to him.

That said, the fact that Baylor is battling the two-time defending BCS national champion and 2013 pre-season No. 1 team signals how far Baylor has come. In fact, Baylor set the precedent in this recruiting effort. While most services and experts viewed Hall as a safety - and he may do that should he be fortunate to play professionally - Baylor changed the tone by offering him as a wide receiver. Alabama appeared to follow Baylor.

"Hall is a guy who has tremendous athlete with a lot of potential,'' said Jason Howell, Rivals Southwest/Midlands analyst. "We didn't get to see much of him since the last evaluation period so he didn't move much, but he's definitely a guy who is very well thought of. He oozes athleticism but is on the raw side and project well to either side of the ball. He should be fun to watch as he develops."

Rockwell battled some hamstring problems in the spring before committing to Baylor in early June. What was interesting was watching him at Baylor's camp at Lake Highlands in North Dallas. He rotated between the linebacker and defensive back drills. A defensive player can never have enough versatility.

While Rockwell could project to be an outside linebacker, he has the track speed to cover the ground that's needed in the offensive-friendly Big 12. Baylor's defense needs players to make plays in the open field and play every down. Rockwell is one of them.

"Rockwell's biggest weapon is his speed and he has a strong physical build to go with it,'' Howell said. "He is listed at outside linebacker but is also a guy who could contribute in the secondary. Like Hall we didn't get to see much of him this summer so there wasn't much movement here, but he's definitely an intriguing prospect.

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