With the offseason upon us in all of her glory, the time has come to kill time till we can start truly counting down the days till fall practice hits us. With that still a long way down the road, recruiting takes on a bigger importance for the program and its fans.
What is almost as good as beating a conference rival or national power on the football field? Well, beating them for a recruit, of course! Here, I want to take a look at the top 10 recruiting wins for Art Briles. We will only look at recruits from the 2008 through 2012 recruiting classes. With the 2013 class still being constructed, and nothing officially signed, we can't really declare any victories yet.
Not all of ten of these players are stars, though most are. Some of these kids have not even been on the field yet for the Bears, but they were still wins on the recruiting fields. We will go ahead and name the ten players, and then come back later and rank them. Here are the first three!
Class of 2008; 4-star QB
12th ranked QB– Copperas Cove, TX
Beat out Houston, Stanford, Tennessee, LSU and Texas
What better way to lead off this list than with the biggest name in the Art-Briles era. Though the excitement was as high for any recruit in recent memory when he committed, Baylor really just beat out Houston for RGIII's services. Griffin made his commitment to the Bears in early December of 2007, just days after Coach Briles was hired by Baylor.
Baylor was always a top choice for Griffin and his family, but the previous coaching staff never offered the 4-star dual threat. According to Robert Griffin Sr., the coaching change allowed his son to go to his top school, as he told BearsIllustrated back in 2007.
"Baylor was one of his top 2 schools. We couldn't get what we wanted from the old regime at Baylor, so Robert decided to go to Houston because of Coach Art Briles. Robert wanted to go to school at Baylor, and when Baylor hired Coach Briles as their new football coach we thought it would be a good fit."
The track and football star had an offer from Texas, but not for quarterback and that turned off Griffin III. "Any school that offers as an athlete, we're not even listening to them," said Mr. Griffin. "There is no way. A lot of people have seen him in action and the schools we are looking at are very pleased with what they saw of him as a quarterback."
"A lot of it will depend on which position they're recruiting me at. I'm not going to turn down any offers (out of hand), but I'm looking for offers as a quarterback. The problem is with a lot of the bigger schools, like LSU, all those schools offered me in track but in football they want me to play something else (besides quarterback)," said Griffin back in July of 2007 to the Washington State site.
Baylor used this to its advantage and offered Griffin as a quarterback after the coaching change, and the rest is history.
Class of 2012; 3-star OLB
31st ranked OLB – Euless, TX
Beat out Arkansas, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, and USC
After his Junior year at powerhouse Trinity High School, it was clear that Brian Nance was a top-level talent. That is the time period he picked up most of his offers (Scout shows 11, but there were plenty more). He was a highly ranked 4-star linebacker, coming off of a great season. However, in February, he tore his ACL in offseason training. At first, this did not slow down his recruitment, as he picked up an offer from Nebraska after the injury and didn't lose a single one.
Oklahoma was the first to offer the stud linebacker, and was thought to be his college destination by many. In August, he declared that his final three choices were national powers Oklahoma and USC, with the third school being Baylor. "Throughout the process, many scoffed at the 6-foot-3, 210 pound linebacker putting Baylor in his top three. "People are always like, 'Why aren't you going to Alabama? You're taking visits to Baylor?… It's about the way they treat me, if they make me feel at home."
In the end though, it was Baylor that secured his commitment, as he donned a green and gold hat during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, with Arkansas and UCLA fans left with disappointment. Though there are still some question marks about Nance making it to Waco for next season, he was clearly a big win for the Bears.
Class of 2011; 4-star WR
42nd Ranked WR - Allen, TX
Beat out Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Purdue, and Texas Tech
Another U.S Army All-American, Lee was a dual sport athlete at Allen High School, starring on both the grid-iron and the court. His 35" vertical leap came in handy in both sports. The 6-3 wide receiver accumulated many offers in a short time at Allen, as he transferred in after his sophomore year. He primarily played free safety at his previous school, but the Allen coaches wisely switched him over to the offensive side. His athletic ability and size allowed him to succeed after the switch, according to his then Offensive Coordinator, Jeff Fleener.
"What makes him stand out is his ability to run a route. At 6-3, 192, he's a big player, but moves in-and-out of his routes like a much smaller player with fast feet and hips. At the Army All-American combine he was laser-timed at 4.57 in the 40, so that's pretty accurate time."
The primary competition for Lee's service at first was Nebraska, who got on the 4-star prospect early. "I like their playing style at Nebraska and how they use their receivers. I like that they have great players that come out of Arkansas and that could me. There is also the spread offense at Tulsa and I know they like to throw it around." With a spread offense appealing to Lee, the Bears quickly gained ground on their competitors.
By April, the Bears were in the lead and then secured his commitment later in the month. Lee said "I really like it at Baylor. I got to meet all of the coaches and see them practice. I was impressed with how intense it was. They all go full speed. Nobody was slacking off."
Baylor's offense, coaching style, and proximity to home won over Lee, who was being recruiting primarily by mid-west school. "I just feel closer to them right now. They're always interested to get to know me and I feel like they really care about me and ask about my family too. I feel very comfortable with them."