Top 10 Sleepers in the Briles Era Part 1

Baylor's rise back to respectability has been carried by star players, some of which were found at the bottom of the recruiting rankings. Find out who some of the best were, inside BearsIllustrated.com

In our first recruiting rankings, we looked at the Top 10 Recruiting Wins of the Art Briles era. This series will be a little different; we are looking at the under-rated players that have succeeded at Baylor and easily surpassed their recruiting rankings. Honestly, there were quite a few candidates to choose from.

First off, I only counted high school players, so no junior college players here (sorry Philip Blake and Danny Watkins, who were both 2-star recruits). I chose nine 2-star players and just one 3-star player for this list of ten. We will do these in 4 parts again, looking at the players individually, and then ranking them one through ten in the final segment.

All of the players will be from the 2008, 2009 and 2010 class, primarily because the '11 have not had a chance to make a huge impact yet, and all but one of the 2-star players were junior college transfers, so that eliminated a lot of candidates. The '12 class hasn't hit the field yet, so they obviously were not included, but again, the amount of 2-stars we are recruiting is shrinking, which can only be described as a GREAT thing.

So, with that out of the way, let's get started! Our first list will focus on 4 defensive players that have suited up for Baylor, including three starters on the upcoming season's defense.

Tevin Elliott– 2009 two-star LB (54th)

I went back and forth about whether to include Elliot on this list, as with his dismissal from the team, he will no longer be able to make an impact for the Bears. However, I also look at him and see a guy that we hit the jackpot on. Coach Briles and his staff found a 6-2, 205 pound linebacker in Mount Pleasant, Texas and turned him into a 250 pound starting defensive end, which finished his career with two very productive seasons under his belt.

Elliott was developing as a very solid pass rusher and playmaker for the Bears. He was an honorable mention All-Big 12 player according to the AP. Anytime you can get that type of production from a 2-star recruit, who committed with no other major school offers, you have to be pretty happy.

Elliott did have other schools showing interest, but Baylor was the first to offer the 2-star linebacker, who showed excellent coverage skills and pursuit skills in camps with Baylor. "It is close to home, and I will be able to come see my family. Also, my family will be able to come see my games. I got friends up there, and it is a nice school. I love the coaching staff, I love the facilities, and I love it all. It's just nice up there."

Josh Gordon – 2009 two –star WR (224th)

We continue looking at each sleeper with another player that only played 2 years for the Bears, due to disciplinary action and a subsequent transfer. While Gordon only got significant playing time in his Sophomore season, his impact on that season was huge. In the 2010 season, Gordon finished second on the team in receiving yards (714), 4th in receptions (42) and tied for first in touchdowns (7). He also led the team in average yards catch for those players with more than 1 catch. Gordon was a big play receiver and had a bright future ahead of him. However, during his breakout year, he had an incident in the drive thru lane of a Taco Bell, where he fell asleep in his car while under the influence of Marijuana. This led to a team suspension. During the off-season though, it was clear to the Bears staff that he was not doing what he needed to do, and was suspended again.

With this set-back, Gordon left the Bears and transferred to Utah, where he sat out all of last year. However, he was not destined to play for Utah either, and he declared for the Supplemental NFL draft, held later than the main draft for players in special circumstances. Gordon's decision paid off, as he was selected in the second round of that draft (highest player selected since 2003) and recently signed a 4-year deal with Cleveland for $5.3 million, with $3.8 million guaranteed.

Gordan has all of the physical abilities you want to see in a star wide receiver. At 6-3 and 224 pounds, Gordon has great size to go along with very good athletic ability (36-inch vertical, 10 foot broad jump, and a slower than expected 4.52 second 40-time).

While Gordon might have only been a 2-star, he had interest from BCS schools. Texas A&M was the only other school to offer him, but he had interest from Michigan, Nebraska , and Missouri. Gordon came to Baylor to play early and try and get to the NFL as quickly as possible. While his route might have been different than he thought it would be back in 2009, his destination is still the same.

Mike Hicks – 2009 two-star S (NR)

While the first two in this series are no longer Baylor Bears after having issues off the field, Mike Hicks could not be described as anything resembling a trouble maker, unless you are talking about opposing ball carriers. The Bears starting safety already has 13 career starts as he enters his senior season. During the 2011 season, he finished 3rd on the team with 105 tackles and also tied for second with 3 interceptions.

The China Spring High School player did not have any other BCS offers, so he jumped on the chance to play for his hometown school. "Baylor is a hometown school. It is a good school that wanted me to come play for them. So, it was an easy decision for me" Hicks told BearsIllustrated in 2009.

Another factor in his recruitment was that his high school coach happened to be Shawn Bell, former Baylor quarterback who had just finished his career in 2006. "He [Shawn Bell] did not talk about Baylor, but just college in general. He helped out a lot with questions and things like that."

Committing in late 2009, Hicks was one of the finishing touches to that class. In fact, Hicks was one of 7 recruits to commit to Baylor in a 9-day span at the end of January.

Hicks, a two way player for China Spring, was given a choice to play on either side of the ball as a receiver or a safety. "It was an 'either or' deal with offense or defense. It did not really matter which one they picked for me. I just went with what they wanted me to do." Luckily for the Bears, he chose defense and turned into a solid tackler and leader for the defense.


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