Top 10 Sleepers in the Briles Era Part 2

Continuing our series at looking at the best sleeper recruits that Coach Briles has brought on at Baylor, we look at four guys that are expecting major playing time in 2012.

In the first part of this series, we took a look at three players for the Bears that came to Waco as 2-star prospects, but greatly out-performed there star-rankings. Two of those players are done in Waco for reasons off the football field, with the 3rd expected to be a starter for the Bears defense.

In part two, we are going to look at four players that are expected to contribute heavily this year on both sides of the ball, as the Bears continue to strike gold on sleeper recruits.

Tevin Reese – 2009 Three-star WR (109th)

The 5-10, 165 pound wide receiver from Temple has certainly out performed his 3-star ranking in 2009. In his two years on campus, Reese has totaled 96 catches for 1278 yards, despite his small stature. Reese came up especially large for the Bears last season, with 7 touchdowns, and increasing his yards per catch from 8.9 to 17.2 last season, to lead the Bears. Reese gave the Bears a 3rd receiver that could stretch the field and score from anywhere.

Reese has been a starter both years of his career at the opposite inside receiver position to Kendall Wright, but will be expected to be the main guy at the inside position his Junior year. Surprisingly, looking at their statistics, the difference between Kendall and Tevin has not been that large during their first two years in Waco.

Wright – 116 receptions, 1389 yards, 11.97 yards per catch, 9 touchdowns

Reese – 96 receptions, 1278 yards, 16.4 yards per catch, 7 touchdowns

This is not to say that Reese will have another two years like Wright, but it was surprising to see Reese was as close as he was, especially considering the talent level around him during his first two years compared to Wright was much higher. Not bad for a 3-star receiver, ranked 109th in his class.

As part of an amazingly large group of wide receivers for the 2009 class (Darius Jones, Skyler Scott, Reese, Willie Jefferson, and Josh Gordon), Reese was the first to commit to the Bears, giving his verbal commitment to Art Briles in late July of 2008.

Reese was another recruit that showed well at a Baylor camp, and received an offer from the staff. He was leaning towards Baylor all year, and his experience at the camp only strengthened that. "I've always wanted to come here, I just needed to make sure it was the right fit. The coaches are great and it just felt right." He committed to the Bears over offers from Texas Tech and TCU.

"Baylor is it. It's close to home. They changed their spread offense so I'm going to have a chance to play early, plus I like their coaching staff. I felt this was the best fit for me and I am happy with it." You can't say Reese was off on his evaluation, as he did play early and has excelled in the Baylor spread offense.

Jarod Monk – 2009 two-star QB (121st)

The athletic quarterback recruit was a staple of Briles recruiting strategy his first few seasons on the job. He targeted these athletic players and moved them all over the field; Kendall Wright to Wide Receiver, Jeremy Sanders all over the place, Brody Trahan to line backer, and finally, Jarod Monk to Tight End. Monk, going into his senior campaign for the Bears, has been a 3 year contributor with a handful of starts under his belt.

While Jarod has not put up amazing statistics in his 2 seasons of major playing time, he has still produced for the Bears. Monk's greatest attribute has been his all-around ability to man the position. He is a solid blocker, runs good routes, and can catch the ball well. He is just solid in all aspects.

Jarod is also a rare player that during his career has passed, rushed and caught a touchdown. He threw for his first and only career touchdown against Iowa State during his true freshman campaign. He also rushed for one that year against Kent State, and has caught two touchdown passes in both of the last two season.

Monk came to Baylor as a 6-5, 230 athlete without a position, and is leaving as an athlete with prototypical size for at Tight End in the NFL. At over 275 pounds, he will be able to play at the next level. The two-star from Wylie chose Baylor over offers from Kansas, Kansas State, TCU and UTEP. While most high schools quarterbacks are a little hard to convince to move to other positions (see Robert Griffin III), Monk was always very open to the switch, and he was especially interested in the tight end position. "I think it a very good possibility for me because of my size, speed, and strength," Monk told BigPurpleNation. "Right now I don't know what I want to play more."

With Baylor and TCU both focusing on the 6-5 athlete for the tight end position, it came down to fit and academics.

Sam Holl – 2010 two-star S (157th)

The other starting safety for the Bears is also a 2-star gem. As I said with Mike Hicks, anytime you can find a multiple year starting player for your team in a 2-star prospect, you have to be pretty happy with it. Holl started last year and finished second on the team in tackles, with 113, leading the Big 12 in solo tackles with 83 and also finishing fourth in the NCAA. He also added 3 interceptions for the Bears, two of which came during the blowout win over the Texas Longhorns.

While Holl's speed is not what you would expect for a safety, his size, anticipation for the ball and his tackling ability are excellent, especially in run support. He just knows where to be and how to get ball carriers down.

Holl came to Baylor over offers from Rice and SMU. Holl chose the Bears after receiving an offer at a camp in Waco (sensing a theme here???). The 2-star safety loved the camp and the coaching staff, but a reason closer to him won him over. "I went up to their camp this summer, and I really liked it a lot. With my sister going there, and Art Briles, I think he is starting something good there.

Bryce Hager – 2010 two-star LB (NR)

While Hager has yet to make a large impact on the Bears program yet, his time is coming quickly, as he is currently the starting linebacker in the middle for the Bears defense. He received some playing time last year, but it mostly came on special teams. Needless to say, this pick is a bit of a gamble. The sophomore to be has just 8 tackles in his career, but I expect him to be a solid player this year, and eventually grow into an All-Big 12 caliber linebacker for the Bears.

A two-way player for Austin Westlake, Hager starred at running back and linebacker for the Chaparrals. The son of a former Texas Longhorn standout and NFL player, Hager came to Baylor to be their middle linebacker, and he has went out and made that happen. As BearsIllustrated wrote when he committed in January of 2010, Hager came with "plans on playing middle linebacker for the green and gold, a position that he looks forward to playing."

After Bryce accumulated almost 160 tackles during his senior season, the offers starting coming in from Baylor, Colorado, and Air Force. Although just a 2-star player, even Greg Powers of Scout.com knew Hager could be underrated even back in 2010. Greg wrote, "So while he may be unrated now people in a few years may not be highly rated now people could be coming back on and saying how all the recruiting experts whiffed on an All Big-12 selection."

Hager though, would choose to come to Baylor. "I went on my visit this weekend, and I just really enjoyed meeting all the guys. The facilities are great, the coaches, and I love the coaches. The coaching staff is great. I just liked everything." And what was Bryce's personal goal when he got to Baylor? "Start as soon as I can," Hager told BearsIllustrated. Mission Accomplished Bryce, now go out and earn your spot on this list.


Bears Illustrated Top Stories