The Bears are coming off of their 2nd Big 12 Championship, in as many years, and the 2016 class will be a very important factor in continuing the tradition of improvement fans have seen in this Baylor Football program.
Annabel Stephan, Regional Analyst – Central Texas
Offensively, I'm going to go with Port Arthur (Texas) Memorial four-star running back Kameron Martin. There are two reasons for my decision. First, there's the obvious talent that Martin brings to the table. He's a speedster who recently clocked in a 4.34 40 time, breaking a high school record set by Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles. That speed, combined with his body type, makes you think he's a scatback who is very shifty and who can change direction well while making people miss. He's also been incorporating some wide receiver at Memorial, and he considers himself a dual-threat type of running back. Second, there's the question of whether Baylor will be able to win a huge in-state battle. With recruiting momentum on the rise for Texas, and as the Bears and Longhorns continue to recruit the same prospects, to ink Martin, who at one time said Texas was his dream offer, on Signing Day would be huge in shifting momentum of in-state recruiting for the Bears.
Defensively, my vote is for Killeen (Texas) Shoemaker Kendell Jones, a five-star prospect. He's down the road from Waco and I think it would be great for the Bears if they are able to add more size to the defensive line. A few of the defensive linemen who have signed with Baylor in the past few years, like Josh Malin and Ira Lewis, have needed to take time to develop in Waco. Jones is already 6-foot-4, 300-pounds, and could jump in and immediately make an impact playing alongside and complimenting another defensive force in Shawn Oakman.
Gabe Brooks, Regional Analyst – North/East Texas
Offensively, Baylor got its big-time quarterback when Jarrett Stidham signed, while the other skill spots appear well-stocked thanks to the 2014 and 2015 classes. In my opinion, when it comes to the 2016 class, Baylor needs to hold on to the commitment of Silsbee (Texas) four-star offensive tackle Patrick Hudson, one of the state's top 10 overall prospects and the No. 2 tackle behind Greg Little, who is the consensus No. 1 player in Texas. Hudson is an elite-level prospect with the type of massive size that Baylor covets on the offensive line. Hudson is a bit raw technically, but that should give Baylor's staff plenty to work with if he indeed signs with the Bears, especially considering Hudson's brute strength and physical tools. Baylor will undoubtedly have to fight to hold off other suitors, but BU has to like its chances to land him after flipping him last spring from Texas A&M. Defensively, the hardest players to find are "franchise" quarterbacks and difference-making interior defenders. Therefore, I'll go with another current Baylor pledge in Houston Westside defensive tackle Jordan Elliott, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound force who's potentially scheme-versatile at the next level. Like the situation with Hudson, Baylor will have a serious fight on its hands to keep Elliott in the fold, simply because of the offers that have come since his commitment and will continue to arrive. Elliott may be harder to keep in the fold than Hudson because of how quickly the offers have come since his commitment, not to mention the caliber of programs from which those offers have come. But if Baylor can hang on to Elliott, it will have a difference-maker to take over the middle of the defense from Andrew Billings once he's gone. If Baylor cannot keep Elliott's commitment, going all-out for McKinney North four-star defensive end Justin Madubuike would be a smart move. He's a national top 25 prospect and one of the top five players in the Lone Star State's 2016 cycle. He possesses the frame to be a large, menacing even-front defensive end, possibly as big as 6-foot-4, 280 pounds once fully grown. That could also potentially make him position- and scheme-versatile depending on the looks Baylor wants to throw at opponents.
Tim Watkins, Publisher – BearsIllustrated.com
With an offense that has been ranked among the best in college football the last few years, I think that the system might be the most important aspect to their success. Coach Art Briles has proven his brilliance in building prolific offenses around lightly regarded wide receivers (Tevin Reese, Josh Gordon, and Terrance Williams), transfer running backs (Terrance Ganaway and Lache Seastrunk) and any type of quarterback you want to give him. However, anytime you can get a special talent to run that special offense, it can take it to a completely different level. The choice for me is Tren'Davian Dickson, a long-time Baylor commit that recently opened his recruitment back up. The 21st ranked player in the 2016, Dickson is a legit star prospect. He is still looking at the Bears as a possible destination, along with Texas A&M and Texas, but most of the big-names will be involved with him sooner than later. Defensively, it all starts on the defensive line for the Bears, and their biggest and best recruit right now is Jordan Elliott. The 4-star tackle committed to the Bears in late January, but has recently added offers from Texas, Oklahoma and Alabama. If the Bears can keep Elliott committed, it would be a massive win for the Baylor defense, and keep the line of star defensive tackles (Phil Taylor, Andre Billings) humming along.
Kevin Barrera, Recruiting Analyst – BearsIllustrated.com
Offensively, the Bears landed their QB in Jarrett Stidham. There are two things that have helped Coach Art Briles build the type of offense that he has, and while the WR and RBs he has brought in are a big part, the QB and OL are the most important aspects of this offense and therefore are a big deal for this 2016 class. Zach Smith has been committed to the Bears since last summer, so they don’t have to worry about that position. So all eyes turn to the OL. Patrick Hudson is a huge prospect for Coach Briles, as he is the #2 ranked OL in the Country behind Greg Little. His commitment was a great start to what should be a very impressive OL haul. Hudson will be the cornerstone of this OL class, and the 2016 class overall, but getting a complete OL class will be as important as keeping Hudson committed to the Bears.
Defensively, the Bears have to continue to upgrade on the DL. This may be a topic that most Baylor fans may not find as important as the secondary positions, but having a great pass rush and run defense goes a long way in helping you have a dominant defense. The Bears landed the commitment of Jordan Elliott, who was favoring the Bears up until his visit for the Bears 1st Junior Day. Since his commitment, Elliott has picked up offers from the likes of Alabama, Texas, Oregon, and more. Like Hudson, Elliott is one of the top prospects at his position. And while Hudson seems to be as solid as the others, Elliott will be a tough recruit to hang on to, although he (Elliott) has said on multiple occasions that he is a Bear and nothing will change that. But as we have seen, things aren’t always concrete in recruiting. Several high profile programs will continue to go after Elliott, so it will be important for the Bears to continue to keep Elliott engaged and riding the Baylor train.