BYU taking a look at Idaho defender

Rexburg, Idaho gave BYU former safety great Jared Lee, a Sporting News All-MWC First-Team selection in 2000. Now his nephew, a 6-foot-2-inch, 180-pound defensive back, recently made waves at a SPARQ combine in Long Beach and has the attention of many college recruiters.

Following the end of his junior prep season, 5A Madison High School team captain Sam Baldwin went right back to work preparing for his final year of high school football.

"This offseason I've been working hard in the weight room, and since football ended, I put on about 15 pounds of muscle over," Baldwin said. "My bench has gone up about 50 pounds. My bench is about 240 pounds right now, and my power clean has gone up from about 245 to about 285. My squat is up to about 400 pounds now. I'm weighing about 180 right now and pushing about 180."

Possessing a good combination of size and speed, Baldwin's talents were put to good by Bobcat head coach Mitch Buck.

"As far as production on the football field, I played kind of a safety/linebacker hybrid position," Baldwin said. "I averaged about 7.7 tackles per game, and my high for tackles in a game was in the Blackfoot [High School] game where I had 18 tackles in that game."

Next season, Coach Buck will expand Baldwin's role on the team.

"I'll be playing safety this year and maybe a little bit of outside linebacker this year, and ended up with around 70 tackles last year," Baldwin said. "I had two interceptions and one forced fumble.

"My coach wants to use me a lot at slot receiver and maybe even a little bit of running back. With our quarterback, he's pretty fast and runs consistently a 4.5 in the forty, so I think we'll be a good dual threat this year."

Baldwin's speed will come in handy at the running back position. The same speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness he uses on the football field came in handy at a recent SPARQ Combine held in Long Beach, where he placed 11th out of about 1,300 participants.

"My forty during the season was about a 4.75 but I recently brought that down to a 4.6 and a high 4.5," said Baldwin. "My vertical jump has always been high up there. At the SPARQ combine I tested out at a 37.4.

"Overall I posted a 99.39 score at the SPARQ Combine down there in Long Beach. I found out about it online and there isn't really any special leagues up here in Idaho except high school, so there's not a lot of opportunities to get noticed. I took that as a challenge to try and get my name out there. Now a dozen colleges have contacted me since then."

Baldwin's SPARQ rating was higher than the 98.64 scored by Notre Dame High School running back Khalfani Muhammad, who has offers from Oregon State, UCLA and Washington. His performance also graded out better than wide receiver Steven Mitchell of Bishop Alemany High School, who has offers from Cal, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, SMU, Tennessee, UCLA, Washington, Washington State and Texas A&M.

"The SPARQ was just the athletic testing," Baldwin said. "We didn't do really any football skills or contact stuff. I think my on-field skills translate even better because I read plays well and know what to look for and get to the ball pretty good."

Baldwin's SPARQ performance has turned some heads.

"Harvard and Washington were recruiting me before the SPARQ camp, and both of those teams didn't seem really all that much interested. After the SPARQ camp that interest has really gone up and all the other interest from the other schools started coming in more."

One of those colleges that have come calling is BYU.

"Well, Ben Cahoon set up an appointment with our head coach a few weeks ago," said Baldwin. "He's the Idaho recruiter and he came up and he left a letter for me in my coach's office. I don't know if it was a specialized letter or anything, but they invited me down to their Junior Day on June 13th. I'm really looking forward to that and it's giving me another goal to try for."

Baldwin has a very positive opinion of BYU.

"I think it's awesome!" Baldwin said. "BYU is an LDS school and so I'm looking forward to going down there. I want to serve a two-year mission for the LDS church, and BYU works really well with the LDS church. BYU is a great academic institution and one of the best, so all those things makes BYU an attractive place."

Other schools, meanwhile, appear to have become more interested in Baldwin.

"Harvard has also contacted me, and if I had a choice to go to BYU or Harvard, it would be a pretty tough choice," Baldwin said. "BYU's football program is much more out there and they're independent. They're always on television and their games are shown around the country. It would be a tough decision if I had offers from either of those schools because BYU is definitely up there academically with the best.

"The University of Washington has sent me several packets and several letters, so they're really interested in me. Washington State wants me to come down to their camp and has sent me an invite. [This week], my coach showed me a few brochures from Weber State and Idaho State for me in his office."

The interest from colleges doesn't stop there.

"Lafayette might have an offer for me as soon as my junior year ends. Stanford called my high school for my transcripts the other day and have invited me down to their camp. USC has sent me a brochure inviting me down to their camp, and Oregon did too."

With BYU showing interest in him, Baldwin has briefly spoken to his Cougar uncle Jared Lee.

"I talked to him a little bit and he's actually over in Boston right now and finishing up his residency at Harvard," said Baldwin. "He played two years at Ricks and then played two years at BYU. He said he wishes he could have had more time up there at BYU, and he had a lot of success and led the team his senior year in tackles."

Like many other hopefuls, Baldwin will be down at BYU for Junior Day to perform in front of Cougar coaches in the hopes that they will offer a scholarship. He's circled his calendar and is preparing himself for his next performance on the big stage.

"I'm excited about it," said Baldwin. "I want to go down there and check things out and try and do down there what I did at the SPARQ Combine in Long Beach. I'm going to prepare myself like I did before and try and earn a scholarship by the time I leave there."

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