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February 19, 2010

SicEmSports 2010 Recruiting Awards

Building on their phenomenal class from 2009, Baylor brought in a haul that included the top defensive back class in the entire conference to go along with several weapons on both sides of the ball. Now it's time for the SicEmSports staff to go through and hand out its annual awards.

OFFENSIVE MVP

Blair: Eddie Johnson - What can I say? This kid is a stud. He's big, he's strong, he's athletic, and his efforts to polish his skills at the wide receiver position really showed during his senior year. Johnson is so impressive physically that defenders more often than not don't even get a chance to make a play on the ball. He comes to Baylor as close to "Kaz" shape as you could ever ask, and that will be huge for his development moving forward.

Fletcher: Eddie Johnson - Johnson has been one of Baylor's top targets since the very beginning and committed to the Bears early in the process. At the time of his commitment, Johnson said that Baylor had thought so highly of him that they had even offered him before they offered a scholarship to his teammate Bryce Petty who signed with the Bears in 2009.


DEFENSIVE MVP

Blair: Ahmad Dixon - Overall, Dixon has more of the total package physically than just about any player in the state. What's most impressive, though, is his ability to close on defenders. Once he zeroes in, he's there, and there's nothing the defender can do about it. Dixon will need to work on perfecting his football skills and discipline, but Brian Norwood couldn't ask for a better canvas to start out with.

Fletcher: Ahmad Dixon - This seems like the obvious choice and an easy answer, and that's because it is. Over the past five years, the safety position has taken on a whole new level of importance. Players like Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu, and Bob Sanders have been able to manipulate games all by themselves because of their ability to cover the whole field and come up against the run. Dixon has the speed and talent to do both at an elite level.


OFFENSIVE EARLY CONTRIBUTOR

Blair: Robert Griffin - Isaac Williams will see a good deal of carries this season, but Robert Griffin has a chance to start every game. Conflicting reports have come out about where Griffin will line up for Baylor, but either way the kid is just a mauler. The entirety of his highlight film consists of him standing defensive lineman straight up and knocking them off the line. Whether at guard or tackle, look for Baylor to direct plenty of runs behind the big man next year.

Fletcher: Isaac Williams - Running back turned into a big problem for Baylor last year after Jay Finley got hurt and wasn't able to play. Jarred Salubi had two big games early in the year, but once conference play started the Bears weren't able to run the ball with any success. For that reason, it was important for Baylor to go out and find a player who could fit Art Briles' system and contribute early, and Williams is that kind of player. Add that to the fact that he's already on campus and you can see why he is primed to make a difference from day one.


DEFENSIVE EARLY CONTRIBUTOR

Blair: Prince Kent - There's a reason Prince Kent went from a three to a four star recruit after a year at Hargrave Military Academy - he got better. There's not much film out there on him, but trust me when I say that his extra year was well spent getting ready for the next level. Look for him to try his hand at corner early on with the Bears and to possibly fill in as a safety in a few packages on passing downs.

Fletcher: Prince Kent - Kent has an advantage that the rest of the defensive players in this class do not. For starters, he has spent a year at what many consider the top prep school in the country, which will have him better prepared to play early, and he is already on campus this spring working with the team.


UNDERRATED - OFFENSE

Blair: Troy Baker - Troy Baker is what he is - a rangy mauler who gets the job done. That's not why I chose him as the most underrated offensive player in this class. Potential wise, I would have to give that honor to Antwan Goodley, but Baker has a certain mentality that will do wonders for his development at Baylor. Jason Smith was a freak of an athlete on some levels, sure, but what brought him to the next level was his uncanny determination to get better every day. Troy Baker has that same determination.

Fletcher: Tyrell Jenkins - As an athlete, Jenkins just jumps off the screen at you. He's a dynamic runner and whether it's on designed runs or when he improvises when the pocket breaks down, he's able to pick up big yards. Many players around 6'3 and taller may have great top end speed when they get into the open field, but what's really impressive about Jenkins is his suddenness and burst. He's able to move laterally and get out of a jam effortlessly. For someone that's been spending much of his offseasons playing baseball, he also throws well on the run and demonstrates touch on his short and intermediate passes - a skill that many young players take much longer to master.


UNDERRATED - DEFENSE

Blair: Matt Ritchey - One thing to look for when recruiting a player is their versatility as an athlete. Does he excel universally or did he a do a good job in the niche the coach created for him? Matt Ritchey fits into the former. In addition to locking down his linebacker position for Big Spring, he filled in as the starting tight end, fullback, punter, and even at quarterback for the majority of his junior season to go along with his exploits in basketball and baseball. This kid knows how to compete, plain and simple.

Fletcher: TC Robinson - When I watch film of a player, I'm looking for short area quickness and explosiveness more than speed. Robinson has great speed, but what is really impressive is his closing/recovery speed, which is of extra importance for the corner position. When the ball is in the air, he attacks it as if he's shot out of a cannon.

FIRST TO SCORE A TOUCHDOWN

Blair: Isaac Williams - Williams was a highly thought of recruit coming out high school and should see plenty of time spelling Jay Finley in 2010. Terrance Ganaway will get most of the carries up close, but Williams' quick, scat-back skillset will inevitably give him the chance to break off a long one sometime next season.

Fletcher: Isaac Williams - This one looks like a no brianer. It's going to be hard for the receivers to get in the mix at that crowded position, and Williams should split the load with Jay Finley early in the year.


BEST ATHLETE

Blair: Tyler Stephenson - Other than Robert Griffin III and a select few others, Tyler Stephenson steps on to campus as one of the fastest players on the team. Stephenson had close to 30 offers for track alone on the Division I level for a reason. His athleticism doesn't stop there, though. Take one look at his film and you'll soon realize that he has much more athletic ability than just straight line speed.

Fletcher: Tuswani Copeland - This was a tough one because there are so many to choose from. Copeland will play defensive back for Baylor, but he could just as easily line up for the Bears on offense where he's a very skilled receiver. Copeland is a two clip player when it comes to evaluating his athletic ability. It only takes a couple clips of his highlights to tell what kind of skills he has. His film on rivals shows him making numerous diving catches, and if you type his name into YouTube you'll see an amazing one handed catch that demonstrates exactly what he can do.


MOST EXCITING PLAYER

Blair: Antwan Goodley - As Art Briles said, Goodley might not be the steal of Baylor's class, he might just be the steal of the entire state. Hidden away in West Texas, Goodley is another player who excels at everything he competes in due in large part to his pure speed. Look for him to get a shot as Baylor's kickoff returner just to get the ball in his hands anyway they can.

Fletcher: Antwan Goodley - Speed, speed, speed. Goodley has plenty of it. The Midland receiver is not only one of the fastest player Baylor signed this year, he's one of the fastest players in the state of Texas. He didn't have many games this past year where he was able to rack up a lot of catches, but he made the most of his opportunities, and would usually average more than twenty yards per catch. He could contribute early as a kick returner, as well, where he excels because of his ability to move laterally without losing any speed.


HARDEST HITTER

Blair: Bryce Hager - There are a few guys who can hit harder than Bryce Hager, buy you'll be hard pressed find a player in Baylor's 2010 class who does it more consistently. Coming from a football family, it's no surprise that he tackles as textbook as he does. Check out his film and you'll see a player who keeps his man square in front of him, stays low, and uses his legs to drive through the ball carrier's body.

Fletcher: Matt Ritchey - When a player has the mix of being versatile, an exceptional athlete, and coming from a coaching family, they become a college coaches' dream. At 6-3, and nearly 220 lbs, when Ritchey gets his big body up to full speed running downhill he can really pack a punch. It doesn't take long watching his film to know just how aggressive he really is.


BEST RECRUITING MOMENT

Fletcher: Ahmad Dixon Bringing It On Home - This was a huge moment for Baylor because of Dixon's profile as a player and what it means to keep a local talent like him in Waco, but I picked this because of how perfectly it worked out for me. About a week before Dixon switched his commitment from Texas to Baylor, there was already a lot of smoke that something may happen, and a lot of calls were being made between us, the guys at Orangebloods, the Midway coaches, etc. The week that he did actually commit to Baylor, I was in Shreveport, La on a church leadership retreat, and it was the week Blair was graduating, so we were both worried that we were going to miss it. Fortunately it couldn't have worked out any better. The minute we got word he had committed, I had just been given a two hour break from our meetings (the only one we had all week), and had just sat down at a computer to check the site. I was able to make a post on the message board about it, Todd was able to call Midway and interview Ahmad and send me the quotes, and I typed it up and we had a story up right away.

Blair: Prince Kent Pushing Baylor's DB Class Over the Top - Prince Kent's commitment came out of nowhere. Whispers had trickled down to those in the know about the possibility of Ahmad Dixon picking his hometown team for awhile and Tyler Stephenson had already camped with the Bears and hinted that he was seriously considering committing weeks before it happened. When the news came across the ticker that the four star Kent had committed, though, and pushed Baylor's defensive back class to the top of the Big 12, no one saw it coming. For Brian Norwood and the Bears, it was the icing on the cake.


WORST RECRUITING MOMENT

Fletcher: Losing a Hidden Gem in Tristen Holt - Just like I was in the right place at the right time for Dixon's commitment, I was at the wrong place and wrong time for what happened with Holt. I had just sat down at a movie theater and the feature had just begun when I started to get a call from an area code that I didn't recognize. I obviously couldn't answer it because I was in a movie, but I had a feeling that something I needed to know was happening when it happened again. Overcome with worry and curiosity, towards the end of the movie I looked up the area code and found it was from Missouri, and I knew the only person that would be calling me from there would be PowerMizzou.com publisher Gabe DeArmond, and I was right. DeArmond was calling me to give me a heads up that Holt was going to decommit, but by the time I got the message, the story had already been broken.

Blair: Ahmad Dixon's Window Shopping - No moment, no subject frustrated Baylor fans more than the continued whispers regarding their hometown hero bolting for another school. Whether it was a visit to Auburn or a pseudo-commitment to Tennessee, the Bears faithful could only sit back and watch as one of their most prized recruits checked out all his options. Fortunately for the Bears, though, Dixon decided to stay home and represent his community at Baylor.


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