Bears have their kicker
The only reaction you need to know about Chris Callahan's verbal commitment to Baylor is this:
"It gives me goose bumps,'' he said. "I get to be a part of a legendary program and play for a great coach [Art Briles]. The other cool thing is that I get to be a part of a new era with the stadium.''
On Thursday, the Houston Second Baptist place-kicker gave a verbal commitment to the Bears. Now, his situation is a little different. Callahan (5-10, 185) said he is still working on the details, but it appears that he will gray shirt this fall but should be put on scholarship for the 2014 spring semester. There's a chance he could be kept on the roster for the fall if Aaron Jones needs to have some competition. For now, he is scheduled to take his official visit to Waco next Friday (Feb. 1).
"I talked with coach [Kendal] Briles about it,'' Callahan said. "Their early thinking is that I come to Waco for the first and second summer sessions and take one class, then gray shirt at either McLennan or somewhere in Houston, and then be put on scholarship in the spring.''
Callahan attended Baylor's summer kicking camps. In fact, he attended 17 ranging from Baylor to Alabama to Ohio State, Kentucky and Virginia.
He presents a big and accurate right leg and can also influence field position. Callahan went 10-of-13 on field goals with a long of 47 and three others that were more than 40 yards. Of his kickoffs, 85 percent of them went for touchbacks. A punter for three years, Callahan averaged 44.5 yards per effort and placed 13 inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
"I worked with [former NFL and Oklahoma kicker] Scott Blanton so it really made a difference in all of my mechanics,'' Callahan said. "UTEP and So. Miss were coming in hard but when Baylor moved in, everything just lined up.''
And his recruiting class was quick to welcome him. He said he talked to Vequan Jones and knows Kyle Fulks from their middle school days. The two competed against each other in track.
-- Kevin Lonnquist
Surprise Feb. 1 visitor
Baylor running backs coach Jeff Lebby was in Liberty, Missouri on Thursday visiting 2013 tight end prospect Kolton Shindelar, a 6-5, 252-pound freak athlete who runs a self-reported 4.48 40 and a 4.5 shuttle. Shindelar will visit Baylor Feb. 1.
He has an offer from Tulsa, where he visited last weekend, and Missouri, where he'll be this weekend. In a recent article at PowerMizzou.com, Liberty coach Chad Frigon was asked who he compares Shindelar to: "People ask me who I would compare him to," Frigon said. "I tell them the guy from Rocky IV. He's the only person that compares." That guy is Ivan Drago, the Russian super power heavyweight played by Dolph Lundgren.
We'll have more on this developing story.
Two more visits before Dean decides
Last week when we checked in with Newton ATH D.J. Dean, he was holding out for a Baylor offer. He didn't have to wait long.
Baylor CBs coach Carlton Buckels, Dean's lead recruiter, extended an offer on Tuesday to Dean, who played a bit of everything in high school but projects as a CB in college.
"It really felt great," Dean said. "I'm just glad that I was blessed to play at a high level for a school like Baylor."
Dean said everything is "going good" as far as his relationship with Buckels. "He calls me just about every day, checking on me to see how things are going."
What's going on is two more visits. First up is Arkansas this weekend, a school that has already impressed Dean, partly because of its membership in the SEC. A visit to Baylor on the weekend of February 1 will follow. North Texas and SMU also expected to factor into his decision.
After playing for a Newton team that averaged 10-win seasons over the past three years, playing for a winning program is high on Dean's list of priorities.
"I want a team with hard workers, players that want to win, who aren't just going through the motions," he said. "I'm used to winning. I can't stand to lose."
-- Jake Shaw
Odd meaning good
When Liberty-Eylau's Davion Hall uses "odd" regarding Baylor, it's because the coaching staff has his attention and is making a positive impression.
"I like the school for some odd reason,'' he said.
Why mess with karma? For the second time in four months, Hall is expected to visit Baylor for the Feb. 2 junior day. The 2014 four-star standout (6-3, 193) recently said that Baylor, Texas A&M and Alabama are his early top three programs.
"Their offense is real,'' Hall said. "Their tempo is amazing. I went to watch them before the Kansas State game and thought it was cool. The coaches know how to get the ball out to their players. They're cool guys.''
Hall is in the middle of basketball season and said he wasn't sure if he could get to the Aggies' junior day tomorrow. What is for sure is how he has grown to know and like Baylor wide receivers coach Kendal Briles.
He will run track this spring including all of the relay events.
-- Kevin Lonnquist
Baylor making it tough for Simmons
It's been presumed that 2014 Mansfield Timberview defensive back Brandon Simmons would wind up committing to LSU.
Not so fast.
The impression Baylor assistant Jeff Lebby has made on him has certainly made a difference. Now, Simmons has a lot more interest in the Bears and will be attending the Feb. 2 junior day. This will be his second trip to Waco in about six weeks. He watched the Bears practice in mid-December before the Holiday Bowl. Lebby was at Timberview on Thursday.
"Coach Lebby did a great job,'' Simmons said. "At first, I didn't know much about them. But I really like them a whole lot. I love the way they practice and the facilities. They're really making this a hard decision for me.''
As for the defense, the Bears went through their ups and downs in 2012 but Simmons saw them at the right time.
"They practiced with a chip on their shoulder,'' he said. "The coaches were pushing the players
getting them to make them better. That's what I want to do is going to a place that will do that.''
Simmons played in arguably one of the toughest districts in the state in 5-5A. It produced Division I state semifinalist DeSoto and Division II state finalist Cedar Hill. Timberview struggled at 3-7. Simmons swallowed up one side of the field so he rarely had passes to defend. Still, he had more than 100 tackles, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries. Simmons wants to take in the rest of the campus next Saturday so he'll know more about it.
"At first the attention was exciting, but now it's getting serious,'' Simmons said. "This is a four-year decision. I have a lot to think about.''
-- Kevin Lonnquist
Jan. 25-27 visitors
Here's who SicEmSports.com has identified as those who have scheduled their official visit Waco this weekend:
1. Andrew Billings, DT, Waco
2. Taion Sells, DB, Irving MacArthur
3. Xavier Phillips, LB, Fort Worth All Saints
4. K.J. Smith, DE, Frisco Centennial
5. Byron Bonds, DT, Allen
6. Raaquan Davis, LB, Rockwall-Heath
7. Robbie Rhodes, WR, Fort Worth Southwest
8. Wesley Harris, Ath, Fort Worth Southwest
9. Johnny Jefferson, RB, Killeen Shoemaker
10. Austin Jupe, DB, San Antonio East Central
11. Vequan Jones, WR, Wylie East
12. Taylor Young, LB, DeSoto
13. Daeshon Hall, DE, Lancaster (still unknown but there still is hope he will come)
Two basketball prospects from Senegal attend Oklahoma State game
The Bears had an international flare at Monday night's Baylor-Oklahoma State game, with two prospects from Houston - by way of Senegal - in the house.
Tacko Fall, a 7-4 center, is a 2015 prospect who will start attending Lutheran South in the Houston area on Monday. He'll play for (ISTI) International Sports Training Institute, a Findlay Prep type of a team.
Ange Bajdi, a 6-4 guard, is a 2016 prospect who will also attend Lutheran South and play for ISTI.
Their coach Ben Simmons at ISTI gave us the rundown of each of these prospects:
-- On Fall, "He can do everything. He can run, jump, he has a soft touch, he's flexible and he's very bright. He'll have the choice of any school he wants, from Harvard to Baylor. He's still developing. He has a good mean streak. I'd liken him to a Kevin Garnett kind of player."
-- On Bajdi, "He's very quick, he's very linear in his movements. He doesn't have a lot of flash. He's determined and he's quick on the dribble. He has good footwork. He's a wing. He's kind of Joe Johnson. Not a lot of flash but he's fundamentally sound."
It will be interesting to follow Fall and Bajdi has they swing into action this year at ISTI and on the AAU circuit.
Bears baseball begins workouts Friday
The Baylor baseball team officially begins spring baseball practices Friday at 3 p.m. Baylor opens its season Feb. 15 at Cal-Irvine. The Big 12 season starts March 22 at Oklahoma State.
The Bears advanced to the super regional losing a memorable three-game series to Arkansas at Baylor Ballpark.
Here's four things I'll be watching closely:
1) Who replaces Josh Ludy at catcher? It's wide open, and no one is expected to replace Ludy's 16 home runs and 71 RBIs. Then again Ludy didn't have his breakout season until last year. Junior Nate Goodwin and Overland, Kan. and redshirt Jimmy Landes from Tyler Lee would likely see the bulk of the action if the season started today. But keep an eye on freshmen Matt Menard (Bridge City) and freshman Joe Sabatini (Tulsa, Okla.). There's a top of upside with all of these guys.
2) What about first base and center field? Senior Steve DalPorto and Duncan Wendel are guys to focus on to take Max Muncy's spot at first base. Cal Towey can also play some first base and freshman Mitch Price from College Park is also someone to watch. Logan Vick's center field spot could go to Rowlett sophomore Logan Brown or returning outfielder Dustin Toth.
3) How will the Bears replace all of that offense? Baylor lost 35 home runs and 200 RBIs from Ludy, Vick, Dan Evett and Muncy off last year's 49-17 team. Yep, the 3-4-5-6 hitters are gone. Baylor's returning position players combined for 10 home runs last season. The 2013 offense will start with left fielder Nathan Orf, the Big 12
Newcomer of the Year. He hit .303 with 20 stolen bases. Third baseman Cal Towey hit 6 of those 10 home runs.
4) What about the pitching? The Bears have to replace a lot of pitching too with 27 wins gone between Josh Turley, Trent Blank and Tyler Bremer. One 2012 starter is back, sophomore Austin Stone, who was 3-1 with 4.60 ERA last season, but he's still rehabbing an injury. Keep in mind that Bremer and Blank emerged as Saturday and Sunday conference starters after the first few weeks of the season. There are still a ton of good arms with Max Garner, Dillon Newman, Brad Kuntz, Ryan Smith, Crayton Bare, Trae Davis and Doug Ashby. And also watching China Spring freshman Sterling Wynn, one of the top pitching prospects in the state of the Texas last year.
Big 12 Basketball Power Rankings
During the Big 12 conference basketball season, SicEmSports unveils its power rankings. We also provide our postseason tournament projections.
1. Kansas - The separation from the rest is widening
2. Kansas State - Wildcats have held 12 consecutive opponents to 69 or less points
3. Oklahoma - Sooners continue to credibility
4. Baylor - Could the Bears actually be more physical than their perception?
5. Oklahoma State - Cowboys 0-3 on the road in Big 12 play
6. Iowa State - The loss at Texas Tech could be a postseason killer
7. West Virginia - Bob Huggins rips his team
8. Texas - The Rick Barnes-Sheldon McClendon feud heats up
9. Texas Tech - The Red Raiders have many Big 12 wins as Oklahoma State
10. TCU - They don't score and their offense bogs down constantly
Projected NCAA tournament teams: Kansas, Oklahoma, Kansas State, Baylor
NIT tournament teams: Oklahoma State, Iowa State
Emptying the notebook
* We mentioned last week that the Big 12 athletic directors were scheduled to meet Monday-Tuesday in Dallas. It's certain that they will discuss realignment in some form or fashion but it's unclear to what extent.
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