February 5, 2013

Billings Picks Baylor!

Three Big 12 programs are battling for one of the most coveted defensive recruits across the country. That's Waco High defensive tackle Andrew Billings. On Tuesday around 3:10 p.m., Billings will announce on 1660 AM in Waco who will he will sign with. The finalists are Baylor, TCU and Texas. Billings, Ranked No. 168 in the Rivals 250, has taken official visits to all three schools and had plenty of in-home visits. With National Signing Day on Wednesday, Billings should close down a long and exhausting process. Below, SicEmSports.com makes the for and against case for each and then makes its prediction on which school Billings will choose.



Sometimes, the last will be first. Billings took his last official visit to the Baylor campus on Jan. 25. Sources from all sides said the visit went very well. Baylor head coach Art Briles was the last of the head coaches to make an inhome visit. There is no question Baylor needs an impact player on the defensive front. Billings would provide that. And the coaches can demonstrate where this defense really improved over the last six games of 2012. While programs use the throwaway line of early playing time to entice recruits, this really could be realistic with Billings. Plus, Baylor can point to defensive end Javonte Magee as proof this staff means what it says. Magee has the potential to really take off. Billings was probably reminded of that.


Maybe there's just a part of Billings who has to wonder if he would like to experience playing away from home. There are other big-time Waco area players who felt that way including cornerback Will Hines who wound up signing with Arkansas. Granted, Austin and Fort Worth are less than two hours away from Waco. But each is far enough away and close enough at the same time. Billings could also wonder if the last month of the 2012 season was the exception and not the norm for the Baylor defense. Despite the finish, Baylor still finished last in the Big 12 in total defense (502.2) .Will Baylor really ever develop as a great defensive program? Billings has seen that program in its worst moments for many years.



Texas is in one of those positions where it really needs a defensive tackle to fortify future defenses. With the apparent loss of A'Shawn Robinson and failed attempt at Memphis stud Frank Herron, the coaching staff can point to Billings as the one guy who can make a solid but not exceptional 2013 class look even better. When he visited Austin on Dec. 7, it was reported that Billings had actually verbally committed to the Longhorns. It was also reported his father told him to take it back because he wanted his son to see TCU and Baylor before he decided. Sometimes, though, making this kind of choice is like taking a test with multiple choice questions - your first guess is usually the right one.


Well, Texas couldn't have had a worse week leading up to this decision. There was an indiscretion involving offensive coordinator Major Applewhite and then backup quarterback Connor Brewer was arrested for public intoxication. Plus, positive or negative momentum can sometimes appear from all directions. The Longhorns also lost to Ohio State in the sweepstakes for DeSoto running back Dontre' Wilson. Recruiting is also a lot like sales. The No. 1 killer for any transaction to fall apart is time. We're talking nearly two months since Billings took his official visit to Austin. Despite other inhome visits, has Billings decided that Austin really isn't the place for him? Would he trust a defense - that outside of a great second half performance in the Alamo Bowl against Oregon State - sat in the second division of several Big 12 defensive categories last fall? Texas tied for ninth in rushing defense (192.2 ypg).



If you want to play defense and learn to play it really well, then Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson is one of the best at it. And that doesn't matter if the Horned Frogs were doing this in the Mountain West, Conference USA or the Big 12. Really, this defense turned out to be the foundation for a turbulent debut season at the BCS level. TCU led the conference in total defense (323.9) and had the best rushing defense (105.4). The Horned Frogs are developing a reputation for putting really good linemen in the NFL including Aaron Schoebel and Jerry Hughes. Plus, freshman DE Devonte Fields dazzled in his first year winning All-Big 12 honors and making several freshmen All-American teams. Plus, TCU sometimes likes to lurk in the woods on big recruit. Just when you think the Horned Frogs are not it, they get their player. Arlington Martin RB Kyle Hicks, who was committed to Texas, is a good example.


It's really hard to say where TCU fits in this equation. Those who we trust really believe this decision is down to Baylor and Texas with TCU running a distant third. The Horned Frogs have the talent to compete for a Big 12 championship but the vibe over Billings and his attraction to the school just doesn't seem to linger like it does with Texas and Baylor. The Horned Frogs have had a pretty productive January to finish up the 2013 class. Billings would definitely make this class better. But when you get a feeling about somebody not being a strong candidate in this type of race, it usually proves accurate.


As mentioned above, this really appears to be a choice between Baylor and Texas. The Bears haven't secured a top flight hometown product since Ahmad Dixon, and Art Briles doesn't want that to continue. Recruiting is about building relationships. Both Briles and Texas coach Mack Brown have always had a history of doing that. But Brown is in period where his program is in a peculiar position. He believes his 2013 team can be a national title contender. That makes you go hmmm. Baylor's dominant finish to the 2012 season was no accident. Defense and running the ball led the way. And it's really not a mirage that the Bears shut down Kansas State and UCLA. The program has momentum and a new stadium that will be ready in 2014 to validate how serious it is to taking the next step and becoming a conference title contender. Billings chooses Baylor.

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