November 30, 2012

Baylor Blitz: Big Weekend

Making a late impression
It just didn't seem like Baylor linebackers coach Jim Gush was going to take no for an answer from Northeast Mississippi C.C. defensive tackle Lavon Hooks.

Recently, Gush reached out to the coveted four-star prospect. Hooks has offers from 19 Division I programs, but he made Baylor one of his official visits. He is scheduled to be in Waco this weekend when Baylor plays Oklahoma State.

"I was kinda shocked about Baylor because I hadn't heard from them until four weeks ago,'' Gush said. "But coach Gush said he needed a defensive lineman, and I needed a home. And he just kept telling me that I should come take a look.''

Hooks is on course to graduate in December and has two years remaining. He's already visited Arizona State and Nebraska and is expected to visit Miami (Fla.) next weekend. Junior college players can start signing their national letters of intent on Dec. 19.

His 6-4, 295-pound makeup made him versatile for the defense. Northeast based out of the 4-3 but routinely switched to the 3-4. Hooks said he played a stand-up defensive end but also played tackle and nose guard.

That's what makes him so attractive. He led the defense with 12 tackles for loss and 5 sacks.

"Baylor said they liked me at the tackle,'' Hooks said. "I'm very athletic and pretty aggressive. I really work hard with my pass rush.
"For me, the decision is going to come down to what staff I feel the most comfortable with and who I can help the most.''

Hall likes Baylor's pace
With Davion Hall comes the possibilities.
At 6-3, 193 pounds, the Texarakana Liberty Eylau 2014 four-star recruit presents a big and physical wide receiver. But he can also be used on the defensive side of the ball.

Baylor likes him as an athlete but there's no doubt that if Hall were to ever choose the Bears, he'd probably be the next version of Terrance Williams. Hall took in a recent Baylor practice.

"I really liked what I saw,'' Hall said. "The uptempo pace is something that was cool to see in person. I looked at the wide receivers. I looked at everybody.''

Baylor assistant Kendall Briles was one of the first to offer Hall. But more competition is coming. Within the last two weeks, Arkansas, Texas Tech and SMU have offered. Hall thinks Alabama is close to doing the same.

The 2012 season wasn't the ideal campaign for Hall. He said he started slow and had a so-so non-district season. Then, he was limited in the final two weeks because of a right shoulder injury. Hall said he's fine now.

His athletic season has transitioned into basketball so he won't be able to attend the Bears finale Saturday against Oklahoma State.

However, there's a chance he'll be back in Waco. He's been invited to the first junior day. While he doesn't know a date, Baylor has traditionally held its first the Sunday before national signing day. Speculatively speaking, that would be Feb. 3, 2013.

Weekend visitors
Here are the recruits who have told they plan to attend Saturday's game against Oklahoma State. As always, this can fluctuate.

Alfred Pullom, DB, Cy Woods (committed)
Caleb Benenoch, OL, Katy Seven Lakes
Dimarya Mixon, DE, West Mesquite
Lavon Hooks, DT, Northeast Mississippi C.C.
Tyler Edwards, OL, Blinn C.C. (committed)
Chris Johnson, QB, Bryan, (committed)
VeQuan Jones, WR, Wylie East (committed)
Wesley Harris, Ath, FW Southwest (committed)
Taion Sells, DB, Irving MacArthur (committed)
Xavier Phillips,LB, Fort Worth All Saints (committed)

Baylor's rushing surge
You can point to Baylor's run of winning of its last four games to become bowl eligible to the defense improving. However, an equal amount of credit also goes toward a surge with its running attack.

Following a dismal effort at Iowa State in late October in which the Bears rushed for 115 yards, coach Art Briles and his staff made changes. Starter Jared Salubi was out and transfer running back Lache Seastrunk became the lead ball carrier. His speed and adjustments to the offense have worked very well with Glasco Martin, who is entrenched as the tough yardage back.

In the last four games, Baylor has rushed 1,171 yards (292.8 ypg) and gone from fifth in the Big 12 at 173.7 to leading the conference at 217.0.

"Really, it starts up front with our offensive line because we had four of five guys who were new,'' Briles said. "It takes a little time to gel. But they've progressed. We've used their abilities and emphasized to both of them to be tough inside runners and then when they get past the line of scrimmage to extend the play. They've been very productive.''

Martin leads the team with 739 yards (5.2 ypc) and 11 TDs. Seastrunk is at 696 (7.0 ypc) and five TDs.

Big 12 Weekend
A look at the upcoming weekend action involving the Big 12 along with their TV listings. All times are Central. All rankings are BCS.
No. 11 Oklahoma (9-2, 7-1) at TCU (7-4, 4-4)
11:00 a.m. Saturday, Amon Carter Stadium, Fort Worth (ESPN)
What to Watch:
This should be a great battle between the Sooners' terrific receiver corps and TCU's ball hawking secondary. Kenny Stills and Justin Brown average nearly 13 receptions and 200 yards per game. TCU leads the conference with 20 interceptions led by Jason Verrett's six. He will get Stills. Kevin White is expected to be matched up against Brown. The Horned Frogs are looking for their first Big 12 home win. They've lost to Iowa State, Texas Tech and Kansas State at home.

No. 23 Oklahoma State (7-4, 5-3) at Baylor (6-5, 3-5)
11:00 a.m. Saturday, Floyd Casey Stadium, Waco (FX)
What to Watch:
Baylor would like to end a six-game losing streak to the Cowboys. Quarterback Nick Florence continues to lead the nation in total offense at 389.5 yards per game. He's thrown 30 touchdowns. Wide receiver Terrance Williams is a finalist for the Fred Biletnikoff Award. Oklahoma State has started three different quarterbacks and is sticking with senior Clint Chelf. However, redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh, who was supposed to be out for the year with an injury, is being used for short-yardage running plays in recent games.

Kansas (1-10, 0-8) at West Virginia (6-5, 3-5)
1:30 p.m. Saturday, Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, W VA (FSN)
What to Watch:
The Jayhawks would love to pull an upset and finish the season with their first conference win. If they get great production from backs James Sims and Tony Pierson, they'll have a chance. Kansas is second in the conference at 216.6 yards per game. Too bad KU is the worst passing team in the conference because West Virginia is still the worst pass defense in the conference. Mountaineer quarterback Geno Smith wants to lead his team to clinching a winning record. He's the highest rated passer in the conference.

No. 18 Texas (8-3, 5-3) at No. 6 Kansas State (10-1, 7-1)
7:00 p.m. Saturday, Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, KS. (ABC)
What to Watch:
Although the Wildcats are out of the national title chase, they still can go to the BCS as the Big 12 representative in the Fiesta Bowl with a win. Quarterback Collin Klein has had two weeks to try and put the disaster at Baylor (three interceptions) behind him. He gets the last say to make his case for the Heisman Trophy. Texas starts Case McCoy at quarterback which means that the passing game will struggle like it did last week against TCU. The Longhorns have lost four straight to KSU.

Iowa State and Texas Tech have completed their regular seasons.

Big 12 Power Rankings
Each week, unveils its weekly power rankings. Agree or disagree, these make for great water cooler talk.
1. Kansas State - While no longer pursuing a national championship, they control the Big 12 race
2. Oklahoma - The last two wins have come in the final seconds or in overtime
3. Oklahoma State - Mike Gundy's has arguably done his best job this year
4. TCU - 4-1 in Big 12 road games and 0-3 in Big 12 home games
5. Texas- Where is running back Malcolm Brown?
6. Texas Tech - The Raiders lost four of their last five
7. Baylor - Reaching bowl eligibility was huge for this program
8. West Virginia - The five-game slide is over and now a chance to clinch a winning record
9. Iowa State - LB A.J. Klein has 16 career double digit tackle performances
10. Kansas - Soph LB Ben Heeney is third in the Big 12 in tackles with 104

Bowl Projections
In August, we unveiled our inaugural Big 12 bowl projections. Nine members of the conference - Baylor, Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia - are already bowl eligible.
West Virginia and Baylor just joined the ranks. Kansas is not bowl eligible.
Of course, this is subject to change:
BCS Fiesta Bowl - Kansas State. Another loss could kill BCS at large chances.
BCS Sugar - Oklahoma. Sooners still control their fate. Just be careful of Kent State.
Cotton - Texas. I still like the Longhorns in this spot.
Alamo - Oklahoma State. This could flip to the Cotton if they win and Texas loses.
Holiday - Texas Tech. This just seems like the Red Raiders' destination.
Buffalo Wild Wings (formerly Insight) - Iowa State. At 6-6, it's either here or Heart of Texas.
New Era Pinstripe - West Virginia. This one still makes sense for the Mountaineers given their slide and the ease to get to New York City.
Meineke Car Care - TCU. The Horned Frogs could wind up in the Alamo as well
Heart of Texas Bowl - Baylor. If TCU jumps to the Alamo, I think the Bears go to the Meineke Car Care

Emptying the Notebook
*Not sure who will be in the better mood on Saturday when the Baylor men's basketball team (4-2) visits No. 8 Kentucky (4-2) at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Rupp Arena. This is a rematch of last year's Elite 8 contest in which the Wildcats won, 82-70.
But both teams have experienced serious roster turnover. And Kentucky is coming off a 64-50 humbling loss Thursday at Notre Dame in the Big East/SEC challenge. The Wildcats fell behind early and never led. They shot 40 percent from the field.
Baylor has had a week go by since its shocking, 63-59 loss to the College of Charleston at the Farrell Center.
With the football game on FX and the basketball game on CBS, the DVR is a beautiful thing.

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