Baylor’s Matt Rhule lures top 25 class based on hard work and optimism

Baylor coach Matt Rhule called it a “mad dash.”

How else would you describe spending time in 25 different homes not his own the past two weeks for official recruiting business?

One of Rhule’s assistants was so busy, he’d check into a hotel at 1 a.m. after visiting a prospect, then check out two hours later for another flight to arrive at another recruiting hotbed.

By Wednesday, the first day of the new early signing period, Rhule and his staff could relax. Baylor announced a class of 20 signees with the possibility of adding one more player by Friday.

The Bears’ class ranks 22nd in the country, per 247Sports’ composite ratings. It’s the fourth best in the Big 12, behind Texas (third nationally), Oklahoma (ninth) and TCU (20th). None of the players who signed Wednesday were junior college transfers, meaning Rhule isn’t trying to go with a quick fix.

Now imagine what Rhule can do if he had more than one win to sell to recruits on why they should spend at least the next four years in Waco.

“In the end, these guys are doing something special,” Rhule said. “They’re going to be part of this remarkable turnaround.”

Rhule can preach his inspiring vision of the future wins he sees unfolding at McLane Stadium and at venues across the Big 12. But his Bears only owned one scoreboard this fall.

Despite going 1-11, Rhule didn’t lose a commitment. Pledges stayed with him after a season-opening loss to Liberty, an FCS team. Rhule described that moment as the team’s “lowest of the low.” Yet the Bears even added to the class after their season officially ended in Fort Worth on Black Friday with a loss to the rival Horned Frogs.

The marquee name is four-star dual-threat quarterback Gerry Bohanon, who committed to Baylor on Tuesday. Bohanon is considered the top prospect in the state of Arkansas. And new Razorbacks coach Chad Morris made swaying Bohanon a priority.

“In the end, when he signed, it sort of solidified the class,” Rhule said. “I think he was just sort of a final force. It’s just kind of who Gerry is. It’s his personality. When you go to Earle, Arkansas and you walk through the school, you can tell he is a person who lives his life trying to be there for other people, so the whole community is behind him. I think he’ll have that same effect on this recruiting class and hopefully on this team.”

Bohanon, who in his career threw for 11,362 yards, rushed for nearly 6,000 and was a part of 212 touchdowns, will enroll next month. Sophomore-to-be Charlie Brewer, the co-Big 12 freshman of the year, is the other scholarship quarterback on campus; former starter Zach Smith recently announced his transfer.

Last Saturday, Baylor picked up a commitment from 4-star receiver Tyquan Thornton of Miami. Thornton, who also will run track, had shown early interest in Baylor but originally committed to Florida. He also had offers from Georgia, Miami, Florida and Tennessee.

Nebraska made a big push for Cedar Hill receiver Josh Fleeks, a borderline four-star prospect who made an official visit to Lincoln last weekend to talk to new coach Scott Frost. But Fleeks stuck with the Bears. Coincidentally, Joey McGuire, a Baylor assistant, is Fleeks’ old head coach.

B.J. Hanspard, the son of former Texas Tech All-American Byron Hanspard, also committed to Baylor after the season. Hanspard had been an Arkansas pledge. Although his dad won the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top tailback, the younger Hanspard will be a cornerback with the Bears.

The class is top-heavy with five offensive linemen. There were four defensive backs, three wide receivers and three tight ends, including Christoph Henle, who played in Arlington, but sent his national letter from Austria, where he grew up.

Running back Craig Williams is expected to sign by the end of the week.

Rhule may sign a handful of players in February, but he’s mostly done selling his overflowing optimism for this year’s recruiting cycle. So there’s no more need for a mad dash.

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