- Gerry Hamilton, ESPN Staff Writer
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When talking about the top young assistant coaches in college football, the name Kendal Briles continues to pop up. The son of Baylor coach Art Briles, Kendal has quickly earned the reputation as one of the top recruiters in the state of Texas and in the Big 12. Briles, who is the passing-game coordinator and offensive recruiting coordinator for the Bears, visited with RecruitingNation to talk about the difference in recruiting at Baylor now versus when his father's staff arrived, the emergence of BU as a regional power, and the future of recruiting.
When Art Briles got to Baylor, the Bears were 31-94 in the previous 11 seasons. Fast forward and Baylor has won 29 games in the last three seasons. How different is it walking into high schools to recruit versus when you guys arrived in Waco?
Kendal Briles: Just completely different. It’s really just the confidence of being a coach walking in a school and having 'BU' on your chest. It’s a totally different image now than when we got here. Texas high school coaches respect what we have done here, and Art Briles being successful here has a lot of people excited and they respect what we have done here. I see a lot of Baylor shirts walking through high school now, which is great.
While anyone paying attention would know Baylor was headed in the right direction in 2010, was it Robert Griffin III winning the Heisman Trophy that really put the building of the program back on the map?
KB: I think it was not only that, but the way he did it with the flair. He wasn’t just a pocket guy who was real productive. There was a lot of flair with him, the offense we ran and the way he did it just being so dynamic and doing things with the football no one else can do ... that personality and style of our offense made it real intriguing for guys to see. Him winning the Heisman was a huge deal, beating Oklahoma at home and beating Texas later that year ... all those things added together, you can’t say enough what those things did for our program.
Colleges often time have a former player that resonates and influences youths around the country. Do you see that with Robert Griffin III in Texas?
KB: One hundred percent. That is the name I hear more than any other. I get kids telling me tell RGIII 'What’s up?' I get things like that all the time.
When Art Briles took the Baylor job, you guys had goals that needed check marks. What did winning the Big 12 and going to a BCS Bowl do for the program from a recruiting perspective?
KB: It’s helped tremendously, and with the new stadium we are building right now. To be able to do something that is a reality, and not just that we are going to build a stadium is big. You can see [the stadium] right here on I-35, people are seeing pictures of it and all those things are big. Where we are at this year is the last three years we have had three different starting quarterbacks and to be able to keep growing as a program has been big. It was 'after RGIII is gone, Baylor will go back to the doormat,' then Nick Florence comes in and leads America in offense, then he is gone and then Bryce Petty comes in and what he did last year, so it shows you that we have a real football team.
You mentioned the new stadium set to open this season. Today’s college football recruiting world continues to be an arms race and doesn’t have the appearance of slowing down. Do the fans and media overplay the importance of facilities?
KB: No, it’s a huge deal. It’s imperative if you are going to recruit on the highest level to have as good or better facilities as others. You have to be on a competitive playing field. Everybody was using our stadium against us saying, 'Baylor doesn’t even have a stadium on campus' and stuff, and now we are on campus. You have to be very proactive with facilities nowadays without a doubt.
There is growing chatter about the need for an early signing period. Is that a subject that has been talked about in the Baylor football offices?
KB: To be honest with you, we haven’t discussed it all as a staff. I see the good and bad of it. The thing about it is when someone comes up with a new rule, everybody is on the same playing surface. Everyone has their strategies, you figure out what is going to be best for the Baylor Bears, then you go attack it and recruit. You can find negatives and positives with everything. For us, it really doesn’t matter. However they lay it out, we will go out and play.
On that same topic, official visits for prospects in the spring of junior year is being tossed about with the costs of unofficial visits and the process becoming earlier and earlier. What are your thoughts on that possibility down the line?
KB: For us, I wouldn’t want that. We are in central Texas, we recruit Texas, so all these kids we are recruiting are three hours away and can always get to us. If they start flying all over the country, it kind of gives those schools an unrealistic advantage because kids can think 'This is great, I can just fly out here,' but that is not really reality because it costs money once you are at a far away school. I just think that I wouldn’t want that, but I can see how schools that recruit Texas would really like that.
Baylor has the making of another impressive class with five ESPN 300 prospects already in the fold. What are the main needs remaining in the class?
KB: We want another secondary guy. If we could find a great quarterback, then we would take one ... another linebacker, and we are going to sign a punter this year. Those are really the only needs we have left. We only have about four scholarships left in this class.
You are one of the lucky ones that played big time high school football in Texas, was a highly recruited prospect and now coaches big-time football in the state. What is it that continues to impress you the most about Texas high school football?
KB: It’s just incredible. The thing that impresses me the most is the football coaches. You are talking about great high school football coaches in Texas. Guys that are cutting edge and do great things on both sides of the ball. The talent to me is incredible to me how good some of these young kids are. We had a freshman at our camp [on Sunday] that you would think would be a 24-year old man. It’s just incredible. The people that live outside the state that haven’t been to Texas high school football, seen the one-horse town that everyone gets behind the team, it’s an incredible experience. I feel very blessed to have grown up here and to be a part of it.