By Todd Wills
Corsicana Daily Sun
Baylor’s search to reload at defensive tackle led them Friday to an old reliable stop — Navarro College in Corsicana.
That’s where two years ago they signed senior Nick Johnson, who has been a nice cog in Baylor’s defense for 13 starts and 23 games in two seasons with the Bears.
That led Baylor coaches back to Navarro and 6-4, 305-pound defensive tackle Terrell Brooks, who gave the Bears an early Christmas present with a verbal commitment, the 22nd in the 2013 class.
The Bears have been looking hard at Brooks, who said he was first contacted by Baylor coaches a few weeks ago. He decided to go ahead and make a pledge to the Bears, even though he hasn’t taken an official visit to Waco yet.
“I felt it was the right spot for me at this point in time,” Brooks said Friday. “It’s a verbal. I won’t be signed until (the Feb. 6) signing day.”
Brooks, who originally signed out of Duncanville High School with North Texas in 2011, has made official visits to North Texas and Grambling State. He will visit Baylor and likely Miami, Fla. next month.
Baylor has been looking to stock up on the defensive front. The Bears’ two starters at defensive tackle are departing — Gary Mason and Johnson. With two redshirt freshmen behind them, Beau Blackshear andTrevor Clemons-Valdez, defensive coordinator Phil Bennett needed to restock at tackle.
Brooks said Baylor coaches have told him they expect him to compete for playing time right away.
“The expectations are for me to play,” Brooks said. “To come in and dominate my position. I have a whole new mentality that I can’t be beat and won’t be beat. It’s the kind of athlete I’ve grown into because of my teammates and coaches (at Navarro).”
Brooks gets high marks from his Navarro coaches who said he played to the exact level they expected from him when they recruited him.
“He seemed pretty good when he came here,” Navarro coach Brian Mayper said. “I haven’t had an issue with him Day 1. The only issue with him is when he got a concussion (in the opener against Hutchinson, Kan. Junior College).”
Brooks dominated so much this season that rival coaches in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference tried to get him declared ineligible because he played in one game at North Texas. It was an ongoing two-month episode.
“They didn’t want to play against him,” Mayper said.
That’s because Brooks was a force in the middle of what as usual was a dominating Navarro defense (the Bulldogs went 10-2 and finished ranked No. 4 in the final NJCAA national poll).
“He can move,” Mayper said. “He has the size. Good instincts. He’s aggressive. He’s a heckuva player. He’s a good kid. He has no character issues.”
Mayper said Brooks still has to get through his spring classes with several hours to finish. “He has all As and Bs, maybe one C,” Mayper said. “He has it all lined out in the spring. He has a good GPA.”
Brooks credits his defensive line coach, Andrae Rowe, for his development. Rowe played at Fort Scott Community College and Kansas State — no school has take advantage of the JUCO ranks like Bill Snyder and the Wildcats — so Brooks should be prepared to go from Navarro to Baylor.
“I owe so much to Coach Rowe,” Brooks said. “His persistence. His philosophy on being perfect. He coached me that, ‘If you have the perfect feet and hands and hand placement and get off the ball with the correct form, no one can beat you. I give him all the credit.”
Brooks also said the competition he faced at Navarro was better than what he saw at North Texas.
“The level of competition is nothing but players that didn’t have grades or SAT scores,” Brooks said. “Coming from North Texas that is uprising Division I program to junior college playing against people committed to Arkansas and South Florida, the level of competition is so much greater.”
“I developed a while new sense of awareness and passion for the game,” Brooks said. “The levels of talent got higher and it made me step my level of play up.”