Evan Baylis is the most finished tight end you'll ever see in a high school highlight film. Here is the video, courtesy of Mike Wines at Oregon Duck Soup:
Baylis, 6-5, 225 from Grandview High School of Aurora, Colorado, is a perfect fit for the Oregon system in a variety of ways. He has a 3.8 high school grade average, making him a fit companion to other Duck academic standouts like David Paulson, LaMichael James (whose stated goal for his junior year is making Academic All-American) and 2011 recruits Anthony Wallace and Marcus Mariota, both outstanding students.
Chip Kelly has repeatedly said Oregon's approach to recruiting is comprehensive. They interview teachers and coaches. They look at the character and behavior of the player. They're not swayed by the star system.
Baylis is a gem, seriously undervalued by the recruiting websites. He does a number of things they missed:
He catches the ball with his hands.
This might seem obvious or overstated, but many young receivers allow the ball to get into their body, cradling it to their chest rather than snaring it out of the air with their fingers. With the proper technique, the ball is not bouncing off the pads; defenders can't disrupt the catch as easily. Watch Baylis closely and you'll him take the football at his highest point, in traffic or in the open field, consistently.
He adjusts well to the football with his body, particularly for a big receiver.
On several of his highlight film catches, the ball is thrown behind him, and he seamlessly pivots his body to complete the play, with good footwork. The first one occurs at about 28 seconds into the video, for a long gain. Adjusting to the football makes a quarterback look good, and builds confidence in the passing combination. Many lesser players flail at that kind of pass, and it's a frustrating near-miss instead of a finished play.
He cuts upfield and runs extremely well after the catch.
Not to pick on LT, but there was a play in the spring game where Oregon's most veteran receiver ran about 15 yards laterally after making a catch over the middle. Kelly, miked on the sideline, was animated by the play, pointing it out to the other receivers. "We've got to get upfield on that play; we just ran 15 yards sideways for no gain," he screamed. Baylis instinctively gets North and South, and he's tough to bring down, with good acceleration in the open field. He's one of those athletes who's faster with a football under his arm.
He's a devastating blocker, and clearly a team-first guy.
At 3:30 and 7:58 in the film, watch him immediately turn into a downfield blocker after a teammate catches a pass, springing a big gain. Playing in a multiple formation/spread offense system in high school, he's already doing most of the things he'll be asked to do in the Oregon system, bust blocks at the point of attack, seal blocks on the edge, lead blocks out of motion or the h-back position, downfield blocks at the second level. He shows good effort, finishing and sustaining his blocks, often making contact with two different defenders when a play extends into the secondary. This young man caught 33 passes with six touchdowns, but he's clearly committed to being an all-around football player. He's gotten an excellent foundation in the game at Grandview, and some top-notch instruction.
He may be a four-star recruit at the scouting websites, but he'll be a five-star Duck.
The big challenge for Baylis will be one currently facing Colt Lyerla. At the high school level both these players were dominant athletes, bigger, stronger and faster than anyone else on the field. In the PAC-12 and in practice every day at Moshofsky Center, he'll face far more players who are just as strong and sometimes a little faster. He'll have to adjust. By working with the training staff to improve his quickness and explosive strength, he can grow to be successful at the next level of football, where more will be expected on him on every play.
He could become the latest in a strong tradition of tight ends at Oregon, Blake Spence, Josh Wilcox, Justin Peele, George Wrightster, Dante Rosario, Ed Dickson, and David Paulson, all of whom made it to the NFL save Paulson, who's likely to have his named called on the first day next May.