Patrick Lawrence. Jalen Reagor. Kenedy Snell. Terence Williams. In the past, they were either teammates or alumni at Waxahachie High School or a rival at nearby Ennis High School.
Another, Zach Smith, is so close he can almost be considered a part of the Ellis County foursome.
When the 2017 college football season begins on Sept. 2 — or 10 Saturday's from now to hardcore college football fans — against Jackson State and Liberty Universities, though, they will all strap on shoulder pads and play different roles.
The blocking of former Indian Lawrence and hard-running style of former Ennis Lion Williams will protect Smith, a sophomore quarterback, assuming he can wrestle control of the starting spot from senior transfer Anu Solomon. Smith is a former top-300 recruit from Grandview High School — a direct rival of Ellis County's Maypearl High School.
Smith was slated to play backup behind former Bears Seth Russell and Jarrett Stidham, but injury plagued the former in 2016 and the latter transferred to Auburn University in December of the same year following the dismissal of Art Briles. The former eight-year Baylor head football coach was fired after reports of the mishandling of sexual assault allegations involving several football players bubbled to the surface.
In response to the loss of Russell in week nine, Baylor turned to a true freshman who hadn't started before, a lineman with little more than a year of collegiate experience and an up-and-coming rusher with upside, but trapped behind Shock Linwood on the depth chart. Smith ended his first starting season with 1,526 yards with 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
During his first season in green and gold, Lawrence played all 13 games as a redshirt freshman as reserve offensive lineman on an offensive line that paved the way for the nation's No. 2-ranked rushing offense (326.7 ypg) and led Big 12 with 1.15 average sacks allowed.
A year later, he ascended to a starting role, where he helped Williams and not Linwood, an NFL Draft prospect, rush for 1,048 yards on 185 rushes (5.7 YPC) and 11 touchdowns — including a season-high 180 yards on the ground during a late October, 35-34 loss to the University of Texas.
The 6-foot-2 and 225-pound running back may be poised to repeat or exceed those numbers and possibly vie for a Heisman Trophy without Linwood's shadow looming in front of him. If he were to hoist the statue above his head in victory, it would be only the second award won in Baylor's history.
Former Copperas Cove quarterback Robert Griffin III was the first.
Matt Rhule, who will step into his first season as Briles' replacement, managed to piece together 247 Sports' 40th best composite recruiting class. He landed DeSoto High School offensive guard Xavier Newman and Justin Northwest and Cy-Ranch High School wide receivers Gavin Holmes and RJ Sneed.
All three are three-star athletes and the highest in Baylor's 2017 recruiting class. He also made strides in luring Cedar Hill High School four-star wide receiver Joshua Fleeks, Silsbee High School three-star receiver Kalon Barnes and Cuero High School three-star tight end Bralen Taylor of the 2018 recruiting class to Waco's confines.
Still, the onus of success could be placed on Lawrence, Smith and Williams, the wily veterans of the post-Briles Bears.
TCU'S RECRUITING POWER
Perhaps more than any other aspect, Texas Christian University nearly won the recruiting war in the Big 12 after falling behind No. 26 Texas by only two spots. The acquisition of Waxahachie's Jalen Reagor and Kenedy Snell, a pair of state track and field sprint relay champions, helped further that cause.
Joining the two former Indians with DeSoto four-star quarterback Shawn Robinson, Aledo High School four-star offensive guard and Lancaster High School four-star wide receiver Omar Manning could have created the offensive juggernaut needed to rumble through both Baylor and a Bob Stoops-less University of Oklahoma.
It helped just in time after the loss of 47 seniors from its roster — including starting defensive end Josh Caraway and one-year Horned Frog QB Kenny Hill.
TCU will pair their new faces with leading receiver Taj Williams (39 rec, 702 yds, 5 TDs) and leading rusher Kyle Hicks (203 carries, 1042 yds, 12 TDs), but what's looming in the future and at the end of the depth chart is hungry, talented and dangerous.
While Robinson led the UIL 6A quarterback class with 196 of 337 passing (58 percent) for 3,416 yards and 28 touchdowns and nine interceptions, Manning, Reagor and Snell skied near the top of the 5A ranks.
Reagor (52 rec, 1,008 yds, 14 TDs) was No. 7 on the season leaderboard and Manning (45 rec, 742 yds, 8 TDs) wasn't much further behind as he nearly eclipsed 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season. Snell, a running back, receiver and kick returner, combined for 1,049 all-purpose yards and 16 total touchdowns.
By the time TCU and Baylor meet — on a team led by a grizzled veteran coach in Gary Patterson and the other with Big 12 newbie Rhule on its sideline — on Nov. 24 at Amon G. Carter Stadium, both teams could be in the running for one of or the last CFB playoff spots.
They also could play again a week later during the Dec. 12 Big 12 Championship game.
To make that dream scenario a reality for Dallas and Waco fans, though, both the Horned Frogs and the Bears would have to avoid the pitfalls of falling to Shane Buechele and the Longhorns of Texas, the always tough Oklahoma Sooners, a defensive buzzsaw in West Virginia and a better-than-advertised Oklahoma State Cowboy team.