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Written by on August 21, 2013

Baylor Bears 2013 College Football Preview: Rick's Big 12 College Football Analysis
Photo by: USA TODAY Sports

Baylor and Art Briles Look To Become More Than Just A Dark Horse in 2013

Baylor Bears

Head Coach: Art Briles (33-30, 6th Year)

2012 Record: 8-5 (4-5)

Last Bowl Appearance: 2012 Bridgeport Education Bowl W 49-26 UCLA

2013 Schedule:

8/31 Wofford
9/7 Buffalo
9/14 IDLE
9/21 ULM
9/28 IDLE
10/5 West Virginia
10/12 @ Kansas State
10/19 Iowa State
10/26 @ Kansas
11/2 IDLE
11/9 Oklahoma
11/16 Texas Tech
11/23 @ Oklahoma State
11/30 @ TCU
12/7 Texas

2012 Review: One year removed from all the Robert Griffin III hoopla wasn’t so bad for Baylor. One of 2011’s top three offenses was left in the capable hands of Nick Florence, if you saw Florence play at all in backing up Griffin III it wasn’t exactly like watching his understudy, and the expected offensive dip never happened. The Bears also had to replace over 3,000 yards and 35 touchdowns of offense in WR Kendall Wright and RB Terrance Ganaway, but still averaged 572 yards and 44.6 points per contest, down marginally from 587 yards and 45 points per. The wherewithal never showed up for the Bears, however, and close, winnable games at West Virginia, Texas and Oklahoma went down as losses. The win against #1 Kansas State, maybe the program's biggest, highlighted a sub-par conference campaign.

Player Ready To Shine: Jr. RB Lache Seastrunk (5-10, 210). Last season’s leading rusher with 1,012 yards and 7 touchdowns averaged a whopping 7.7 yards per carry. Without a Griffin III or a Florence to gobble up the touches, Seastrunk should get his due and put on a show for NFL scouts.

Offense: Coming out of spring workouts, Jr. QB Bryce Petty (6-3, 230) looks to be the next leader of this offense. He’s more of a prototype than Florence and has gun-slinging potential, but he’s largely an unknown, with just 7-of-10 completions for 97 yards and one touchdown in minimal work over two seasons. Redshirt Freshman Seth Russell (6-3, 200) is a more athletic option with good running skills, while true Freshman Chris Johnson (6-4, 195) is the best athlete of the bunch, with great speed and a ton of upside. While the passing game looks green, the running back position should be this team’s base. Seastrunk, a proven workhorse, in concert with Sr. RB Glasco Martin (6-1, 220), could become one of the nation’s best running back tandems. Glasco carried for 889 yards and 15 touchdowns last season and brings home-run speed to the backfield. Redshirt Freshman Shock Linwood (5-8, 220) will lineup at a position called Ultraback, where the Bears will use him as either a fullback or just another running back in a two back set. True freshman Johnny Jefferson (5-10, 195) has blazing 4.3 speed and will be the utility guy, lining up at RB and/or slot receiver. The receiving corps has to replace its top receiver in Terrance Williams, but returns number two receiver Tevin Reese, who caught 53 balls for 957 yards and 9 touchdowns last season. He’s not a big target at 5-10 and 170, but he’s a former track athlete with big-time speed. Also returning at WR is Jr. Levi Norwood (6-1, 185), who finished 4th on the team last season with 40 reception s for 487 yards and 1 touchdown. Soph. Jay Lee (6-3, 210) and Jr. Antawn Goodley (5-10, 220) round out the depth chart at WR. Jordan Najvar (6-6, 260) returns at TE after a minimal role in the passing game last season, catching 8 balls for 80 yards and two touchdowns. The O-Line loses three starters from a year ago, but returns NFL prospect Sr. LG Cyril Richardson (6-5, 335), a whale of a run blocker who also excels in pass protection. Already on the NFL radar, Richardson is also a strong All-America candidate. At RT, Sr.Kevin Palmer (6-4, 290) steps in for Troy Baker, who suffered a season-ending ACL tear this spring. Soph. Spencer Drango (6-6, 315) returns at LT after becoming a starter last season as a true freshman. Sr. Stefan Huber (6-4, 290) heads the depth chart at Center, while Soph. Desmine Hilliard (6-4, 330) will get the start at RG.

Defense: The Bears D just didn’t show up last season, particularly in rushing the passer, finishing ninth in the Big 12 out of ten teams with eight sacks in nine conference games. The lone returning bright spot on the D-Line is Sr. DE Chris McCallister (6-3, 255), who recorded 45 tackles, 7.5 for loss, and led the team with six sacks. A former LB, McCallister will need to utilize his speed off the ball to get in the backfield and disrupt the QB even more this year. At the other DE, Sr. Terrance Lloyd (6-3, 245), 50 tackles, 8.5 for loss, 4 sacks last season, will get the start. Soph. NT Beau Blackshear (6-4, 300) will be the plug in the middle. He’ll rotate with Soph. Sulieman Masumbuko (6-2, 290). Soph. Javonte McGee (6-5, 275), who saw some time as true freshman last season, leads the depth chart at DT. The Linebacking corps returns star performer Jr. MLB Bryce Hager (6-2, 235), who led the team last season with 124 tackles, 9.5 for loss, and 4 sacks. Hager has the speed and athleticism to once again be the statistical leader of this defense no matter where he lines up. Sr. WLB Eddie Lackey (6-0, 225) received All-Big 12 honors in 2012 with 104 tackles and two sacks. The 2012 version of the Baylor secondary was swiss-cheesy to say the least, giving up 656 yards and 8 touchdowns to Geno Smith and West Virginia alone. There is some returning talent, though, in Senior Safety Ahmad Dixon (6-0, 205), who finished with 102 tackles and 2 interceptions last season. He’s a big hitter with speed to burn and one of this Baylor’s top pro prospects. Also returning to this unit is another next-level talent in Senior Nickel Back Sam Holl (6-2, 210), 95 tackles and three interceptions last season. Also at Safety will be Soph. Terrell Burt (5-10, 185), a strong prospect with sprinter speed who saw some time last season as a true freshman. Rounding out the depth chart at the corners are Sr. K.J. Morton (5-10, 190), 32 tackles and one interception last season, and Sr. Joe Williams (5-11, 190), 52 tackles and three interceptions in 2012.

Special Teams: Senior Kicker Aaron Jones returns after a mediocre 2012 season in which he connected on 16-of-27, a 58 yarder against Oklahoma the high point. Jones obviously has plenty of leg, but has struggled with consistency, hitting 7-of-17 in the 30-49 yard range. Jumior Punter Spencer Roth also returns after averaging 43.8 yards per punt last season. Levi Norwood, 10.4 yards per return, will be back on punts and Sr. Darius Jones (5-11, 190) will return kickoffs after averaging 23.1 yards per return last season.


Final Thoughts: Defense is mostly optional in the Big 12, a notion underscored by dizzying offensive displays that routinely produce scores more befitting a college basketball game. And head coach Art Briles has brought the right party favors, a high octane offensive system that fits this conference perfectly. Now if he could only figure things out defensively, the Bears might actually become a Big 12 contender, rather than a dark horse. Baylor did use the Kansas State victory as a defensive launching pad, ripping off three straight and finally coupling explosive offense with stifling defense, but the damage had already been done. Briles seems to have designed a system that can produce, though, no matter the personnel, so reloading shouldn’t be an issue. He was able to do it at Houston and he’s doing it now with Baylor, but to take that next step and actually validate how good they are offensively, he’ll actually have to field a defense that can make some stops and not just pray for overtime.

 

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