I arrived at the practice facility what I thought was about 10 minutes early, but apparently I missed the first possession or two. From what I've heard, Coach Bennett felt like they were wasting time when the practice session ended and was fired up to get the scrimmage started (this should come as a surprise to absolutely no Baylor fan).
I'll start with a couple of our transfers. We would be well served to find a way to get Shawn Oakman eligible for this season. The guy can definitely wreak havoc off of the edge. I know there had been some concern about his conditioning or if he would even be ready to play after transferring from Penn State. From what I saw today, if cleared for this season, he’ll be a contributor early and often at a position where it is desperately needed. Michigan transfer Darryl Stonum definitely has the speed to make an impact. Unfortunately for him, his most memorable play of the day was getting blown up after a catch by Bryce Hager. I feel that due to our depth at WR, the majority of his opportunities may come returning kicks. We were desperately lacking a consistent kick returner last season, so having someone sure-handed with Stonum’s speed will be a nice change of pace.
It was a little difficult to get a good read on where everyone is, as the #1 offense was up against the #2 defense and vice versa. I think we are in good hands with QB Nick Florence. He clearly has a command of the offense and maintains the same pace from play to play that RG3 did last season. Nick runs the zone read very well and I expect to see a lot more of it this season. RB’s Jared Salubi and Glasco Martin both ran with the #1’s and looked good. Again, hard to get a great read on things at the scrimmage as all inside run plays were whistled dead once they got past the d-line. Seastrunk needs to work on his pass blocking and will probably be a wild card this year. Based on what I saw at the spring scrimmage and today, I’m not counting on a ton of production from him, but I don’t think we’re really going to need it either. As for other guys we haven’t seen a lot of, WR Jay Lee will be one to watch. He made some nice catches today and got yards after the catch. We were missing a guy with his size last year and might have made a difference in a game like we had against OSU when we moved up and down the field but couldn’t punch it in once we got in the red zone. On the other hand, QB Bryce Petty did not look good today. He had a couple of nice passes, but he threw several short and in the dirt. I think the idea he might challenge Nick this year is one to put out of your mind. Freshman QB Seth Russell was the surprise of the day. He made some nice throws and appeared to be very athletic. I haven’t seen the stats yet, but he had one nice run to the outside and looked very comfortable on the field. I would not be surprised if he were to move to the #2 spot this year and be the favorite to start in 2013.
Our linebacker play will be much improved this season. Bryce Hager looked great stuffing the run and chasing down guys to the outside. JUCO transfer Eddie Lackey looked good as well. We will clearly be much improved in the secondary from a pure depth standpoint. Sam Holl did have an interception off one of Petty’s bad passes. Darius Jones finally made the switch to defense in the offseason and looks like he could be a contributor at CB this year. He broke up one deep ball and looked very settled at the position. Chance Casey is back from his knee injury during the KU game last season, and looked good while on the field today. I’m really not sure who our starting CB’s will be for the SMU game, as Joe Williams, who I felt played really well last season given the circumstances, ran with the #2’s today and Demitri Goodson was with the #1’s. The good news is, we actually have options this season and Coach Bennett will have some flexibility with those guys. Javonte Magee showed flashes of what we expect the five-star recruit to be, and will probably get meaningful playing time this season. Like Oakman, Magee is fast off the edge, and with Tevin Elliott dismissed from the team, we need someone at DE to fill that hole.
Not much to report here. Aaron Jones looked good. He hit 3 of 4 kicks, each over 40 yards out, and we had a fake field goal attempt that went awry. There were no punts or kick returns. Obviously, our kick coverage was a huge liability last season, so we can only hope that a combination of another year of experience, added personnel, and the changes to the kickoff rules (kickoffs from the 35, touchbacks out to the 25) will improve things from last year.
Overall, I was impressed with what I saw today. I believe our offense is going to surprise those on the outside who have written us off due to the departures of Robert, Kendall, Terrance, etc. Our O-line is strong and we have a group of more than capable RB’s. Our WR corps is solid and there is no need to worry about those guys. Nick is going to get us up and down the field and we are going to put points on the board. As it was last year, the defense is still the question mark. Although we lost some key contributors, there is no argument that we have upgraded skill, athleticism, and depth at several positions. Coach Bennett is as good a defensive coordinator as you will find, and I expect that with his coaching and our upgraded personnel, we will see a significant improvement from the defense.