Throughout the season, I hope to be able to combine with as many of the other writers here that are willing to do it to provide our personal unit grades following Baylor's games. This time around, I was able to enlist the hermit known as thermhere, who lives in a cave located somewhere in downtown Dallas and communicates with the outside world only through sporadic tweeting. His assistance is extremely difficult to come by, but his football chops are unquestioned.
I hoped to get Prashanth to help me but he's probably being a spare somewhere with his family. Like Baylor Football isn't more important. ODB IS YOUR FAMILY NOW!
As the noted poet Weezy F said "Excuse me if I'm late, but like a thief it takes/time to be this great, so uhh, just wait" Hit the jump to see why ODB saves the best (false bravado) for last.
Anyway, here are the grades following Baylor's impressive opening romp over the invading ponies from the north.
This is a bit tough to grade because I’m not sure what the baseline should be. Nobody expected Robert Griffin III. Nobody expected Case McCoy. But it certainly seemed that there were super optimistic Baylor fans expecting something close to Robert and that most of the outsiders commenting on this game expected something closer to Case. Personally, I was hoping for something like 80-90% of Robert. Early on, I was afraid we were barely going to get 70%. But Florence settled in and when Briles took the governor off the deep game after a lucky bounce lead to a interception, we saw flashes of the incredible Baylor offense from last year. It wasn’t as efficient as the demolition of the Washington Husky defense nine months ago, but even an RG3-lead offense needed months of play to get to that level.
MCM: A across the board. Terrance Williams led the way with 7 catches for 138 yards, Lanear Sampson got on the scoreboard twice with touchdown catches, and Tevin Reese showed his elite speed in adding one of his own. 8 different receivers caught passes, including Michigan transfer Darryl Stonum. The unit as a whole looked to be playing on a completely different level from SMU's defenders, who could do nothing to stop them. They're going to make the "dropoff" from RGIII to Florence easy to manage through pure skill. Easily one of the best, if not the best, units in the country. I was particularly impressed with the long catch by Levi Norwood where he just would not be tackled. He wanted to score and would not be denied. I love that.
6 Baylor receivers caught 22 passes averaging over 17 yards per catch. This is absurd. A Baylor WR in the Art Briles system is going to have ‘inflated’ numbers compared to receivers from other offensive schemes. You know what else it means, though? That Baylor WR get more practice running routes and catching intermediate to deep balls than many of these other systems. This group of receivers, when they came to Baylor, were thought of by many outsiders as track guys rather than wide receivers. The amount of polish they displayed against an outmatched SMU secondary is remarkable. I doubt they will look this good against the better secondaries in the Big12, but even a step back or two should still result in lots of points.
Pras: B+ for Salubi, B for Martin, P.C.S. for Lache Seastrunk.
There were some pretty nervy moments for the Salubi as primary RB train early on. Salubi’s first drive was even worse than Florence’s. But he turned his play around even more quickly and, while I still don’t think he has upside that’s in the same ballpark as Lache Seastrunk, his performance over the rest of the game, I think that he can be the leader in our burgeoning tradition of an excellent rushing attack. I’m still not sure if he can be the sort of workhorse-like back that Gannaway was, but I also don’t think we need him to be. Martin looks like a more than capable backup and then…LACHE LACHE LACHE. That PCS grade? Potential Controlled Substance. I am the Black Eyed Peas because I just can’t get enough.
Pras B? Inc?
Ended up having less of an impact in the passing game than I expected going into this game, but that says more about Florence’s ability than it does their ability to perform. I strongly suspect that there will be games in which they are featured more prominently later in the year, especially against a certain fearsome bovine pass rush.
Therm: B. I'd rather give individual grades for the lineman, but that would take too long. Jake Jackson in particular struggled a bit, but I don't think that is a surprise to anyone taking the time to read this. Cyril is an absolute mauler at guard, and it's a much better position for his skill set. We didn't have any huge mental mistakes in terms of pass pro, which is a credit to Wade picking up the line calls so quickly. Spencer Drango really stood out to me, though. He did a really nice job on (SMU's STUD DE WHATEVER HIS NAME IS). He still lacks some functional strength, and doesn't get a huge push in the run game. That's going to come in time. I'm willing to take those lumps, because his footwork in the passing game is really good - he sets a wide base and uses his punch to keep the DE in front of him or moving wide away from the QB. Drango was a big recruiting get for us, and he'll be a 4 year starter at LT.
MCM: B+. I agree with Therm that grading each player would be a better practice but prohibitively time-consuming. I disagree on the final grade. There were a lot of questions about a reconstituted OL going into yesterday's game, most of which concerned our young tackles, and I thought they performed beautifully as a group. Spencer Drango was an absolute stud in a rough first assignment against Hunt. Jackson is the least-heralded of the group and it showed a bit when he lost a few one-on-one matchups against Torlan Pittman. Hopefully Cameron Kaufhold can reclaim the RG spot quickly as he's probably a better option there long-term.
I admit it, I was concerned. I said as much in the comments of Mark’s previews. Starting Left AND Right Tackles with so little game experience, especially when Art Briles could have kept last year’s starters at those positions and transitioned Drango and Baker from the guard positions this year to tackle positions next year. After seeing the finally seeing the line in action, I can see why Briles made the somewhat risky move. Drango, especially, showed much greater mobility than Cyril Richardson showed at LT last year and will probably require less help than Richardson did last year is pass protection. Additionally, Richardson showed great push in the rushing game. Maybe I’m biased because Richardson’s arms are the size of tree trunks and he looks like he could grind my bones to dust before his morning protein shake, but I think he’s quite a promising guard prospect for the NFL. (Please take note, Cowboys.) My concerns about Wade’s snapping, especially with the amount of shotgun Baylor is likely to run this year, also proved unfounded so far.
Therm: C. In the 3-3-5 we played nearly the whole game yesterday, all you are really asking of your DL is a) to generate some token pressure in the passing game (which, to be completely fair, they didn't do at all) and b) hold up blockers in double teams in the run game to allow your LBs to read, react, and scrape toward the ball. They did a nice job in the run game, but our DL is going to have to do a much better job generating pressure.
MCM: C. Aside from the first series of the game where Chris McAllister batted down two passes, the DL didn't do anything of note to disrupt SMU's passing game. Part of that is the result of the scheme; it's extremely difficult to get a good pass rush from 3 downs when that's all you send. As Therm notes, they did perform admirably, particularly given their inexperience in the scheme, against the run. I hope going forward that the 3-3-5 is more a garnish than the main defensive dish.
Pras: B? Inc?
Like the TE position, this is a bit difficult to evaluate. Baylor spent much more time with 3 down linemen than anybody expected and rushed just 3 much, much more than anybody had a right to expect. As such, I can’t lambaste them for a lack of impact plays, although I can’t give them exemplary grades either. They adequately held their blockers in this game, often preventing the SMU OL from moving on to secondary blocks at the next level, but there was also very little push against a fairly green OL. I’ll just give them a B for now but note that I don’t think this tells us much about their ability moving forward.
When accounting for the beast of a RB that they were going up against, you have to like the performance of Lackey and especially Hager. Combining well-coached play that we’ve seen in highly varying degrees since Bennett’s arrival with much greater speed than we’ve seen over that same time frame, there’s little doubt that LB is much more of a strength now than a weakness. The main caveat I have that leaves me a little less ecstatic about their performances as compared to my fellow bloggers is that Zach Line was still able to rush fo 135 yards in 25 carries (5.4 YPC). While a fair bit of that came in garbage time, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the LB more than had their hands full. The scheme employed by Bennett yesterday relies almost entirely on the LBs to make the key tackles, and while it isn’t a scheme that’s likely to result in many tackles for a loss, there weren’t quite as many stuffs as I would have liked to see either. Sure, Zach Line is a beast, but we’re going to face some pretty good RB’s this year and most will play with a better OL.
To butcher an old Madden saying, you give me 11 guys like Dixon and you can take 11 of your guys and I like my chances.
How quickly the visions/nightmares of 2011 came back to visit. I was very worried that we were all in for a long season of praying for an (unknown) youngster to unseat the Hicks/Holl combo at safety, but they ended up having pretty solid games (when adjusting for expectations). They are still (very) limited in coverage, but they were put in a position to make some impact plays in the box and they were able to do so often enough that I don’t have to spend the next few weeks fearing the worst. I’m still not hopeful for Big 12 caliber play from them, though. I liked watching Joe Williams develop last year and felt that his level of play was one of the reasons we were able to see that great November. He disappointd me in this game. Twice he had the chance to make an interception on a suspect Gilbert pass and he failed both times, the last time resulting in a touchdown for SMU. Needless to say, we’re going to need to see much better play from him once Big 12 play starts.
No coach benefits more from the new kickoff rules than our own Art Briles.
MCM: A+. Therm didn't get a chance to do this one because I didn't ask him. BRING BACK THE BLACK!
The only thing keeping it from A++++ and true Controlled Substance is some tinkering with the pants and perhaps the green matte helmet, although the gold helmets did a great job of accentuating the super boss gold letters. Just fantastic work. Need more. And soon.