Report: MLB Bryce Hager "doubtful" for Fiesta Bowl

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

After initial reports that Baylor might get the QB of its defense back for the game on January 1, it seems our defense will once again be forced to play without its junior signal-caller.

After I posted in the First Look yesterday that the latest rumors indicated that Baylor MLB Bryce Hager would play against the Central Florida Knights in the Fiesta Bowl, reports from today's first practice in Arizona poured cold water on that possibility.  From John Werner at the Waco Tribune-Herald:

Apparently, Hager suffered some kind of setback in his rehabilitation from a groin injury that flared up in Baylor's November 16 game against Texas Tech, and he is now listed at doubtful for next Wednesday's game.

BAYLOR DEFENSE
FIRST TEAM SECOND TEAM
LE 11 Terrance Lloyd (SR)
2
Shawn Oakman (SO)
DT 75
96
Andrew Billings (FR) OR
Byron Bonds (FR)
--

None Listed

NG 95 Beau Blackshear (SO) 93

Suleiman Masumbuko (SO)

RE 31 Chris McAllister (SR) 92 Jamal Palmer (SO)
WLB 15 Brody Trahan (SR)
16
Kendall Ehrlich (RS-Fr)
MLB 5 Eddie Lackey (SR) 20 Aiavion Edwards (RS-FR)
NB 25 Sam Holl (SR)
1
Prince Kent (SR)
CB 8 K.J. Morton (SR) 22
19
Joe Williams (SR)
Ryan Reid (RS-FR)
DS 6 Ahmad Dixon (SR) 28 Orion Stewart (RS-FR)
CS 13 Terrell Burt (SO)
14
Taion Sells (FR)
CB 3 Demetri Goodson (SR) 18 Xavien Howard (RS-FR)

The latest depth chart from section 2 of the Bowl Guide (available on BaylorBears.com) lists Hager and Lackey as co-starters at MLB with Lackey and Trahan as co-starters at OLB.  Assuming Hager doesn't play, it seems safe to me to also assume that we will line up the same way we did in each of the last two games.  The only other real option is a return to the alignment we saw against Oklahoma State with Lackey at MLB, Holl at OLB, and Dixon at NB, but I seriously doubt it.  We saw the deficiencies that lineup had in defending the pass game, and as I've tried to repeat as often as possible, Blake Bortles is really, really good.

I don't think this is something to be seriously upset about, although I am, for obvious reasons, disappointed.  With all due respect to Lackey and his performance in relief this season, Hager at MLB and Lackey at OLB is our best defensive alignment, particularly against the pass.  UCF's offense, like our own, does not really utilize tight ends (only 15 receptions by players listed as such on the roster this year), but they do throw to the running backs coming out of the backfield.  Storm Johnson has 29 receptions on the year for over 250 yards while William Stanback has 13 for just over 150.  Should they get a matchup somewhere with Trahan covering a running back, that would probably not be ideal for us.

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