Coming off the first successful year post-RGIII, Baylor has several questions to answer on offense, both on the offensive line and in replacing its second record-setting QB in two years. Offenses carry Art Briles' teams, so how will this one continue to improve?
Another year has come and gone with the Baylor Bears having one of best offenses in the country. This year was somewhat unexpected if only because we lost the three best offensive players in school history in Robert Griffin III, Terrance Ganaway, and Kendall Wright to the NFL. All we did, though, was replace them with three more in Nick Florence, the nation's leader in total offense this season, Terrance Williams (Terrence Williams), owner of the greatest single season in Baylor history for a WR, and the combination of Glasco Martin and Lache Seastrunk, both of whom return for 2013 after ending the season as a dominant rushing duo.
Once again, however, Baylor loses both its QB and top WR going into 2013 and replacing the production they represent, as well the leadership they carried with them, will be critical for the team this year. We'll also have a new center leading the way for the OL for the fourth time in four years, something that is both heartening and somewhat scary at the same time. Before that scares anybody too badly, though, take a look at last year's preview to see what we lacked at that point. See anything familiar? Let me help.
Going into 2012 Spring Practice, we needed a QB, RB, C, and RG and were set pretty much everywhere else. This year, I'd say we need a QB, C, RG, and WR and are set pretty much everywhere else. Where we had Cyril Richardson, Cameron Kaufhold, and Ivory Wade returning in 2012 to form the basis for our offensive line, we now have Cyril, Spencer Drango, and Troy Baker. Don't freak out about the offensive line, is what I'm saying. We'll fill the holes.
Still, the Bears kick off another year of Spring Practice tomorrow in Waco with a lot of questions and a lot of answers. Before we get to them, check out the projected depth chart for the Baylor offense based on what we know (or think) right now. There are a lot of "OR"s in this because there are so many unknowns, but that's just how things work.
|FIRST TEAM||SECOND TEAM|
|QB||Bryce Petty (JR)||Seth Russell (RS-Fr)|
|RB||Lache Seastrunk (JR)||
Rashodrick Linwood (RS-Fr)
|UB||Glasco Martin (SR)||Devin Chafin (RS-Fr)|
|WR||Antwan Goodley (JR)||Lynx Hawthorne (RS-Ff)|
|IR||Tevin Reese (SR)||Corey Coleman (RS-Fr)|
|IR||Levi Norwood (JR)||Clay Fuller (JR)|
|WR||Jay Lee (SO||Robbie Rhodes (FR)|
|TE||Jordan Najvar (SR)||Jerod Monk (SR)|
|LT||Spencer Drango (SO)||Kelvin Palmer (SR)|
|LG||Cyril Richardson (SR)||Kelvin Palmer (SR)|
|C||Kelvin Palmer (SR)||Kyle Fuller (RS-Fr)|
Desmine Hilliard (SO) OR
Stefan Huber (SR)
|Kyle Fuller (RS-Fr) OR
Laquan McGowan (SO)
|RT||Troy Baker (JR)||Pat Colbert (SO)|
Five Questions for the Baylor Offense:
1. Who is the next elite Baylor QB?
The answer to this question seems more simple than it probably is; 2013 will be Bryce Petty's fourth year in the program and he has actual game experience that the other options-- redshirt freshman Seth Russell and true freshman Chris Johnson-- simply don't have. To say he has a leg up on his competition would be an understatement, and the job would seem his to lose.
The rumors surrounding Russell's potential to usurp the position persist, however, based mostly off Russell's eye-popping athleticism (39.7" vertical, 4.52 40, and 10.1' standing long-jump) and the simple fact that there are significant question about Petty's ability to run the offense. To be clear, I have no doubt that whoever wins this battle will perform extremely well under Briles' tutelage, especially given our soft non-conference slate to start the season. I have similarly few doubts about Petty's physical ability. Briles' offense requires someone capable of making the right throws at the right time, and I think that's the biggest rub with Petty's game.
All that said, I projected Petty as the starter for reasons related almost entirely to his experience and the fact that we had this same conversation a year ago about Florence-Petty when Bryce was tearing up spring practice. We know how that shook out, but now is Petty's time, and I think that when we take the field against Wofford in August, it will be Petty leading the offense as the next Baylor QB.
2. Who plays center?
For the fourth year in a row, Baylor will have a new signal-caller on the offensive line at the center position after sending the previous starter to the NFL Four-year starter Ivory Wade will follow in the footsteps of J.D. Walton and Phillip Blake before him, leaving Baylor looking to replace a critical component of the OL.
As near as I can tell, there are three real candidates for the job at this point: RS-Fr Kyle Fuller, SR Kelvin Palmer, and SR Stefan Huber. That's coming from Briles' interview yesterday where he basically said as much. In making the depth chart I've had Huber in the lead at the C spot all along, but based on that same interview, it sounds like Huber is the leader at RG if not C, so I switched him there.
My projection is that Kelvin Palmer, who saw significant action last year at both tackle and guard for the Bears, wins the job this spring and solidifies the position with his 6-4, 290-pound frame. Fuller probably backs him up with Huber competing for the RG spot, something we'll talk about in a minute. It won't be as neat a situation as moving Ivory Wade in from RT like last year, but Cyril definitely isn't playing C and neither are Baker or Drango, so it's going to be someone new. For now, I'll say Palmer until we know something more.
3. Who takes over at RG?
I didn't say much about this at the time last season, but RG was actually one of my biggest concerns going into the 2012 season. With Baylor missing on Dionte Savage, who probably would have come in as the favorite to start from the JUCO ranks right away, it is again. Hopefully things work out just as well this season as they did last year, when seniors Jake Jackson and Cameron Kaufhold two-manned the position for most of the year to great effect.
This year, we probably have three main contenders for the spot at this moment in SR Stefan Huber, SO Desmine Hilliard, and SO LaQuan McGowan. If you asked the coaches, I have to think they'd prefer for one of the latter two to take the job and hold it because of their immense potential (not to mention their immense size) for the future. Right now, though, given the fact that McGowan actually left the program for a time last season and has had trouble keeping his weight under control, and Hilliard may not be ready for prime time just yet, Huber probably wins the job. He has experience playing across the line, he has decent size, and I think he'll hold off the youngsters to take control. That leaves us, if I'm right, with an offensive line of Drango (6-6, 310), Richardson (6-5, 335), Palmer (6-4, 290), Huber (6-4, 295), and Baker (6-6, 300). Where last year we were strong on the inside, this year we look very strong on the outside (and at LG, obviously). We'll see how it comes together.
4. Which untested WR steps up?
I asked this question a year ago and Terrance Williams threw down the best season in Baylor history. I ask it now with Williams and Lanear Sampson (an underrated player) departing for the NFL and leaving a young group of wideouts in their wake. The difference now is that we knew then that those guys were there, we were just looking for someone to help them. Now we need to replace both, an entirely new problem altogether.
The way I see it, we're set on the inside with SR Tevin Reese and JR Levi Norwood, both of whom saw significant action this past season. Those two will probably be backed up by Corey Coleman, who redshirted this past year but came in with high expectations for his Baylor career, and Clay Fuller, a former walk-on. That's a solid group of inside receivers that are all capable of shouldering the load. We can probably expect that a new QB will use that group more than Florence did this past season, but the deep pass has become a hallmark of Briles' offenses at Baylor, so someone stepping up on the outside is an absolute must.
On that note, I fully expect for JR Antwan Goodley to build on his breakout season in 2012 and seize one spot while SO Jay Lee takes the other. Lee is much more of the prototypical outside receiver at 6-3, 205, but Goodley showed tremendous strength and great hands this past season and will get his share of touches. Behind them, I expect that Robbie Rhodes will see action in his true freshman season once he gets here this summer, but it's possible we could also see Corey Coleman used outside, as well, and someone like SO Lynx Hawthorne or RS-Fr Kaleb Moore get touches, as well. I am interested by the fact that the latest roster shows Coleman as a "WR" rather than a "IR" like it did last year. Very interested.
5. What are we going to do at RB?
Ha, just kidding. This one is settled and I wanted to gloat. JR Lache Seastrunk and SR Glasco Martin are both back and will both be spectacular. I said last night on twitter that we could see 1,000-yard seasons from both of them and I think I might have sold them short. With Petty in his first year, I really believe that we will see a much more run-oriented offense, particularly early in the season, than we did last year, and these two will stand to benefit the most from that change.
What do you think, Baylor fans? What are you most worried/concerned/excited about?