Baylor Football 2014 Spring Scrimmage Observations/Thoughts

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

It's taken me a full day to organize my thoughts from yesterday, the final Spring Scrimmage of 2014. It was quite a day!

Baylor Football ended its 2014 Spring practice schedule yesterday with a scrimmage that ran about an hour.  The full Seymour clan made the trek to Waco for the event, something I was determined not to miss if at all possible.  We were rewarded with an outstanding look at both the present and the future of Baylor Football, on full display on a practice field next to the indoor facility now emblazoned with the words "BIG 12 CHAMPIONS."

When we got there, we were pleased to find a very strong crowd, bigger I'd say than Meet the Bears this past fall, ready to see the Bears in action once again.  The scrimmage itself was slated to start at 11:00 but didn't actually kick off until just after 11:30.  In the meantime, the team ran through several practice sessions up and down the field and at the goal line.  The majority of the latter happened right in front of me, and that's when I got to see Baylor run a WR reverse pass where Johnny Jefferson ended up throwing a TD pass to Gus Penning, the #2 TE.  The whole of this part of practice was basically 7-on-7, and other than starting MLB Aiavion Edwards picking off a Bryce Petty pass over the middle, there wasn't much worth mentioning.

The Depth Charts:

The scrimmage yesterday "began" (put in quotes because I don't think they considered this a part of the actual scrimmage itself) with the first offense against the first defense.  These were the starting and backup units we saw.  Please keep in mind that the coaches substituted liberally, especially with the second team.  I didn't catch all or nearly all of them.

Offense:


FIRST TEAM SECOND TEAM
QB 14 Bryce Petty (SR) 17 Seth Russell (SO)
RB 32 Rashodrick Linwood (SO) 2 Johnny Jefferson (RS-Fr)
UB 28 Devin Chafin (SO)
22 Terence Williams (Fr)
WR 5 Antwan Goodley (SR)
26 Brandon Brown
IR 1 Corey Coleman (SO) 80 Carl Spangler
IR 42
Levi Norwood (SR)
82
Kaleb Moore (SO)
WR 3
4
Robbie Rhodes (SO)
Jay Lee (JR) OR
12 Quan Jones (RS-Fr)
TE

41

15 Gus Penning (JR)
LT 76 Jason Osei (SO) 61 Jarell Broxton (JR)
LG 60
LaQuan McGowan (JR) 
66 Drew Earnest (JR)
C 55 Kyle Fuller (SO) 73 Sean Muir (RS-Fr)
RG 67 Desmine Hilliard (JR) 64 Kyle Jacob (RS-Fr)
RT 75 Troy Baker (SR)
53

Keith Orcutt (RS-Fr)

When Armstead went out and we went 4-wide, Robbie Rhodes and Jay Lee switched off.  There were also a few sets where Norwood went out and we played two outside WRs.  Broxton also switched in for Osei at LT.

With that 2OL, you can see the real impact of our OL injuries.  Orcutt? Earnest? Jacob?  These are all guys we probably didn't expect to see anything other than third team time.  Here they are protecting Russell.  This is not ideal.  Keep that in mind when you see that Russell went 4-9 on the day.

Defense:


FIRST TEAM SECOND TEAM
RE 2 Shawn Oakman (JR)
56 K.J. Smith (RS-Fr)
DT 90
Javonte Magee (SO)

96
Byron Bonds (SO)
NG 75
95
Andrew Billings (SO) OR
Beau Blackshear (JR)
93 Suleiman Masumbuko (JR)
LE 92 Jamal Palmer (JR) 49 Brian Nance (RS-Fr)
OLB 51 Taylor Young (RS-Fr) 5
Grant Campbell (JR)
MLB 20 Aiavion Edwards (SO)
16 Kendall Ehrlich (SO)
NB 38 Collin Brence (SR)
23
17
Kiante' Griffin (SO)
Austin Jupe (RS-Fr)
CB 18
Xavien Howard (SO) 1 Chris Sanders (JR)
DS 28 Orion Stewart (SO) 48
12
Travon Blanchard (RS-FR)
Alfred Pullom (RS-Fr)
CS 24 Terrance Singleton (SO) 26 Taion Sells (SO)
CB 19 Ryan Reid (SO)
3
Tion Wright (SO)

There's a really good chance I'm missing the right spots for quite a few of the backups here.  I'm confident that the starters are right, but beyond that, things are murky, at best.  Young started the day over Campbell at OLB in my first real surprise, Brence over Griffin at NB in my second.  Both of our JUCO corners played with the second team against the first offense and acquitted themselves well.

I didn't realize it at the time, but the 1v1 period established what became the theme of the day: few, if any big plays.  The offense was able to move the ball with some success, but the defense didn't give up anything over the top as I expected they would, mostly because of a pass rush somewhere between "great" and "fearsome."  The star of that show, as you might have guessed, was Oakman.

As far as the lineups themselves, it's worth noting at the outset that injuries ravaged our offensive line this spring.  Yesterday, we were missing Tyler Edwards, Pat Colbert, and Spencer Drango, the #3, #2, and #1 options (probably) at left tackle on the roster, as well as Blake Muir, who had gained a starting role at center.  That pushed Jason Osei, the backup RG, out to LT, and Kyle Fuller back to center.  We knew Drango would be out the entire spring due to his back surgery, but the loss of the other three not only impacted our starting unit but cost us in depth, as well.  It was noticeable.

The Scrimmage Itself:

After the short 1v1 portion ended with a fumble by the offense, the more traditional scrimmage format (1Ov2D, 1Dv2O, 3Ov3D) began.  The team ran 51 plays, a relatively low number, total in a scrimmage that was noticeably slow tempo-wise than ones we've seen before.  It didn't seem like a lack of intensity or urgency, more that the coaches had teaching to do on both sides and wanted to take their time.  About halfway through the scrimmage, they actually took the lines off the field completely and just ran 7-on-7 with heavy instruction.  This was less a game-style scrimmage than a well-attended practice, but I don't think that was a bad thing.

In both main sections, I'd say the defense performed better than the offense.  The 1O, led by Bryce Petty, managed to score 2 TDs, one to Jay Lee on a short pass where he just beat the corner to the edge and then took it to the house and one to Robbie Rhodes at the other end of the field on what looked like a post.  The latter was the only pass I can remember where the defense just got beat over the top.  Faced with the 1D (particularly the 1DL), the 2O found most of its success on the ground, where Johnny Jefferson looked like the best player on the field until they decided to highlight him even more by putting him against the 2D with the 1O, instead.

The Players:

I'm not even going to try to talk about everyone, just those that caught my eye or that I thought people might ask about:

QBs:

Petty: Inconsistent as a passer, for the most part, but significantly better as a runner.  I've been back and forth on whether I'd describe him as thinner persay, but he certainly looked quicker in his cuts and faster overall.  He wasn't nearly so heavy-footed as last season, which makes sense if the reports that he nursed an ankle injury for much of the year are true.  Missed long a couple of times in the scrimmage portion and seemed averse to taking risks, but I felt like we saw improvement in that regard during the practice and 7-on-7.  His best passes went to Armstead over the middle and Coleman down the sideline.  I didn't get a great look at the throw on the TD to Rhodes.

Russell: When he wasn't running for his life, he was dealing with very poor snaps that they whistled dead as soon as they touched the ground.  I felt like he had one run that he could have broken, but they were whistling everything quick on the QBs.  Bryce suffered from those whistles, too.  Seth probably would have looked a lot better had he been throwing to the same receivers as Bryce.

Johnson: I was extremely impressed by his athleticism, but he had a lot of the same problems accuracy-wise as Seth.  Johnson may be one of the most athletic players on the team and certainly looks the part.  He's every bit of 6'4", maybe 6'5".

RBs:

Linwood: Only played in the first portion.  Caught more passes in that and practice than I think he did all of last season.

Chafin: I've got nothing.

Jefferson: The guy I wrote this post to talk about.  Probably the most impressive player on the whole in the entire scrimmage.  He looks like Lache with less side-to-side movement and similar speed.  There were two different carries blown dead early where I thought he could have shrugged off an arm tackle and either scored or gotten significant yardage.  People who participate in CFB fantasy leagues need to know who Johnny Jefferson is.

WRs:

Coleman: KENDALL WRIGHT REDUX UP IN HERE. He's the total package at IR and is going to have a breakout year.  He didn't score a TD as I predicted, but it didn't matter.  He's amazing.

Rhodes: Actually returned kicks in addition to catching passes.  He looks the part of a college receiver now, as in I think he's put on significant mass since last year without sacrificing speed.

Spangler, Brown, Andy Ritter: Caught the majority of passes from Seth Russell.  Probably would have been the best options we had under GuyMo and company.  We have a ton of fast white walk-on receivers.

TE:

Armstead: Caught a pass in triple coverage either in the 1v1 or practice portion (I can't remember which) where he was interfered with first and then hit by three different guys.  Still came down with the ball.  We knew he was immense and would run people over, but I didn't know he actually had hands.

OL:

McGowan: Just enormous.  There's a picture of him floating around where he's staring down Taylor Young, who he has nearly a foot on in height and probably 170 pounds.  It's that way for McGowan all the time.  When Broxton (6-5, 325) lined up next to him, Broxton looked tiny.

Baker: Got into two different fights with Palmer (DE) and took him out almost completely.  That was the most intense part of practice, by far.

Osei: Is not a LT.  Looked good in run blocking, though, so I'm confident in his ability should we need him at RG.

DE:

Oakman: Beast.  Best player on the field on defense.  It didn't matter who was trying to block him; they failed.

Smith (DE): Looks small next to Oakman, Magee, and the rest, but is incredibly quick.  He and Nance played on the second team against the 1OL and actually performed really well.

Nance: Registed a sack on Petty and looks like a totally different player from a year ago.  He's noticeably bigger, but in a good way.  Put any thought of him playing as a LB out of your mind.

CB:

Howard: I wondered beforehand if they would line him up against the bigger receivers like Lee and Rhodes, and they did.  Rhodes only had 1 catch largely because Howard was all over him.  Extremely physical.  Lee's TD catch came on Jupe with the 2D, not Howard.

Reid: Made an outstanding play on a pass to Goodley that probably would have drawn an OPI.  He's a bit smaller but has great speed.  I don't know why that PBU isn't listed on the official site.

Wright and Sanders: Sanders was still wearing the red no-contact jersey but played quite a bit opposite Sanders on the second team.  I think Wright would be the first player on the field if we brought in an extra CB to cover the slot.  Both were very impressive.  With Reid, Howard, and these two, we should have four quality CBs, at worst.

LB:

Campbell: He is a taller Eddie Lackey.  He wears the same number, plays the same way, and when he learns the intricacies of the defense, will start at OLB.  Just a matter of time for him just like it was for Lackey.

Edwards: I mentioned his interception of Petty in the 7-on-7 portion above.  I never saw him get burned in coverage, so that's a good thing considering the expectations.

Miscellaneous Stuff:

I went in thinking this will be the best defensive line Baylor has had in a generation and came out knowing that it will be true.  Hopefully I won't give him the Kiss of Death by saying it, but Oakman should be in the conversation for preseason All-American.

I'm not worried about the QBs-- especially Petty-- at all.  Timing was off a bit on a few of the longer passes, but that is a function of repetition and they'll get there.

I was told Griffin didn't start yesterday because of a disciplinary thing stemming from a recent practice.  He apparently went low on somebody when he shouldn't have.  Taion Sells did the same thing yesterday on Jefferson and got reamed for it.

The crowd was fantastic for an event Baylor didn't really publicize all that much, and I was glad that we were able to go down.  For those that went over to Dave's Burger Barn afterward expecting us to be there, I'm sorry that you were disappointed.  We showed up and there was no place for my son's wheelchair, so we didn't stay.

If you have any specific questions, please feel free to ask!

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