Baylor's Options in the Absence of Drango

Nearly every picture I have of Drango is him lifting someone in the air after a touchdown. - Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Going into its biggest game of the season in Stillwater on Saturday, Baylor will have to deal with the loss of its starting LT, Spencer Drango. Options abound for replacing him in the short-term, but which is best?

First and foremost, I think I have authority to say on behalf of everyone here at ODB that our prayers are with Spencer Drango and his family in this time as he prepares for surgery today and what will likely be a lengthy rehabilitation process.  If the season ended today, Drango would have likely been the favorite to earn all-conference honors at LT as a redshirt sophomore, positioning himself as a favorite for All-American consideration next year.  Now, Baylor will have to go forward without him for the rest of this incredible year.  We could feel this loss perhaps more than any other.

That being said, it's worth talking about where we go from here on the offensive line and how we replace the somewhat irreplaceable.  In my mind, we have two real options.  Others have suggested a third.  I'll talk about them here in the order of what seems most likely from what we've heard so far.

1. Kelvin Palmer to LT, Troy Baker to RT

I said in the DBR this morning that this is my guess for how things will turn out considering the experience each player has at their newly-assigned positions.  Palmer has played LT before, most notably in the 2011 Alamo Bowl, and has the strength and quickness to handle edge rushers.  He's a more "known quantity" at this point than the other option discussed below, and moving him to LT allows the staff to get one preseason starter, Troy Baker, back at the expense of another.  Baker started every game at RT last year and would have, but for injury, done so again.  If this goes through, you have the following as your two-deep at OL:

BAYLOR OFFENSIVE LINE
FIRST TEAM SECOND TEAM
TE 18
20
Jordan Najvar (SR) OR
Jerod Monk (SR)
15 Gus Penning (JR)
LT 77 Kelvin Palmer (SR) 69 Pat Colbert (SO)
LG 58 Cyril Richardson (SR) 60 LaQuan McGowan (SO)
C 54 Stefan Huber (SR)
55
62
Kyle Fuller (RS-FR)
Tyler Edwards (JR)
RG 67 Desmine Hilliard (SO)
55
76
Kyle Fuller (RS-FR)
Jason Osei (RS-FR)
RT 75 Troy Baker (JR) 72

Tre'Von Armstead (RS-FR)

That's an experienced group that retains quality depth in the form of Colbert, McGowan, Fuller, and Armstead at the positions where we are most likely to need it.  I think you'd see the biggest dropoff from Drango to Palmer against speed rushers, mostly because Drango has excellent feet and is slightly quicker than Palmer.  But overall, that's a solid group, at worst.

2. Pat Colbert to LT

This one is simple.  Colbert is Drango's backup and a player the coaching staff supposedly loves.  He steps right in to the LT spot and everyone else stays the same.  In blocking on running plays, I don't think you see much, if any, dropoff.  Might be a different story in pass protection, which could lead to the staff using more TE help on that side.  We'll talk about that more below.  In this scenario, the two-deep is as follows:

BAYLOR OFFENSIVE LINE
FIRST TEAM SECOND TEAM
TE 18
20
Jordan Najvar (SR) OR
Jerod Monk (SR)
15 Gus Penning (JR)
LT 69 Pat Colbert (SO)
77 Kelvin Palmer (SR)
LG 58 Cyril Richardson (SR) 60 LaQuan McGowan (SO)
C 54 Stefan Huber (SR)
55
62
Kyle Fuller (RS-FR)
Tyler Edwards (JR)
RG 67 Desmine Hilliard (SO)
55
76
Kyle Fuller (RS-FR)
Jason Osei (RS-FR)
RT 77
75
Kelvin Palmer (SR)
Troy Baker
(JR)
72

Tre'Von Armstead (RS-FR)

In the sense of keeping the most positions the same as possible, this might be our best option.  As I said, the coaching staff supposedly loves Colbert, and he's played in Drango's absence sporadically before.  When the second team has come in, it's been Colbert at that position.  He's got great size at 6-5, 305 pounds and seems to enjoy destroying people.  That's a good quality to have asn an offensive lineman.

3. Cyril Richardson to LT

This is the one someone asked about in the DBR that I don't see as at all likely but will discuss, regardless.  The idea here is to move Cyril outside to solidify LT and replace him inside with either Palmer (how valuable is that guy?) or the mammoth sophomore LaQuan McGowan.  The line would then probably look like this:

BAYLOR OFFENSIVE LINE
FIRST TEAM SECOND TEAM
TE 18
20
Jordan Najvar (SR) OR
Jerod Monk (SR)
15 Gus Penning (JR)
LT 58 Cyril Richardson (SR)
69 Pat Colbert
LG 77
60
Kelvin Palmer  OR
LaQuan McGowan (SO)
-- You? Me?
C 54 Stefan Huber (SR)
55
62
Kyle Fuller (RS-FR)
Tyler Edwards (JR)
RG 67 Desmine Hilliard (SO)
55
76
Kyle Fuller (RS-FR)
Jason Osei (RS-FR)
RT 77
75
Kelvin Palmer (SR) OR
Troy Baker
(JR)
72

Tre'Von Armstead (RS-FR)

There are a number of problems with this, chief among them being that now you have the potential to be playing 3/5 of a different line, essentially, in your biggest game of the season.  Furthermore, I'm not entirely sure that Cyril can/should play tackle now after being a guard each of the last two seasons.  And even if he could, the typical tackle > guard hieararchy for most offenses may not apply to Baylor's.  We are so dependent on inside zone in the running game and pulling the guard in the play-action that I want Cyril at his current spot, regardless.  Recognizing that this wouldn't be close to the first time I was completely wrong, I just don't see this as a real option.

Schematic Changes

After you talk about personnel, the next thing to consider is what Baylor might do schematically to alleviate potential problems at LT.  I'll hit these quickly:

More TE Help: Baylor doesn't really use our TEs in the passing game, anyway, and if we see a problem arising at LT in pass protection, you could see more help given to that side from Najvar, Monk, or the burgeoning blocking machine Tre'Von Armstead, who dons #41 for the task.  All three have been seen lining up in the backfield in a H back-type role, and you could see more of that.

More Screens: The real idea behind a screen is to make the aggressiveness of a defense work against it.  If teams decide they will sell out against our OL to beat whoever replaces Drango, a screen or two might make them reconsider.  Rashodrick Linwood and/or Lache Seastrunk would both be deadly in the screen game, which we haven't seen much of recently.

Higher Run/Pass Ratio: This just means more running plays, generally.  Considering our tendencies in playcalling on the road, I consider this one almost a given.

I'm going to throw a poll down in the thread to see what people think Baylor should do to compensate (as much as possible) for Drango's absence the rest of the way.  If you have other thoughts, put them in the comments!

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