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Baylor Football Spring Game Preview

Baylor Football: Spring Wrap Up (via BaylorAthletics)

I've teased for a few days now about the Spring Scrimmage/Game/Brouhaha/Shindig/Box Social that Baylor is throwing tomorrow at 1 PM, and it's finally time to take a look at the team heading into that Scrimmage. Baylor has completed 14 of its allotted 15 spring practices so far-- the final practice will take place tomorrow morning-- and things are starting to come into focus a bit on both sides of the ball.

You may recall that prior to the start of spring workouts, I posed 5 questions for each side of the ball, offense and defense, that I hoped to see answered. Now that the Spring Soiree is upon us, it's time to see which, if any, of those questions have been answered so far. After that, we'll talk a bit about any other questions that may have come up in the meantime. I'll give you whatever information I have but know that it might be a few practices old. That's why I was hoping to find someone who can report directly from Waco tomorrow, but so far, nobody has stepped up to the plate. Alas, if only I could find someone interested enough in Baylor Football to share the deets... MY OFFER STILL STANDS!

Anyway, let's kick it off with the offense below the jump.

Five Questions for the Baylor Offense:

1. Who plays QB?

The biggest question going into this offseason for the Baylor offense obviously revolved around which QB would inhabit the extremely large and nimble shoes of Robert Griffin III and helm the Baylor offensive machine. That question seems to have been answered conclusively by Nick Florence, the hands-down favorite at this point to start against SMU in the season-opener next year. Florence, by all accounts, took firm hold of the job in the last month despite a strong run by Bryce Petty, the presumptive number 2 QB. Baylor is in good hands at this position. I'm not worried.

2. Is this the year Salubi establishes himself?

This question was geared more to the RB position as a whole in the Baylor offense; another place where Briles and company are losing an experienced playmaker and will need to replace from within. I hoped that Glasco Martin and Lache Seastrunk could combine to unseat prohibitive starter Jarred Salubi, but it doesn't appear that they have. It was nothing against Salubi, I just haven't seen the between-the-tackles ability from him in the past that Baylor needs from its #1 RB.

When I say that Martin and Seastrunk failed, I mean mostly the latter. Martin seems to have done about what I expected him to do in terms of establishing himself as the primary inside runner for Baylor. Seastrunk, however, had a disappointing enough spring that he not only failed to jump up the rankings from third but was actually passed by upcoming redshirt freshman B.J. Allen, who may see use this season in Salubi's old role on third downs. Seastrunk supposed hurt his ankle early in the spring, so his struggles could just be related to lingering effects of that. We're only talking about a month, after all.

3. Who will be the next Baylor center to go in the NFL Draft?

We found out either the day after I published that original post or the next that I was 100% right about the center position. 4-year starter Ivory Wade moved from his old position at guard inside and will start at center for Baylor next season. This is now my position of least worry on the entire offensive line, even though Wade has reportedly had the same issues with snaps that Philip Blake had last year. Wade will play in the NFL after next season and will keep the Baylor tradition of having great centers alive. Should something happen to him (knock on wood), it looks like Tim Smith is his primary backup.

4. How does the rest of the OL stack up?

I struck out bigtime with one of my predictions on the OL related to mammoth RS-Fr Laquan McGowan, who missed all of spring practice with personal issues and was actually not listed on the latest published roster. McGowan is also supposedly extremely overweight (somewhere in the 370 range), meaning he won't contribute to this team anytime soon. That's a shame.

Last year's started at LT, Cyril Richardson (6-5, 330) has moved in to left guard, flanked by junior Kelvin Palmer (6-4, 280) as the new LT. He is being pushed hard by RS-Fr Spencer Drango (6-6, 305), and that position may not be totally settled yet. Since my prediction for RG, Cameron Kaufhold, sat out the spring with an injury, senior Jake Jackson (6-3, 310) received most of the reps with the first-team offense with sophomore Troy Baker (6-6, 310) by his side at RT. I don't know if the Palmer-Richardson-Wade-Jackson-Baker line will be what takes the field tomorrow for the first series, but that's the last information I saw about it. Other than the relatively undersized (in terms of weight) Palmer at the pivotal LT position, that's a stout line.

5. Which untested WR steps up next?

I think I pretty much nailed this one with Antwan Goodley (sophomore, 5-10, 220) and Jay Lee (RS-Fr, 6-3, 205) both having huge springs. Lee, in particular, seems to have been the star of the WR corps alongside senior Terrance Williams. Williams is going to be incredible next year; you should probably prepare yourselves now for the sight of him racing down the outside of the field over and over again.

5 Questions for the Baylor Defense:

1. Who leads the defense at MLB?

Here's what I said about MLB before spring practice began.

The first (and arguably most likely) candidate for the position was listed on Baylor's last depth chart in 2011 as Coffey's backup, upcoming RS-So Bryce Hager. I am extremely intrigued by Hager considering that he is listed at 6-1, 230 pounds on the last available roster and was timed this spring (according to the @BU_Iron_Bear twitter account, the official account for Baylor athletics performance and training) at 4.49 in the 40. That is not a misprint; I went back and found the tweet about him. Hager was also listed with a 35.7" vertical and a 10' 1.5" broad jump. I will pay close attention to this kid in spring training for sure.

Turns out my intrigue was justified; Hager is the starting MLB going into tomorrow's game and has impressed with his athleticism and leadership. 2012 signee from the JUCO ranks Eddie Lackey is running with the first-team defense at OLB.

2. Where does Ahmad Dixon play next?

This question is somewhat related to the next in that my hopes for seeing Dixon as a safety again have been dashed; Dixon stayed at the hero position this spring and will almost definitely start there next season. My only guess is that Baylor views the drop from him to the next-in-line at the nickel spot (it's the same thing as the hero) is bigger than the drop from him to one of our starting safeties, or it's entirely possible that the staff doesn't think he's a safety, after all. Either way, he's a playmaker, and he'll start for Baylor tomorrow in his now-familiar role. Prince Kent and Devante Davis are his primary backups, with last year's starter Rodney Chadwick backing up Hager and, I think, junior Cordarius Golston backing up Lackey. We'll see if Golston stays in that role when/if Nance and the other 2012 recruits get on campus this summer.

3. What in the world are we going to do at safety?

At the risk of sending myself into a severe spiral of Ryan Swope-related depression, Mike Hicks and Sam Holl are still running with the first-team defense despite the existence of mountains of evidence concerning their incapability to play their assigned positions.

How do we not have anything better than these two back there? They have experience, sure, but it's experience mostly spent getting burned repeatedly. Now that junior Prince Kent has apparently spun down to back up Dixon at the nickel, senior Josh Wilson is probably our greatest hope to see one of them unseated until recruits Kiante Griffin and Aiavion Edwards get on campus* or Chance Casey recovers from his multitude of injuries. Maybe Jemarcus Johnson can do something, but he supposedly weighs less than the computer I'm typing this on, so I don't have high hopes. *Don't even try to ruin my dreams about Griffin and Edwards, Therm. A man can hope not to have to watch atrocious safety play again this season.

4. How many potential CBs does one team need?

The answer to this question is probably just two at this point: incumbent seniors Joe Williams and K.J. Morton. The pair finished 2011 as the starters for Baylor and will likely go into 2012 in the same roles, giving Baylor continuity at the position it hasn't had since Mr. Heisman himself C.J. Wilson trod our grounds. I have been glad to hear that WR-turned-CB Darius Jones has gotten most of the second-team reps on one side while Tyler Stephenson occupies the other. I love Jones' athleticism and have advocated for that switch basically since he signed. T.C. Robinson, Tuswani Copeland (injured, I think), Anthony Webb, and Demetri Goodson are kinda hanging around in the periphery of the defensive backfield.

5. What are we doing for big uglies?

Information about the defensive line has been regretfully limited this spring, and two of our best returning options on the outside (Tevin Elliot and Gary Mason, Jr.) were both limited by injuries in spring practice. Juniors Chris McAllister and Terrance Lloyd have gotten most of the first-team reps in their absence. From all indications, Baylor will have two seniors named Johnson (Nick Johnson and Kaeron Johnson) manning the DT position inside. That's probably a strength, but I haven't seen them play. Both have great size (6-2, 295 and 6-2, 305, respectively), but endurance could be an issue. I expected for a trio of RS-Fr, Trevor Valdez, Beau Blackshear, and Suleiman Masumbuko, to earn playing time behind them, and I haven't heard anything that disappoints me on that front. As a whole, the DL was going to be one of my primary concerns when I was planning to go watch the scrimmage tomorrow.

As much concern as I have about the DE spot, I like the recruits we have coming in (particularly 5* recruit Javonte Magee), and I think a DE rotation with Elliot, Mason, Lloyd, McAllister, and Magee would be more than serviceable for the Bears in 2012. I hope that Mason and Elliot can get a few snaps tomorrow alongside McAllister and Lloyd, but I don't know how their injury situations have worked out. Baylor is typically very tight-lipped in relation to injuries.

Other Thoughts:

  • Could you tell that I'm really concerned about the safety position? I am. I am really concerned.
  • That being said, I generally like having 8 returning starters (even though it looks like only 6-- Hicks, Holl, Williams, Morton, Lloyd, and Dixon-- are slated for starting roles tomorrow) on a defense entering its second year under DC Phil Bennett. I think you'll see a lot of growth, and the early returns are extremely good in terms of athleticism across the board. Bennett wants speed and it looks like we'll have that.
  • Baylor is losing the threat of RG3 in the running game, so it will be interesting to see how that affects our schemes on offense in that department. It can't be as simple as "run Salubi outside and Martin inside" or teams see that. I hope to see development from both of them in what they lack.
  • I haven't included anything on this preview about special teams for good reason; we have an established kicker in junior Aaron Jones (Stork) and punter in Spencer Roth. They were never going to be seriously challenged for their spots. I am interested to see who our primary returners are going to be on punts and kicks, but I haven't heard anything about that.
  • I also didn't really talk about a few areas like TE and WR where things were mostly set. If I were going to the Spring Game tomorrow, however, I'd look to see how senior Jerod Monk and junior Jordan Navjar have progressed at the TE spot and how senior Lanear Sampson looks on the outside opposite Williams. I would also obviously look for junior Tevin Reese on the inside. I imagine we're going to see his role increase significantly in 2012.