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Baylor's Updated Injury Situation and Depth Charts for the Russell Athletic Bowl

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Baylor's injury-plagued nightmare continued today when news broke that the Bears would be without our top three current offensive weapons.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

No reason to beat around the bush; here's what we know:

Latest Injury News:

QB Jarrett Stidham -- WILL NOT PLAY -- Honestly, I'm probably taking a bit of a leap here, since I don't think it's been confirmed explicitly that he is out.  However, Briles indicated today that Stidham isn't practicing, and that he has ruled out the freshman QB in his head.  It really does look like the report earlier this week that Stidham might play was intended solely to give UNC something else to prepare for. Stidham had surgery on his foot several weeks ago, after the Oklahoma State game, and should be ready for spring practice by late February.

WR Corey Coleman -- WILL NOT PLAY -- The college career of arguably the best WR in our history (as Craig Smoak noted, he owns school records for TDs in a game, season, and career) is over.  Coleman apparently sustained a sports hernia prior to the Oklahoma game, then tried to play through it the rest of the way.  That combined with our QB injuries probably accounts for the fact that he had 20 TDs before that game and 0 after.  He is scheduled to have surgery on Monday and be ready for the NFL Combine in the spring.

RB Shock Linwood -- WILL NOT PLAY -- After battling injuries the last few games of Baylor's season-- and missing nearly all of the Texas game, in particular-- Shock Linwood's season is over due to a Lisfranc injury in his foot.  He had surgery last Monday and should be ready for spring practice.

So, with those three now joining Seth Russell on the shelf, Baylor is down arguably its four biggest offensive playmakers going into the bowl game against North Carolina.  That leads to...

Resetting Our Expectations:

Going into today, Baylor was either a 2.5 or 3-point favorite basically across the board.  While those lines probably assumed some QB uncertainty, that uncertainty included the possibility that Stidham might play and that Coleman and/or Linwood would.  Now that all three are out, you can get lines anywhere from Baylor -1 to UNC -1.  Some places have even taken it off the board altogether.

Because of today's news those lines are going to get worse before they get better.  As of this moment, Baylor looks far more like the team that lost 3 of 4 to end the season than the one that won 8 in a row.  As a result, UNC is or should now be a clear favorite in this game, particularly since nobody would have known what to expect from Chris Johnson even if his biggest weapon was playing.

What Will The Offense Look Like:

It seems almost too obvious to predict, but if you enjoyed the pass/run ratio from the 2012 Holiday Bowl, I'm guessing you'll love the 2015 Russell Athletic Bowl, too.  Our QB woes, combined with UNC's weakness in run defense, means we're going to run the ball a lot. The only question is how we do it.

As long as Johnson is healthy and able, the WildBear probably won't be much more than a change-of-pace, if that.  Too much of what we do is predicated on spreading teams out vertically and horizontally, and the WildBear is just too one-dimensional.  But if something happens to Johnson again or the coaching staff decides they liked that look as much as I did, you could see Johnny Jefferson out there toting the pill again (maybe with Johnson motioning out of the backfield as a legitimate receiving threat?).  Now if only we felt good about letting Jefferson throw something other than a Hail Mary ...

My hope is that we see a mix of things based on down or distance, including an up-tempo version of the WildBear in short yardage or near the goal line, whether run by Jefferson/Williams or Johnson himself.  With our offensive line-- the clear strength of the offense at this point and the only unit that should be fully healthy-- we should dominate the line of scrimmage.  And as much as I'd like to see Johnson sling it around to Cannon and co. with success, I just don't know if it's going to happen.  Much more likely is that Baylor grinds it out in what could be relatively poor conditions once again to keep UNC's explosive offense off the field.  I like the WildBear as a viable option to make that work when used to complement Baylor's normal offense, or as close to it as we're likely to see.

Depth Charts:

Let's take a closer look at the projected* Depth Charts with today's news taken into account.

*I'm doing some hand-waving here, so bear with me.

Offense:


FIRST TEAM SECOND TEAM
QB 13 Chris Johnson (SO)
7
Lynx Hawthorne (JR)
RB 28
2
Devin Chafin (JR)
Johnny Jefferson (SO)
22
Terence Williams (RS-FR)
WR 8
K.D. Cannon (SO) 8
Ishmael Zamora (RS-FR)
IR 18
Chris Platt (RS-FR)
--
Unknown
IR 16
Davion Hall (SO) 7
Lynx Hawthorne (JR)
WR 4
Jay Lee (JR)
12
16
Quan Jones (SO) OR
Davion Hall (SO)
TE

80
15

LaQuan McGowan (SR) OR
Gus Penning (SR)
85 Jordan Feuerbacher (SO)
LT 58 Spencer Drango (SR)
57 Tanner Thrift (SO)
LG 73 Blake Muir (SR)
67
Desmine Hilliard (SR)
C 55 Kyle Fuller (JR)
72 Blake Blackmar (RS-FR)
RG 61
Jarell Broxton (SR)
52
72
Rami Hammad (SO) OR
Blake Blackmar (RS-FR)
RT 69 Pat Colbert (SR)
68 Ishmael Wilson (SO)

In putting this together, I'm assuming that Colbert will return after missing most of the game against Texas.  That pushes Muir back to LG, where he's our best option next to Drango, and relieves Blackmar to his backup spot at center and guard.

If this works out as I expect, the good news for Baylor is that though we're one injury away from repeating the Lynx Hawthorne experience, our offensive line is still as solid as a rock, and UNC's defense gave up 4.77 yards/carry this season for 94th in the country. That's worse than every Big 12 team except Kansas and Texas Tech.  Should things go really bad at any point, I'm confident that the three-headed monster of Chafin/Jefferson/Williams will be able to get yards on the ground.

At WR, I'm guessing that Baylor moves Cannon out to the role vacated by Coleman, elevating Platt to a starting spot.  If they don't, you could see Zamora take over on the outside.  Whichever happens, without Coleman as a go-to, multiple guys will have to step up.  As long as the conditions allow it, I'd expect to see something very similar to the early game plan against Oklahoma State, where Baylor let Stidham gain confidence early with a few easy throws before trying to open things up.  That means WR screens to Cannon and Lee and dump-offs to the RBs.  Then, if we find something we like, a bomb or two to test the waters.

Defense:


FIRST TEAM SECOND TEAM
RE 2 Shawn Oakman (SR)
15 Brian Nance (SO)
DT 95 Beau Blackshear (SR) 96
97
Byron Bonds (JR)
Ira Lewis (RS-FR)
NG 75 Andrew Billings (JR)
91 Andrew Morris (RS-FR)
LE 92 Jamal Palmer (SR) 56
K.J. Smith (SO)
WLB 11
Taylor Young (SO) OR
20
Aiavion Edwards (JR)
MLB 5

Grant Campbell (SR)

19
Raaquan Davis (SO)
NB 48 Travon Blanchard (SO)
21
Patrick Levels (JR)
CB 9
Ryan Reid (JR)
3 Tion Wright (JR)
DS 28 Orion Stewart (JR) 26
Taion Sells (JR)
CS 18 Chance Waz (SO)
13 Terrell Burt (SR)
CB 4 Xavien Howard (JR)
7
Jourdan Blake (RS-FR) OR
Verkedric Vaughns (RS-FR)

As crazy as things have been on offense for Baylor, the defense is still pretty much set outside of safety, where I'm projecting that Stewart returns to a starting role next to Waz.  If he doesn't, though, Sells will get the call again.

Since our injury situation here is actually pretty good (KNOCK ON WOOD), there's not much more to say.  We'll get more into the matchups and how things line up as we get closer to the game.