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Zach Smith is the Next Man Up

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"The good news is that I think he'll heal up just fine, but the bad news is that I don't think he'll get back this year," acting Baylor coach Jim Grobe said.  "Just really, really sad because you love the kid so much."

NCAA Football: Baylor at Oklahoma
Seth Russell being Tended to
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

When Oklahoma safety Steven Parker immediately waived to the sidelines to summon aid for downed Baylor Quarterback Seth Russell, he probably knew but thought little or nothing of the fact that he was also waiving onto the field Baylor's next in line, Zach Smith. The game and season ending injury to Seth Russell was so striking that ESPN refused to air the replay of the injury a second time. Our Daily Bears has that story here, Baylor QB Seth Russell Carted Off the Field in Norman here, A Collection of Tweets About Seth Russell, Including How Awesome He Is and here, Baylor Announces Season Ending Surgery for QB Seth Russell.

"The good news is that I think he'll heal up just fine, but the bad news is that I don't think he'll get back this year," acting Baylor coach Jim Grobe said. "Just really, really sad because you love the kid so much."

WacoTrib’s Bryce Cherry says Russell was a fighter and he showed class. From BearsExtra.

Russell is nobody’s enemy, only an opponent. In the midst of the most tumultuous year in program history, Russell represents the poster boy for everything Baylor football aspires to be. He plays hard. He never dogs it. He shows character in the way he carries himself, on the field and away from it.

Russell had become the team’s most poignant spokesman. Game after game, week after week, he faced the camera lenses and the digital recorders and answered questions, not all of them lighthearted or pleasant. He did so with a mature perspective. His measured, big-picture response in the wake of former coach Art Briles’ firing in May provided a necessary balm to Baylor’s wounded fan base.

So, obviously, when he dislocated his ankle in the third quarter of Saturday’s 45-24 loss to Oklahoma, the pain cut every player and coach on the BU sideline.

From backup quarterback Zach Smith: “I was kind of shocked, he’s like a brother to me.” “It hit us pretty hard,” cornerback Ryan Reid said. “When one of our brothers always goes down, it’s going to hit us pretty hard.”

Added linebacker Aiavion Edwards: “I was hurt, hurt for him. He’s gone through a lot with the neck last year and then this. You hate for a guy who works so hard and is such a great leader on the field to see something like that happen. He’s positive about it right now, but it’s a big hit for our team.”

Seth Russell ends his season with a 136.9 QB Rating with 20 TD passes against 8 interceptions and 13 sacks. His 54.7% 2016 completion percentage represents 278 attempts with 152 completions for 2,136 yards averaging 7.65 yards per attempt. Russell also rushed for 506 yards this season on 94 rushes for an average of 5.4 yards per rush with 8 rushing TD's. Over his career, Russell passed for 5,461 yards with 60 TD's against 18 interceptions and 21 sacks for a QB rating of 159.36.

Next Man Up

"Next man up" is a phrase all too familiar for the Baylor Bears. During the 2015 season, Baylor lost three different starting quarterbacks to injuries and eventually ended up perfecting the "Wild Bear" offense with which Baylor set an all time bowl record of 645 rushing yards against North Carolina in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Enter Zach Smith

Next man up is true freshman Zach Smith. Prior to coming in during the Oklahoma game, Zach Smith had already seen limited playing time during 4 of Baylor's first 6 games this year and had passed for 128 yards on 20 attempts with 10 completions and one touchdown. Coming in late during Saturday's Oklahoma game, Smith completed 6 of 15 pass attempts for 144 yards and one TD and rushed for another TD accounting for half of Baylor’s 24 points in that game.

Zach Smith’s High School Days

Zach Smith left a lasting legacy at Grandview High School from which he graduated early to join the Bears for Spring practice. From 247 sports:

For more than 1 1/2 years, Grandview (TX) High School quarterback Zach Smith has held his pledge solidly to Baylor. During a camp in Waco on June 1, 2014, the 6-foot-4, 223-pound signal caller was offered on the spot by the Baylor staff and Smith opted to pull the trigger immediately.

Former Baylor offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery spotted Smith in the midst of 125 prospects on campus during the camp and when Montgomery left to take the head coaching position at Tulsa prior to the 2015 season, Kendal Briles moved into the coordinator position and assured Smith he was the quarterback they wanted. Head coach Art Briles was also always quick to confirm what Montgomery and his son saw in Smith.

While at Grandview, Smith was the Zebra's all-time leader in every passing category as well as one of the state's most accomplised high school passers. From Cleburne Time Review dot com:

Smith ended his career with 10,217 passing yards and 113 passing touchdowns, which place him in the top 10 of each category in Texas high school football history.

"It means a lot," Smith said. "It just reminds me of how blessed I am to have been able to be healthy my whole career and have the teammates and coaches I’ve had."

Grandview Coach Casey Walraven said the things Smith accomplished in his three seasons of varsity football are mind-blowing.

"It’s very special — there’s been a lot of high school quarterbacks in the state’s history, obviously," Walraven said. "If you’re in the top 10 of all time, you’re talking about some really, really good players you’re in company with. To be able to say that and to say that he’s from Grandview and that I was fortunate enough to be able to coach him, that’s something you don’t see come across very often in a lifetime. To see something like that where he’s up there with Colt McCoy and Kyler Murray is special, not just for Zach or the football program, but for the community."

Smith is in similar ranks as McCoy (Tuscola Jim Ned High School, University of Texas and currently of the Washington Redskins), Murray (Allen), and G.J. Kinne (Canton and Gilmer).

Smith’s list of accomplishments and awards include the Built Ford Tough Class 3A player of the week (twice), Associated Press All-State, All-Johnson County offensive MVP and newcomer, all-district newcomer and offensive MVP, a Semper Fidels All-American, and the list goes on.

While Smith fits the mold of an ideal quarterback at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds with a strong arm, Walraven said it’s the other things that makes Smith a great quarterback, leader and teammate.

"It shows that you can have size, you can have immaculate ability, but he’s shown that that’s not enough," Walraven said. "You need to work hard, you need to make sure you’re a leader — that it’s not about you, it’s about everybody else. He could’ve easily been arrogant through this whole thing and done a lot of things selfishly, but he did the opposite. I think that is one reason why he was able to do what he did because the team continued to rally around him. What he’s accomplished is something that Grandview can be proud of."

Grandview coach Casey Walraven knew early on that he had a special talent in his young quarterback Zach Smith. From Waco Tribune Herald:

"I sat him down in the eighth grade and asked him about his dreams and aspirations," Walraven said. "He said he wanted to play football at the highest level possible, and he has worked hard in the weight room and learning the game since then."

Walraven, who likens Smith to Tom Brady, believes Smith possesses attributes that are beyond the norm for most high school quarterbacks.

"One of the highest compliments I can make is that with all the high-speed offenses today, Zach has the ability to slow the game down in his mind," Walraven said. "He sees where we need to go with the ball and puts it there. He also is very good at using eye manipulation to move defenders."

Smith’s selection of Baylor did not surprise Walraven.

"I knew Zach would be getting some interest from colleges," Walraven said. "He was playing well and attending camps, so I asked him to make a list of five schools he would be interested in. Baylor was at the top of his list."

Smith, who attended the opening game at McLane Stadium, said he is firmly committed to the Bears.

"I just really liked everything about it, the school, the atmosphere, the people" he said. "It felt like my hometown."

Smith, who is well aware of the quarterback legacy at Baylor, added, "I really felt comfortable with all the coaches as well, Coach (Phillip) Montgomery and Coach (Art) Briles."

Montgomery, the Bears’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, was lead recruiter for Smith.

As far as Smith making the transition from the 2A high school level to Division I football, Walraven isn’t concerned.

"Sure there will be a learning curve and he’s going to see more athletic defensive backs," he said. "But he’s also going to have a good offensive line and receivers that can go and get the ball.

"He doesn’t have that kind of athleticism here, so he has to focus on being very accurate, putting the ball on the money for our receivers. I think he’ll be able to relax at the next level and let it fly."

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