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Previewing Baylor Football 2017: Anu Solomon’s Shot

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Can the transfer return to form?

NCAA Football: Arizona at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Anu Solomon arrives at Baylor with one year of eligibility remaining. He has a chance to prove he can still be the quarterback he was before several injuries.

This is the fifth post in a series that will look at every Baylor football player expected to see the field this season. You can read post on Zach Smith , Terence Williams, Blake Lynch , or Chris Platt by clicking on the player’s last name.

We’ll follow the same format we use for all of these. We’ll look at Solomon’s strengths and weakness before offering a prediction of how he’ll do this season.

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Strengths:

Anu Solomon was an excellent quarterback. He threw for 3,793 yards as a freshman and had 28 touchdowns and just 9 interceptions. His stellar play that season earned him PAC-12 honorable mention.

Solomon has won a lot of games. At Bishop Gorman High School—one of the top football schools in the country—he was the starting quarterback on four state championship teams. At Arizona, he became the school’s first freshman starter. The Wildcats went 10-2 with him at the helm. That record secured a PAC-12 South Championship and Fiesta Bowl appearance.

As a sophomore, Solomon improved in nearly facet of the game. His completion percentage, yards per attempt, rating and Q.B.R went up. He also threw fewer interceptions. And he displayed the skills few quarterbacks can, as he fired passes like this:

While he doesn’t run for a ton of yards, he’s capable of picking up first downs with his legs. The 6-foot-2-inch quarterback fights hard for every yard:

Against BYU last season, Solomon flashed one of his best skills: his ability to throw on the run. In 2016, Arizona had one of the worst offensive lines I’ve seen in major college football. But with such a bad line, he had chances to throw on the run:

Baylor’s offensive line is one of the biggest concerns in 2017. With retirements and graduations, the Bears have limited depth at the position. Any injury on the offensive line could radically change Baylor’s offense. If that happens, the quarterback will have less time to throw and running lanes will disappear. But Solomon has shown he can complete passes in those conditions:

Solomon has a strong arm. His arm isn’t quite Zach Smith’s, but there aren’t many throws he can’t make. Solomon can throw deep shots on a line:

Finally, Solomon is an incredibly intelligent man. He grasped Arizona’s offense and won the starting job in his second season with the program. During the past winter, he took additional classes so he could graduate early from Arizona. And when asked why he picked Baylor, he told ESPN’s Mitch Sherman one factor was that “they have a Raising Cane’s. That’s a big deal.” I concur.

Weaknesses:

Anu Solomon has had terrible luck avoiding injuries. He missed two games in 2015 because of a concussion. Last season, he missed six straight games because of an M.C.L injury. He then injured his foot against Oregon State.

Athletes often fail to come back the same after major injuries. Baylor fans can appreciate that. Seth Russell—while still a good quarterback—did not look the same on deep passes after his neck surgery. The concern with Solomon is that he may not be the star quarterback he was in 2014 and 2015. The difference between avoiding a pass rush or making a throw is small. When an athlete loses what they’ve had for years, making those small differences can be impossible.

One concern with Solomon after his injury is how well he will do avoiding turnovers. He threw two interceptions against BYU in 2016, and his completion percentage was below 55% in his final two games as a Wildcat. Hopefully this was just a bad throw because he wanted to create something against BYU:

Mitch Sherman of ESPN noted that Solomon had the longest streak in Arizona history of passes without a turnover. Hopefully once he gets his timing back he’ll return to form.

At times, Solomon can struggle completing passes. Two of his three seasons he had a completion percentage below 59%. That number isn’t terrible, but Arizona worked a lot of intermediate passes. The Bears will have a lower margin of error in an improved Big 12, and Solomon will need to give his receivers chances in single coverage:

Prediction:

Is Anu Solomon back? And if he is, can he stay healthy? If the answer to both questions is yes, then he has a good chance be Baylor’s starting quarterback.

When Anu Solomon was at his best, he was phenomenal. As a freshman, he won the PAC-12 South and threw for nearly 4,000 yards. The tape does not lie. Solomon can zip the ball, extend plays and fire deep passes. Add in his intelligence, and he has every skill a quarterback needs.

My belief is that Zach Smith is still likely to win the job. But watching Anu Solomon’s 2014 and 2015 games made me far less confident in that belief. Even if Solomon loses the job, he’ll likely see the field quite a bit. Due to injuries, Baylor’s backup quarterback has played at least a full half in four of the last six seasons.

Matt Rhule and his staff have done a lot to set Baylor up for success in the future. By landing Anu Solomon, they’ve given themselves a much better chance to succeed this season.