The Bears were able to pull off a gritty win on Saturday and keep their bowl game hopes alive. It wasn’t the prettiest game, but winning on Saturday help set up for a very interesting November. My high school coach always preached that he wanted us to be playing “meaningful football in November”, and although we as fans cannot play, after Saturday we are at least now assured to be watching meaningful football in November. Before Baylor takes on its toughest stretch of football (UT and WVU on the road), I thought it would be appropriate to give some midterm grades for several key positions.
After a 3-week quarterback “controversy”, Charlie Brewer has settled in as the leading signal caller. Right now, this team feels like one that will only go as far as Charlie Brewer takes us. For the most part he has a done a fantastic job of delivering accurate passes, avoiding sacks, making plays with his feet, and best of all, getting up after taking some big shots. I’ll also give credit to Jalan McClendon. He’s made some nice plays with both his arm and legs, and by all accounts has been one of the hardest working guys since arriving on campus. I believe that’s all you can really ask for in a grad-transfer; a guy that competes, pushes the starter, and plays well when called upon.
The first reason I can’t give an A- is because of a few costly turnovers. A fumble before the half against UTSA and a pick 6 against Duke were both critical turnovers. We also have not hit on as many “9” routes that I had hoped for. While it doesn’t seem to be the forte of this offense to rely on those, nonetheless, we have missed a couple of opportunities.
Running Backs: A-
At first glance it may seem like a homer move to give this group an A-, but I truly believe they deserve it. While they haven’t broken through with long touchdown runs, other skills are standing out when needed. First, JaMycal Hasty has emerged as solid pass catching running back. We knew what Trestan Ebner could do in that regard, but now we have another pass catching threat. Next, our running backs, particularly John Lovett and JaMycal Hasty have been solid in their pass protection duties. I believe that Lovett has been underrated as a pass blocker, and both guys have shown they are not afraid to step up to a blitzing linebacker. It really shows grit and resolve. Third, contrary to last year, our running backs have been able to convert on 3rd and 4th down short yardage situations. Wide receiver, Jalen Hurd has been a big help in that aspect of the running game along with our running backs. Last, I’ve just been impressed with their overall effort. I think it would be easy to make an average offensive line the scapegoat and not play with much fire, but week in and week out these running backs are spinning off tackles, using stiff-arms, and lowering their pads in order to get that extra yard. It’s a deep group and after what we all saw from Craig Williams last Saturday, I am excited to see them play in the coming weeks.
Wide Receivers: B
Probably the most hyped group in the off-season, the wide receivers have accounted for plenty of highlights midway through the season. Jalen Hurd looks like he’s finding his groove in his new position, and Denzel Mims had the best catch of his career last Saturday. In addition, I think we have been fortunate to catch some glimpses of a future star, with Tyquan Thornton.
I would love to give this group a better grade, but I just don’t think the consistency has quite been there. Specifically, the group as a whole has just dropped too many passes this year. On top of that I think the group could do a better job of attacking the football. Once again, I would also liked to see our wide receivers come down with a few more deep balls.
Offensive Line: C
As was excepted, this group as a whole is better than last years. Despite losing a couple of major contributors (Josh Malin & Xavier Newman), the offensive line seems to be able to patch together an average group on game-days. This line has not dominated the trenches from the first to whistle to the last, and has lacked the sophistication to pick up on every blitz package out there. However, as evidenced by our overall offensive production this is by no means an inept line. It would be impossible to run the ball like Baylor has done the past couple of weeks without the talents of the offensive line. Concerning pass blocking, I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised at some of the stretches of consecutive plays where our quarterbacks have had a clean pocket.
Although the offensive line is steadily improving, there have also been plenty of discouraging moments to point to midway through the year. When playing ‘hat on hat’ against a bull rush our offensive lineman can hold their own. However, when opponents get creative, sometimes just mildly, by calling stunts, twists, delay blitzes, and everything in between, this is when the offensive line just seems confused. In addition, although I believe that giving up a few sacks is inevitable when you throw the ball as much as Baylor does, some of the ones that the offensive line has given up have been inexcusable. On more than one occasion opponents have been able to speed past the offensive line with not so much as a paw on them, allowing the defender a free shot on the quarterback. Most frustrating has been the amount of penalties that the offensive line has incurred. The tally of holding calls so far is a ridiculous amount; and a lot of that I believe can be attributed to confidence, or lack thereof. Last year this group was seen as the scapegoat for the awful season and I’m sure they felt the pressure coming into this season.
Halfway through the season there is much less to complain about this offense. Besides a quarter here or there, this offense has gone out each week and moved the ball consistently. There was certainly room for improvement, but overall it has been fun to watch this offense develop throughout the first 6 games.