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Football: Pre-Spring Projected Depth Chart

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Baylor starts spring practice this week.

https://baylorbears.com/news/2018/8/3/football-three-takeaways-aug-3.aspx?path=football

Well, after a change of plans, Baylor will begin spring practice after spring break.

As I said in my previous article about Spring Ball, while the spring depth chart reveal is often one of the most exciting reveals since the end of the season, it will be less momentous this year because of all of the returning experience.

By the raw numbers, Baylor is losing 3 starters on offense (WR Jalen Hurd, and OL Black Blackmar and Patrick Lawrence) and 4 on defense (S Verkedric Vaughns, DEs Greg Roberts and BJ Thompson, DT Ira Lewis).

NCAA Football: Abilene Christian at Baylor
Lewis (#9) and Vaughns (#1) were two of Baylor’s senior leaders on defense.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

But as I discussed previously, because Baylor has taken so many guys in the past few years, all of these positions should be filled by guys who are already on campus; guys we have already seen get significant game action.

Nevertheless, doing a depth-chart prediction is fun, and you’ve gotta give the people what they want. So here it goes:

Quick note before I begin: At this point, it is quite clear that Baylor is going to rotate a ton of players, particularly on defense. So what I’ll try and do is place less of an emphasis on who starts, and more break down who is fighting for what playing time. For each position, the first line are the guys competing for the majority of snaps, the second line is backup.

Offense

At its heart, Baylor’s offense isn’t much different than what 80% of college offenses are running these days. They want want everyone else wants: versatile athletes who can create matchup problems. Every offensive play has a miss-match in mind that they want to exploit. The one “difference” in Baylor’s offense is that they’ve chosen to go all in on Tight Ends as a way to gain an advantage. Baylor, like everyone else in the Big 12, has great WR talent. Another area Baylor looks to use to its advtange is throwing to running backs out of the backfield.

QB: Charlie Brewer, Jr.

Gerry Bohanon, rFr. / Jacob Zeno, Fr.

Zeno gets here this spring. It will be interesting to see who wins the primary back up job come Fall.

RB: JaMycal Hasty, Sr. / Trestan Ebner, Jr.

Craig ‘Sqwirl’ Williams, rFr.

Baylor primarily used 3 backs last year. I think these are the three guys who will get the primary burn. This is assuming Lovett sticks at Safety, which I hope he does.

Wide Receivers: WRs are a confusing position to depth chart, because so much of it is dependent on formations. I.e., Baylor will regularly play with 1 WR all the way to 4 WR (when they go 5 wide it is usually with a RB flexing out). Thus, I will attempt to parse it out this way: 1st WR is the guy who is fighting to be out there when there is only 1 WR, 2nd when there are 2, and so on. This will have the effect of guy’s name appearing in multiple slots.

WR 1: Denzel Mims, Sr. / Tyquan Thornton, So.

Last year Tyquan replaced Mims a lot in these situations because of his predilection for making incredibly tough catches in one on one coverage.

NCAA Football: Baylor at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

WR 2: Christ Platt, Sr. / Tyquan Thornton, So.

Platt hopes to rebound after a season where he had an abysmal catch rate / target ratio. A lot of this has to do with Brewer missing him on a lot of deep shots, but he needs to be more consistent about catching the ball with his hands.

WR 3 (Inside Receiver): Josh Fleeks, So. / Jared Atkinson, Jr. / Marques Jones, Sr.

These are different style players. Fleeks is a smaller, bouncier player with great horizontal quickness. Atkinson has the potential to be a bigger, straight line player, like a psuedo-TE.

WR 4 (When Baylor Plays 4 WR sets): Marques Jones, Sr. / R.J. Sneed, So.

Jones has the leg-up here after finishing 2018 strong. If you’ve gathered, I think there are effectively 7 wide receivers who will primarily play this year. This is the number that did in 2018.

Tight End: Christoph Henle, So.

Tyler Henderson, So. / Ben Sims rFr.

Henle really established himself last year. The real competition is between Henderson and Sims for who becomes to the pass catching weapon who plays alongside Henle in 2 TE sets.

NCAA Football: Texas Bowl-Baylor vs Vandebilt Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Left Tackle: Connor Galvin, So.

Casey Phillips, rFr.

Galvin was awesome as an underweight true freshman last year. There is no reason to think he gives up the job.

Left Guard: Xavier Newman, Jr.

Jason Moore, So.

I wish that Newman would’ve let Baylor redshirt him last year after he dealt with a bad ankle injury. Oh well.

Center: Sam Tecklenburg, Sr.

Jackson Kimble, rFr.

NCAA Football: Abilene Christian at Baylor Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Right Guard: JohnCarlo Valentin, Sr.

Henry Klinge, So.

Right Tackle: Jake Fruhmorgen, Sr. / Blake Bedier, Jr.

Casey Phillips, rFr.

If Fruhmorgen is healthy and back to his old self, I really hope that they can redshirt Bedier.

Defense

Even more complicated than the offense, because Baylor subs even more and has tons of packages. I’ll do my best to convey what’s important here. Basically, against the smash-mouth spread types (Texas, Kansas State, Iowa State, and now Texas Tech) Baylor likes to play 4-down fronts, trying to control the line of scrimmage with great DL play. Against the more Air-Raid style teams (TCU, West Virginia, Oklahoma) they flex a lot into their 3 down front, giving them more flexibility on the back end. I’ll label out the standard positions, and then have a few of the niche positions at the end that get a lot of burn but won’t get a traditional label on the depth chart.

Defensive End: James Lockhart, Sr. / Niadre Zouzoua, Jr.

Josh Landry, rFr.

This is guesswork. I initially had Lynch in this spot, but I realized that DT might be even thinner than the DE depth.

Defensive Tackle: James Lynch, Jr.

Rob Saulin, So.

Lynch is the best player on Baylor’s defense.

Nose Tackle: Bravion Roy, Sr.

Chidi Ogbonnaya, So.

Roy has turned into a solid player and gotten much better each year. If he takes another step this year, it could really elevate Baylor’s defense.

Rush End: Deonte Williams, Jr. / Marje Smith rFr.

I think the differentiation between the “regular” DE and the Rush DE has gotten out of hand. They are different positions, to be sure, but not drastically. On 90% of downs these positions are doing the same thing. It is basically just a bonus if Baylor can have one of their DEs also do some unique stuff, dropping them into coverage and such, which allows them to more flexible and creative in their blitz packages. Anyway, when healthy Deonte Williams has been pretty good. Of course, I will continue to trumpet that incoming freshman Will Williams should play this spot.

NCAA Football: Kansas at Baylor Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Linebackers: Like everyone else, Baylor wants their linebackers to be tough enough to plug gaps in the run game, but athletic enough to not get torched in the pass game. On the weak side, they want a sturdier guy who will spend the vast majority of snaps attacking OL. At strong side, this position is basically a nickle defensive back who will first need to handle pass coverage responsibilities; any play-making behind the line of scrimmage is a bonus. The middle linebacker is both physically and functionally in-between these, and ideally needs to be good at both.

Weak Side Linebacker: Jordan Williams, Sr. / Terrel Bernard, So.

Jalen Pitre, Jr.

Williams is really pretty good against the run. He has most struggled in pass coverage, both man and zone. If he improves he could become a good all around linebacker. He’ll continue to get pushed by Bernard.

Middle Linebacker: Clay Johnston, Sr.

Terrel Bernard, So. / Ashton Logan, So.

Johnston needs to stay healthy. He is a very good player.

Strong Side Linebacker: Blake Lynch, Sr.

Jake Copeland, Jr. / Bryson Jackson, So.

Lynch, unsurprisingly after changing positions so many times, initially looked tentative at his new position. But he came on really strong towards the end of the year. He could be one of Baylor’s 2 or 3 best defenders next year.

NCAA Football: Texas Bowl-Baylor vs Vandebilt Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Secondary: Here is where it gets fun. Baylor of course bases out of the standard 4 defensive backs (2 safeties, 2 corners), but at times will play with up to 6 defensive backs on the field at a time. Baylor rotates a ton back here, so there are going to be a lot of guys who need to be ready to play. Baylor doesn’t really differentiate between either corner position or either safety position. Last year they primarily played CB Derrek Thomas to the boundary because of his height, but because all the guys are similarly sized this year I don’t think you’ll see as much of a difference. Rhule has gone on record as saying there is no difference between the two safety positions.

Cornerbacks: Grayland Arnold, Jr. / Raleigh Texada, Jr. / Jameson Houston, Sr. / Kalon Barnes, So.

Mark Milton, rFr. / Byron Hanspard, rFr.

Picking starters here is sort of pointless. Those top 4 guys are going to play a ton.

Safeties: Chris Miller, Sr. / Christian Morgan, So. / J.T. Woods, So. / John Lovett, Jr.

Depth is a problem here. I do wonder if they’ve toyed with the idea of moving Hanspard to safety. Regardless. I think Baylor will have a good starting two from whomever emerges here. Chris Miller gets way too much hate, he takes bad angles sometimes but he brings an athleticism and tenacity that really sets the tone for the defense.

NCAA Football: Baylor at Texas John Gutierrez-USA TODAY Sports

Nickle Corner: Mark Milton / I’m guessing.

Occasionally, paricularly on crucial passing downs, Baylor likes to bring in a 3rd CB who matches up against the offense’s best WR and usually plays tight man coverage. Last year Grayland did it some before being injured, then Texada, and even walk-on Zeke Brown. I’ve noticed, however, that this tends to be a specific position, and usually isn’t just one of the starters sliding over. Look for someone like Mark Milton to be groomed for this role.

“Up Safeties”: Henry Black, Sr. / J.T. Woods

Hakeem Vance, Fr.

On long distance 3rd downs, or even as a base package against true Air Raid teams, Baylor will play with 3 defensive lineman, 1 Linebacker, and 6 defensive backs. What this effectively means is Clay Johnston stays on the field flanked by 2 safeties who primarily do one of two things: play coverage in the flats or blitz the QB. Because of Blake Lynch’s athleticism, he stays on the field, meaning that there is 1 position up for grabs.

There it is, folks, 1700 words of pure conjecture. This is what spring football is all about.

Let me know what you think!