Disclaimer: Most of the piece below was written before today’s news. With the news that Baylor football is parting ways with offensive coordinator Larry Fedora, it’s quite possible that Baylor fans will never get an answer to their question. Did the 2020 offense stall because of quarterback play or offensive play-calling?
Quarterback C-: The quarterback discussion for Baylor in 2020 has been beaten to death on blogs, message boards and other publications all season long. I went back and forth on the issue and while I agree that the quarterback play took a step back from the previous two seasons, I just can’t place the offensive woes from 2020 mainly on Charlie Brewer. If a QB is forced to handle a shotgun snap that’s rolled back to him, that’s not his fault. If a QB gets blown up in the backfield within one second, that’s not his fault. And if a QB has to throw the ball at the feet of a RB on screen pass because the defense has sniffed it out, that’s also not his fault. All those misfortunes happened time and time again this season. So even though I am aware that there are fans that think this should be failing grade, I do not share the same belief.
In the end, the Bears were able to be competitive with the top two teams (OU & ISU) in the league and had a quarterback put the team on his back for a victory against Kansas State. Think about some of the worst years in Baylor football history, 1998-2003 & 2007. Do fans remember having a QB that had the capability to single handily lead a team to victory? I don’t remember that and that has to count for something.
Still, there was a lot to be desired. There were game ending interceptions, accuracy issues, and too many sacks that set the team back in several situations. The quarterback will always receive a disproportionate amount of blame when the offense plays so poorly and that is no different for Baylor football.
Running Backs B-: I think this group played with a lot of guts all season long. Fans were able to get a good glimpse at six running backs, and each of them had their moments. The most exciting was Craig Williams against TCU. All year long these guys battled and for the most part protected the football. We also continued to see the running backs being used efficiently in the passing game. The group accounted for over 60 receptions, with Qualan Jones and Jonah White individually posting an 8 &9 reception game respectively.
The reason that the grade is not higher is because we did not see as many highlight runs as years prior. Whether because of the offensive line or the fact the Bears were usually trailing and needing to throw the ball, we did not see very many moments where the RBs put the team on their back. Last year the running back group sealed 2 games; one on a long run by John Lovett against Kansas State, and the other when JaMycal Hasty went 73 yards against Oklahoma State.
Wide Receivers C : I wrote a lot of about my critique of this position group earlier in the season. In short, it just seemed like the group was only going through the motions. There was lackluster blocking, dropped passes, and a disappointing amount of overall explosiveness. However, R.J Sneed alone played well enough to give this unit a passing grade. My offensive MVP in 2020, R.J’s production was on par with his 2019 stats, while playing in only 9 games. And it was the highlight catches that really showcased his talent.
I’ll repeat what I have said about this unit. I believe there is plenty of talent and there is no reason why it can’t be in the upper echelon in the conference. Maybe it was the circumstances around the entire offense, but I expected more from this group in 2020.
Offensive Line D: There were a lot of position groups that played below expectations in 2020, and the offensive line might have been the most disappointing. There just wasn’t any reason for this unit to be as bad as they were. In 2017 when the Bears started a converted TE at center and multiple true freshman, it became the worst offensive line I have ever seen in the Big 12, but at the same it was at least somewhat understandable. I can’t be as forgiving with the 2020 group. On paper, the line consisted of a couple of borderline All-Conference players, multiple years of experience, and several combined starts between them.
In the end that didn’t seem to be enough. Opponents sacked the Baylor quarterback over 30 times. Baylor lost over 300 yards on the ground and averaged less than 3 yards per rushing attempt. You wont win many football games with those kinds of numbers. And that’s just how the numbers played out, things looked even worse to the eye test. The Bears still struggled to pick up even the simplest blitz schemes, caught some ill-timed penalties, and seemed to lack communication with each other.