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Another Missing Element in 2020: The WR Group Making Plays

NCAA Football: Baylor at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The list of offensive woes for the Baylor football team in 2020 is long. Most notably, the quarterback and offensive line play has been suspect, and those problems have been compounded by bad play-calling, injuries, and inconsistency overall. But there is another element that has been absent all season long; the lack of playmaking ability shown from our WR position group.

It’s kind of hard to describe what defines a playmaker or someone that has playmaking potential. To me, it’s when a player has an opportunity to make a play in which he relies solely on his own capabilities. He has no help from the quarterback, scheme, or offensive line. It’s just an alpha putting matters into his own hands. A perfect example is at the 5:48 mark in the 1st quarter against Oklahoma. The Bears were driving and on a 2nd down throw Tyquan Thorton got above his defender, got two hands on the football, and had the ball batted away incomplete. Certainly, it wasn’t an easy play to make, and this might be nostalgia talking, but I think that’s the kind of play he made last year. It would have set up the Bears with a 1st and goal inside the 5-yar line and there would have been no need for a 46-yd field goal attempt. Unfortunately, outside of RJ Sneed (obviously) there hasn’t been those highlight plays from our WR group in 2020. In fact, from all the other WRs I can only think of two off the top of my head. One was Josh Fleeks spinning off, throwing off, and juking 3 TCU defenders on a simple swing pass to go down the sideline for a first down when the Bears were trailing 33-7. And the other is when freshman Jaylen Ellis got a foot down on an underthrown ball for the first catch of his career against the Sooners.

This WR group does not lack the ability to make game-changing plays. I could go on and on, but we have seen the potential in years past. Thorton sealed Baylor’s victory against WVU on a tough catch down the home sideline last year. We have also witnessed him grabbing a simple shallow cross and taking it 78-yds. Josh Fleeks has made contested touchdown catches in double coverage (KU 2018), and fans will remember Gavin Holmes in 2017 taking slants, skinny posts, and other easy routes for big gains and touchdowns, using nothing but his speed.

I’m not sure what changed in 2020. Obviously, Mims is gone and he used to really help the Bears make big-time plays, but it still feels like something else is missing. It could be lack of motivation with the way the season has gone. Not just in the W/L column, but with the lack of rhythm within the offense as well, For the record, I would take every single starting WR back in 2021 in a heartbeat. They are proven commodities who have shown the potential to be excellent. But I can’t say that as an overall group their performance hasn’t been underwhelming. It would be good advice for them to follow RJ Sneed’s lead. Don’t rely on the perfect throw, prefect scheme, or the offensive line to buy you all the time in the world to get open. Sometimes you just have to be the one to help your teammates out.