The 2019 football season was filled with dramatic moments and thankfully for Baylor fans, the Bears were able to be make the game-winning plays the majority of the time. Several of those plays were made by the Baylor wide-receiver unit. Now, with a 2nd round draft pick and a 6th-year senior moving on from the program, accounting for roughly 10 years of college experience, over 300 receptions and 40 TDs, the 2020 WR group will have huge shoes to fill. Thankfully, judging from their past play they seem very capable; possibly producing even greater results.
For this to happen, Tyquan Thornton will have to emerge as the new #1 threat. He needs to draw the double teams that Mims has done in previous seasons in order to open things up for the rest of the unit. And he must continue to make plays regardless of the coverage on him. He has the talent to get it done. As a matter of fact, arguably the most impressive ‘game-winning’ play was made by Thornton against West Virginia; battling for the ball all the way to ground, effectively securing the game for the Bears. And what about the number of pass interference calls he drew last year? It might seem like a weird observation, but it was noticeable. He was constantly being tugged on and most the time it was called though at other times (Georgia) it wasn’t. The only thing that might not stand out is his Yards After Catch (YAC). He has not yet shown the shake and quick lateral jukes as Corey Coleman or Kendall Wright, but he can still make plays after the catch. The play that stands out in the 2019 season is the one against Oklahoma State, halfway through the 3rd quarter with the Bears down 10. Tyquan caught a crossing route 3 yards past the line of scrimmage and proceeded to take it over 70 yards; with his speed all he needed was one step on the defender. Currently, Thornton is a player that is highly regarded mostly by Baylor fans and a few Big 12 fan die-hards, but expect him to make the preseason All Big 12 Team and garner much more attention on him in 2020 season.
Tyquan Thornton will also be supported by proven Juniors, R.J Sneed and Josh Fleeks. What a transformation both of these players took from their freshman to sophomore seasons. They tripled their production in receptions, going from a combined 20 to 67 in 2019. On top of that, R.J. was straight up clutch last year. He reminded me of Rod Tidwell, fictional character from the movie, Jerry Maguire, “I am a valuable commodity! I go across the middle!” Two memorable plays were, one on a 3rd down in OT against TCU to keep the drive alive, and another 3rd down against OU in the 1st quarter that led to the Bears first score; both times he went over the middle and both times he was hit hard. I don’t expect as big of a jump in production this coming year, but as long as it remains steady, that should be good enough to keep the unit successful.
There is also potential with other WRs on the roster. Gavin Holmes (remember him?) was on his way to being an elite play-maker as a freshman, before sitting out the last 2 seasons with an injury. He recorded 3 TDs in just 9 games. Jared Atkinson will also look to put together a nice Senior season. He has had a couple of flashing moments in his career; the most recent being a vital 3rd down catch that extended the tie scoring drive against TCU.
Certainly, one can argue that this WR unit is the best unit on the Baylor roster. And although there are some position groups that could have really used the spring practices, the Baylor WR group will be just fine with a summer and fall camp.