There are several questions that will have to be answered before Baylor takes the field in San Marcos, Texas to open the 2021 season. After dominating the spring game a few weeks ago, running back Abram Smith now has fans speculating how he will be used this upcoming year.
Even though Smith was recruited as a running back, by far his most successful season in a Baylor uniform took place on the opposite side of the ball. After taking over the starting role in November, Smith led the team in tackles for four consecutive games and tallied 48 total tackles in 2020. He seemed to get more comfortable and better each game. In 2021, assuming a healthy Terrel Bernard is back in action, I think Baylor fans figured that Smith would still be an integral part of the defense. In a league that still has a reputation for spreading it out and running hurry-up offenses, you need an extra linebacker to come in and play 15-25 snaps a game to give your starters some rest. He played well enough last year to earn playing time on defense, whether that comes in a starting role or not.
In comparison, in two years (2018 & 2019) of playing running back, Smith has accounted for 46 yards and just one TD. In some ways it makes sense. He has dealt with injuries and has had to play behind some fantastic players, including John Lovett, JaMycal Hasty, Jalen Hurd, and Trestan Ebner. And perhaps that’s why Smith was overlooked at that position. But he is now making fans think twice about his offensive capabilities. He looked great in the spring game. He was making nice cuts, breaking tackles, and showed a nice burst of speed. If there was an MVP for the game, he would have deserved it.
I think fans realize that Abram Smith will see plenty of playing time this year. What’s unclear is at what position. For me, I want Smith at the position where he can make the biggest difference. Meaning, even if he is the best running back on the roster, I would still want him to play linebacker if it was just going to be a negligible difference in the production. Currently, Baylor has 5 running backs that have shown some promise and have experience. If Smith is far and away better, so much so that he could put the team on his back and win a game—then obviously you hand him the ball this season. But if not, then I think it’s best to use him on defense.
This position controversy is much more understandable than the John Lovett one from two years ago. There were rumors that Lovett was somehow going to switch to safety going into his junior year. I never believed that would happen, but I can believe this one. The coaches will have all summer to study last years film and discuss Smith. Let's all hope he takes another leap in overall play in 2021 wherever he plays.