When I sat down to write this post a year ago, I realized that the first order of business had to be defining what a "breakout player" means in this context. Here's what I said then:
Before we get into this, I need to define what I see as a "breakout" player, mostly so we can separate it from other discussions about newcomers of the year, transfers of the year, or whatever else. I'm not talking about someone who just got here and predictably blew up -- *cough* K.D. Cannon. I'm talking about someone who has been here for a while, flying under the radar a bit before (hopefully) exploding onto the scene.
Knowing what we know now, Antwan Goodley has to be the perfect archetype for a true breakout player. Before last season, Goodley had caught 19 passes for 197 yards and 2 TDs in his entire Baylor career-- about a hundred yards less than Terrance Williams had against West Virginia in 2012. Last season, he more than quadrupled his career receptions and sixtupled his yardage and touchdowns. He went from backup to All- ; a little more than zero (stick with me) to hero. That's what I'm looking for again.
Last year, my top five included two players that would prove themselves to be breakout players in every sense of the word: WR Corey Coleman and CB Xavien Howard. Coleman finished his breakout season as the top receiver on a team full of talented receivers, hauling in 64 passes for 1119 yards and 11 TDs in just 10 games. On the other side, despite taking his lumps against transcendent players like WVU's Kevin White, Xavien Howard established himself as a legitimate #1 corner in his sophomore season. He now returns as a no-doubt junior starter.
For the purposes of this post, I'm going to exclude guys that we already know should/will be amazing OR that already broke out last year. That means QB Seth Russell won't make the list, despite the overwhelming probability that he's going to put up huge numbers. It also means Taylor Young won't make it, either, since I'm pretty sure you lose the ability to "break out" in subsequent years when you're a freshman All-American. We're going a little more under-the-radar than that.
5. MLB Grant Campbell -- SR -- #5 -- 6-1, 230 pounds
Oh, you put our new starting MLB on the list as a breakout candidate, aren't you clever?
Hey, lay off for a second. With 18 starters returning from a team that won 11 games last season, the opportunities to truly "break out" are few and far between. We don't have many holes to fill, so those holes that do exist are naturally going to find their way onto this list. In addition, MLB is arguably the most important position on the entire defense considering he's the guy calling the defensive plays.
4. WR Ishmael Zamora -- SO -- #8 -- 6-4, 220 pounds
DON'T ACT SURPRISED. I'VE BEEN ON THAT ISH ZAMORA TRAIN FOR TWO YEARS. I TOLD YOU THIS WAS COMING.
Should it matter that he probably won't start, and thus won't get a ton of opportunities? Yeah, it really should. Does it? NO! Because I'm riding or dying with my boy Ish. This is a homer pick.
3. OG Jarell Broxton -- SR -- #6-5, 330 pounds
Penciled in at this point as Baylor's starting RG, Broxton will be extremely important to our continued offensive success. Regardless if our RT is Blake Muir or Pat Colbert (probably Colbert), that guy is going to need help, particularly in the running game. That's where Broxton, at a mammoth 6-5, 330 pounds, shines.
It's pretty tough for a guard to be a true "breakout player" since the stats aren't kept nearly so well, but I'm including Broxton here as my #2 as a nod both to Broxton's potential and the importance of the OL in general.
2. WR Lynx Hawthorne -- JR -- #7 -- 6-0, 200 pounds
Honestly, Lynx is probably the best archetype for a true breakout player Baylor has on its roster this year. Because we returned so many starters and I'm taking Seth Russell out to make it fair, Hawthorne is one of the few players who will be stepping into a starting role (at least as of this point) with an opportunity he's never really had before. Baylor will need a Levi Norwood-style receiver as a safety valve for Russell, and I could see Hawthorne assuming that role.
1. NB Travon Blanchard -- SO -- #48 -- 6-2, 205 pounds
As I mentioned in the LB/NB post a couple of days ago, I have big expectations for Blanchard's impact this season. He's extremely athletic, having played CB and safety at Baylor before finding his niche at NB, and he has excellent size for the position. He looked good, if inexperienced, when he came onto the field as the second NB in Baylor's 3-man front last year, and he now has another spring and camp under his belt. He's my pick as THE breakout player for Baylor Football this season.
Missed the Cut:
- WR Davion Hall -- Could he displace Hawthorne and build on the promise shown in his true freshman season? Definitely possible.
- WR Chris Platt -- Another possibility at IR.
- RB Johnny Jefferson -- I couldn't decide whether he can "break out" after running for 500 yards last season. Probably could.
- CB Tion Wright -- The hardest player to leave off this list because of the possibility that he beats out Ryan Reid at CB in his junior season. I really thought about going to six to include him.
Vote in the poll below for which of the five above you think will be Baylor's breakout player this coming season OR give me whoever I missed in the comments!