We’re four days away from the start of Baylor’s season, and the team has released their first depth chart of the year. Here’s a position-by-position breakdown of the week one starters. If you have any questions about a particular player, feel free to add them in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to answer them.
#12 Blake Shapen: After appearing in six games last season, Blake Shapen beat out Gerry Bohanon for the starting position this season. Shapen’s most impressive performance was a 3 touchdown, 0 interception, 82% completion percentage game against Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship. A redshirt sophomore, Shapen has 596 career yards, 5 career touchdowns, and 0 career interceptions.
#80 Monaray Baldwin: As a true freshman, Monaray Baldwin appeared in eight games, almost exclusively on special teams or running jet sweeps. The speedy (10.66 100 meter) receiver technically has only one reception and seven yards to his name, but that will change soon enough. With his smaller size (5’9, 164lbs), don’t expect him to win many jump balls along the sideline. Instead, Baldwin will make his mark from the slot flying past whichever linebacker is unfortunate enough to defend him. Baldwin is also listed as the team’s starting kick and punt returner.
#16 Hal Presley: Another true sophomore, Hal Presley also appeared in eight games and only has one career reception to his name. At 6’3, 199lbs, Presley has good size and should be able to haul in contested passes against physical defenders. As a high school senior, the former four-star recruit had 43 receptions for 1,073 yards and 16 touchdowns.
#88 Seth Jones: In a room of inexperienced starting WRs, Seth Jones is the least experienced. A redshirt sophomore, Jones played in three games over the last two years and recorded zero receptions. We won’t be able to say that again after Jones scores twice on Saturday!
#8 (prev. 86) Ben Sims: To simply say this fifth-year senior is one the most experienced member of the offense is an understatement. The Preseason All-Big 12 First Team tight end has nine career touchdown receptions (most in Baylor history for a TE), 530 career receiving yards, and a rushing touchdown. Sims is also a solid run blocker — Pro Football Focus gave him a respectable 61.7 run blocking grade last year. Sims will continue to be a pivotal piece of Baylor’s offensive scheme in 2022, especially early on, as the new wide receivers come into their own.
#22 Taye McWilliams: Taye McWilliams might be my favorite player on the offense this year, and that’s not just because we went to the same high school. It wasn’t easy for him to see the field last year behind two NFL running backs, but McWilliams made the most of his opportunities. As a sophomore, he played in three games, carrying the ball 17 times for 181 yards and 2 touchdowns. At 6’1, 213lbs, McWilliams is not an easy target to bring down.
#76 Connor Galvin: Baylor’s fifth-year senior started at left tackle for the Bears in 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. 2022 won’t be any different. Last season Connor Galvin earned a 91.2 pass blocking grade (fourth in the nation among players with 50 snaps) allowed only two QB hurries (no sacks), and committed only one penalty. Perhaps the team’s most NFL-ready player, Galvin should be the favorite to repeat as Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the year.
#65 Micah Mazzccua: Redshirt sophomore Micah Mazzccua steps in to replace graduate Xavier Newman-Johnson as Baylor’s starting left guard. Mazzccua has the least experience among starting linemen, and most of his 139 offensive snaps from 2021 occurred against Texas State, Texas Southern, and Kansas. To get the starting nod despite his youth, the coaching staff must be impressed with his physicality and potential.
#66 Jacob Gall: Baylor’s starting center last year, Jacob Gall, spent four years at Buffalo playing guard. The now sixth-year senior looks to build on a season where he registered the second-highest run blocking grade (83.1) and overall blocking grade (83.3) among Baylor linemen. Gall also earned All Big-12 Honorable Mention honors last season. It’s nice to have experience on the line, but experience at center is probably the most important.
#63 Grant Miller: Grant Miller started his career at Vanderbilt before transferring to Baylor and starting in all fourteen games at right guard. Miller doesn’t have the same accolades as Galvin, Gall, and Keith, but he is a steady presence on the right side of the line. Pro Football Focus only attributed four QB hurries allowed and two penalties to Miller last season. When it comes to offensive linemen, sometimes it’s a good sign when fans don’t hear their name very often.
#58 Gavin Byers: Gavin Byers is a junior offensive linemen who started eight games last season at right tackle before losing his starting position to Khalil Keith. His demotion, for lack of a better word, has more to do with the ascendence of Keith and less to do with poor play himself. Byers earned a respectable 76.5 overall rating and was incredibly consistent in run blocking and pass blocking. Baylor is fortunate to have an experienced backup (and starter this week) like Byers who would regularly start at most other schools in the conference.
#64 Khalil Keith: Khalil Keith is unlikely to play this week due to a lingering injury from fall camp; however, he is such a dominant force as Baylor’s right tackle that I can’t omit him. Keith enrolled at Baylor in 2017 from Alpine, Alabama, redshirted his first year, played very sparingly in 2018, and started to put the pieces together in 2019. Despite playing in almost every game since 2019, Keith has never entered the season as a starter. His 91.7 overall blocking and 91.2 run blocking grades last season were both top-ten in the country among linemen with at least 50 snaps.
#96 Cole Maxwell: Cole Maxwell is a sixth-year senior and returning starter at the defensive end position who has only played in 23 games due to two injury-protracted seasons. Last season was Maxwell’s breakout year, and his 22 tackles lead all defensive linemen on the team. A 2021 All-Big Honorable Mention, Maxwell is a reliable run-stopper and key contributor to Baylor’s top-20 run defense.
#95 Gabe Hall: Gabe Hall was forced into early action, playing in eight games as a true freshman in 2019, before redshirting in 2020. Last season, Hall played in thirteen games and won the starting position in week six. Hall’s six sacks were second on the team, and his 25 QB hurries lead the team. As the starter from week one, I wouldn’t be surprised if those numbers were even better this year.
#62 Siaki Ika: The former number one rated recruit in the state of Utah, “Apu” Ika began his career at LSU before transferring to Baylor. The 6’4 358lb nose tackle made an immediate impact last season, recording the third-most sacks (four), second-most QB hurries (24), and third-highest pass rushing grade (85.7) on the team. Apu’s accolades are numerous — 2021 Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year, 2021 AP All-Big 12 First team, 2022 Preseason All-Big 12 Defensive Team, to name a few — but his dominance in the middle of the line cannot be overstated.
#5 Dillon Doyle: Baylor will have new starters at multiple linebacker spots, but middle linebacker (MIKE) is not one of them. Dillon Doyle is a fifth-year senior and two-time starter for the Bears after transferring in from Iowa in 2021. The Preseason 2022 All-Big 12 Team LB was second on the team in tackles (91) and tackles for loss (8.5) last year, and he even tacked on a receiving and rushing touchdown. I’d bet on Doyle leading the team in tackles this year (disclaimer: we are not liable for any gambling losses you incur if you bet on Doyle leading the team in tackles).
#2 (prev. 52) Matt Jones: Replacing an NFL linebacker like Terrel Bernard is never easy, but if anyone is up to the task, it’s junior Matt Jones. Jones played in eight games as a redshirt freshman and all fourteen games as a sophomore last season, starting eight games as the JACK linebacker and one game as the WILL when Bernard was injured. During the previous season, Jones was a top-five in tackles (52) and sacks (6.5). You might wonder why Jones isn’t reprising his role as JACK — per Jones and the coaches, inside linebacker is a more natural fit for the team’s fifth-leading tackler.
#55 Garmon Randolph: As Baylor fans, we’ve all heard basketball announcers say, “so-and-so could play football if basketball doesn’t work out”. Standing at 6’7, we might hear the opposite for junior linebacker Garmon Randolph. Randolph started four games at JACK in place of the aforementioned Matt Jones last season, and he’s one of two possible replacements at the position as Jones shifts inside. Big 12 Defensive player of the week following his performance against Iowa State, Randolph has a lot of potential to be a disrupting force on the outside.
#7 (prev. 45) Bryson Jackson: Sixth-year senior Bryson Jackson has seen plenty of game time, appearing in 35 games since his redshirt sophomore year in 2019, but last year was his first season with significant snaps on the defense. He’ll be competing with Randolph for the starting JACK linebacker spot, looking to build upon his 26 career tackles and 3.5 sacks.
#13 Al Walcott: Senior Al Walcott is making a position change, from cornerback to STAR linebacker, to fill the void left by second-round NFL draft pick Jalen Pitre. Last season was Walcott’s first with significant playing time, during which he started in eight games, and collected the second-most interceptions on the team (including the 96 yard TD return in the Sugar Bowl). Walcott grades very well per Pro Football Focus; he has the second-highest run defense grade (80.4), tackling grade (82.1), and pass-rush grade (75.7) among returning players.
#11 Lorando Johnson: The game of musical chairs continues. Sophomore “Snaxx” Johnson was originally a backup to STAR linebacker Jalen Pitre, but Johnson and Walcott appear to have traded spots as Walcott takes over at STAR and Johnson is now at corner. The former four-star recruit and track competitor played in eight games last year (missing six due to injury) during which he recorded a handful of tackles. At 6’0, 193 pounds, Lorando has the build of a prototypical corner; he just needs to prove it on the field!
#3 (prev. 37) Mark Milton: The second-most experienced player in the secondary, fifth-year senior “MJ” Milton is the heir to NFL draft pick Kalon Barnes’ corner position. Milton played in every game last season, recording 26 tackles and two PBUs, and started against Kansas State and Texas Tech. Pro Football Focus grades Milton as the best player on the team in run defense (87.3) and tackling (90.0), but his coverage grades are inconsistent.
#4 Christian Morgan: With 21 starts over 45 games, fifth-year senior Christian Morgan has a lot of football under his belt. Last season, Morgan started the first 10 games before missing time due to an injury, but he still led the team with six pass breakups. This season, Morgan will move around between different safety positions and STAR, but most of his snaps will be in third-round NFL pick JT Woods’ old spot at free safety. Unsurprising given his experience, Morgan has the highest coverage grade among returning players per Pro Football Focus (80.0), but he ended last year with zero interceptions.
#20 Devin Lemear: As Morgan moves from strong to free safety, that leaves redshirt freshmen Devin Lemear to take over at strong safety. Last season, Lemear played in four games and recorded two tackles. At 5’11, 183 pounds, Lemear is a little undersized for the position, and I think he’s actually going to end up playing free safety, suggesting that someone else on the depth chart is playing most of the game at strong safety (for what it’s worth, Devin Neal’s father says on Twitter that Neal is going to start). Regardless, anyone good enough to be recruited at safety by Gary Patterson is good enough for me.
#98 Isaiah Hankins: If you can’t trust sophomore Isaiah Hankins, then who can you? Hankins made all 57 of his extra point attempts and 14 of his 20 field goal attempts last season. While perfect from within 30, Hankins is 3 for 5 from 40-49 yards away and 0 for 2 from 50+. Let’s hope the offense doesn’t stall around midfield enough for Hankins to have to attempt many 50-yarders, but if they do, I bet Hankins will be ready.
#99 Noah Rauschenberg: As an NCAA Football 14 player, I didn’t know it was possible to have multiple kickers on your depth chart. Fortunately for Baylor and senior Noah Rauschenberg, there can be more than one! Rauschenberg is a phenomenal kickoff specialist, securing 72 out of 82 kickoffs as touchbacks last season. His 89.4 Pro Football Focus rating was seventh in the country.
#43 Issac Power: Fifth-year senior and four-time starting punter Issac Power is already in the Baylor record books. He’s top-ten in Baylor history in career punts, career punting yards, career yards per punt, single-season punting average, and punts greater than 50 yards. 42% of Power’s punts were inside the 20 last season, and the few that were returned made it only 3.8 yards on average.
And there you have it — Baylor’s starters for week one! I’ll update this thread if anything changes throughout the week.
Statistics courtesy of NCAA, ESPN, Pro Football Focus, and Baylor University