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Baylor Football: 2013 Spring Scrimmage Preview

The last time most Baylor fans saw the green and gold on a field of play, the Bears were thrashing UCLA in the Holiday Bowl. Tomorrow, they will take the field in Waco ready to start the 2013-2014 season. With several dozen recruits and thousands of Baylor fans in attendance, it should be quite a show.

This was the last time most Baylor fans saw Art Briles on a field of play.  Until tomorrow.
This was the last time most Baylor fans saw Art Briles on a field of play. Until tomorrow.

First thing's first: my plans to make it to Waco tomorrow for both a Gut Pak and an afternoon with Baylor Football have regretfully come to naught. Family pressures and the simple fact that I live two-and-a-half hours away make it a logistical nightmare for me, and I can't justify the time given everything we have going on. I apologize to anyone disappointed that my liveblogging skills won't come to bear once again. We'll still have an Open Thread here at ODB that all will be free to join as they wish, and I'll post everything I can find in it once we get going. The Scrimmage starts at 1.

Recruits in Attendance:

In case you haven't checked out the Front Page here at ODB today, the biggest fish confirmed for attendance tomorrow is none other than all-everything WR K.D. Cannon of Mount Pleasant HS here in Texas. Ranked a 4* by every service there is, Cannon is probably the biggest WR target on our board after the commit of fellow-4* Davion Hall, who is also reportedly attending tomorrow, but to get him, Baylor will have to beat the likes of Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Florida State... and so on. Cannon is a huge fish to get there and will likely get the most attention of all the recruits on hand.

If he doesn't, it's because 5* Arlington DE (Martin HS) Myles Garrett will also be in attendance. Garrett's offer list is arguably more impressive even than Cannon's, featuring SEC powerhouses Alabama and LSU in addition to every major school in our own state. Garrett has been linked to Texas A&M most prominently in the past, but getting him on campus, even for something as seemingly small as the Spring Scrimmage, is quite the coup. He's an incredible player.

I won't share the entire rest of the list of recruits because I don't run a subscription-based recruiting site and don't want to take from those that do. I will say that list is quite impressive, and if you don't already have a sub to someone like (Baylor's 247Sports site) or (Baylor Rivals), now, heading into premium recruiting season in the spring and summer, is the time to get one. I'll also say that several recruits have confirmed their attendance on twitter, including Broken Arrow, OK LB Gyasi Akem, 2016 superstud RB (yes, he's a freshman) Kameron Martin, 2014 Abilene LB Cordell Dorsey, Dallas Skyline DT Ty Barrett, and current commits Terence Williams, Chris Platt, and Davion Hall. Those are just a few of the over 60 2014, 2015, and even 2016 recruits Baylor has invited that have confirmed they will attend. Many more have indicated a desire to attend but lack rides or have things like track meets they can't miss. Should be a special group there tomorrow, regardless. And People That Know Things say we should probably expect a commitment or two, if not more.

Remaining Issues: Offense

With Bryce Petty establishing himself as The Man at QB, the first offense is now largely set at everywhere other than right guard. The wide receivers I was so concerned about early in camp have sorted themselves out similarly, with Jay Lee taking the necessary huge step forward on one side, Clay Fuller joining him in that camp based on elite speed, and returning stalwarts Tevin Reese and Levi Norwood manning the middle. Antwan Goodley belongs in that group, as well, along with Corey Coleman (who finally practiced in full pads just yesterday after being limited by hamstring issues for most of the spring). The running backs are obviously established: Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin are both capable of starting and dominating to the tune of 1000+ yard seasons. They complement each other quite well and will be a more than capable pair this season.

No, any offensive issues we have going into tomorrow's scrimmage do not relate to the skill positions, but the offensive line. After Troy Baker tore his ACL, our offensive line necessarily shifted to compensate, and we now have an entirely different right side (and middle) than we thought we would. I'll be interested most of all to read how Desmine Hilliard, recipient of most of the first team snaps at RG this week, performs against our defensive line tomorrow. I have no bigger concerns than this.

The latest depth chart as I know it:

QB Bryce Petty (JR) Seth Russell (RS-Fr)
RB Lache Seastrunk (JR) Rashodrick Linwood (RS-Fr)
UB Glasco Martin (SR) Devin Chafin (RS-Fr)
WR Antwan Goodley (JR)
Lynx Hawthorne (RS-Ff)
IR Tevin Reese (SR) Corey Coleman (RS-Fr)
IR Levi Norwood (JR) Brandon Brown (FR)
WR Jay Lee (SO) Clay Fuller (JR)
TE Jordan Najvar (SR) Jerod Monk (SR)
LT Spencer Drango (SO) Tre'Von Armstead (RS-FR)
LG Cyril Richardson (SR) LaQuan McGowan (SO)
C Stefan Huber (SR) Kyle Fuller (RS-Fr)
RG Desmine Hilliard (SO) Jason Osei (FR) OR
LaQuan McGowan (SO)
RT Kelvin Palmer (SR) Pat Colbert (SO)

I don't think we're doing much hand-waving at this point; this is all stuff that has been seen/reported from practice and we should expect to see again tomorrow. Should I be wrong, I'll update the charts.

Remaining Issues: Defense

I ... actually can't think of many. From all accounts, the defensive line might be the strength of the defense in terms of depth and talent. The starters on the outside are the same we saw to finish the season: seniors Chris McAllister and Terrance Lloyd. On the inside, things have changed quite a bit: without either big DT we signed in the 2013 class on campus just yet, sophomore Beau Blackshear and sophomore-to-be Javonte Magee have taken over. That's right, 5* DE Magee has now apparently turned into DT/DE Magee, and he's doing extremely well there. Behind those two are 2013 starters Bryce Hager and Eddie Lackey, probably the two best known quantities we have at this point, flanked at the NB spot by the ageless Sam Holl. Senior Ahmad Dixon and freshman Terrell Burt have the safety spots sewn up at this point, with a 3-man senior rotation of Joe Williams, K.J. Morton, and Demetri Goodson at corner. That leaves us with this as our current depth chart:

LE Terrance Lloyd (SR) Shawn Oakman (JR)
DT Javonte Magee (SO) Trevor Clemons-Valdez (SO)
NG Beau Blackshear (SO) Suleiman Masumbuko (SO)
RE Chris McAllister (SR) Jamal Palmer (SO)
WLB Eddie Lackey (SR) Aiavion Edwards (RS-FR)
MLB Bryce Hager (JR) Kendall Ehrlich (RS-Fr)
NB Sam Holl (SR) Kiante Griffin (Fr)
CB K.J. Morton (SR), OR
Demetri Goodson (SR)
Xavien Howard (RS-Fr)
DS Ahmad Dixon (SR) K.J. Morton (SR)
CS Terrell Burt (SO)
Terrence Singleton (RS-Fr)
CB Joe Williams (SR) Darius Jones (SR)

That's probably the most-talented group we've had on campus in two decades, if not more. And after reading the practice and scrimmage reports, the proof is in the pudding. This group has given our explosive offense fits at times this spring, particularly the offensive line. At the same time, they've also learned a little about how the other side lives trying (and failing) to cover our fleet-footed receivers on the longball.

The key in how our defense will play tomorrow is, I think, predictable. Moving from NB to safety is no easy task, and we are asking quite a bit of Dixon to do it now in the latter stages of his Baylor career. I think he has the talent and athletic ability to do it without a doubt, but the results so far are somewhat mixed, exactly as you would expect them to be. So far, he's played the position for a grand total of 15 practices, and the learning process has had its ups and downs. How he plays in as close to a live game as it gets tomorrow will be quite telling, and he's my spotlight player on that side of the ball.

Breaking it down, here's what I want to see:

1. Decisive action from Bryce Petty either to run or pass-- More than a few sacks in practice and the informal scrimmages have come as a result of Bryce Petty simply holding on to the ball too long, so it's time for him to speed things up as Spring Practice comes to a close. Don't expect to see him run much, none of our QBs do in these types of scrimmages since they blow the play dead so quickly, but I want to see decisiveness. It's probably his only flaw at this point. Sometimes waiting too long for fear of making the wrong move can, in fact, be the wrong move.

2. Results on the ground-- Those familiar with results of recent Spring Scrimmages know we don't typically run the ball well statistically, probably because referees, for fear of injury, blow the play dead before it can develop. I still want to hear and read good things tomorrow from both Lache and Glasco, as well as Shock (Linwood) and Chafin behind them. Let the OL make the holes and hit them. This offense relies too much on a good running game to dance around.

3. The deep ball-- What has become the Art Briles offense at Baylor relies primarily on two things: running the ball hard and throwing it deep. Petty and Russell both have the arm to do it, so let's get it done. Give our gazelles a chance to run underneath it and make plays.

4. How good is our pass rush-- This one actually works for both sides. If the OL stonewalls the DL, that will say something about where we are. If the DL rips them to shreds, same thing. We have something like 20 sacks in the first three scrimmages this year, including 8 in just one. If that situation repeats itself, we've either got a great DL or a terrible OL. Or something in between.

5. Have we truly opened up the defensive playbook-- Ahmad Dixon told ESPN's David Ubben that Bennett is playing a much more fluid style of defense this year to take advantage of more speed and better coverage skills on the field. We'll see if that is true or if we fall into the passive zone that drives everyone crazy and endangers baby seals all over the world.