Tomorrow morning, thousands of Baylor Bears fans will get to see their beloved football team for the first time in almost exactly a third of a year. If you can make it to Waco for the 11:00 AM scrimmage, you absolutely should. The Seymour clan will be there in its entirety, and I hope to meet as many heretofore unknown ODBers as possible. Beyond that, having been to a few of this type of scrimmage in the Briles era, it should be a spectacular event in and of itself. If, for whatever reason, it's just not possible but you still want to stay connected to the goings-on, there will be a thread here on ODB for updates from those in attendance and off the twitterverse. After the event concludes, we can join up with those from BearsTruth at Dave's Burger Barn or do our own thing. We'll play it by ear with those in attendance.
All that said, I know most of us heading that way won't be making the drive just to get a sweet schedule poster. Instead, we're hoping to see the future of Baylor Football on display and maybe answer a few questions about the team going forward. Much has been made of the losses we suffered after our Big 12 Championship season, losing guys like Lache Seastrunk, Tevin Reese, Cyril Richardson, Eddie Lackey, and Ahmad Dixon to the draft and/or graduation. There are a lot of questions to be answered before we play again. So here's what I'll be looking at tomorrow on both sides of the ball:
1. The Offensive Line
The first thing I tend to watch when I see our offense play is the line, because everything starts there. In addition to the lineups, meaning who plays and where, I will pay special attention to new LG LaQuan McGowan (or LaQuan McMountain, as I'm trying to make a thing) and whoever we play at LT in the absence of Drango.
Speaking of Drango, word is that injuries to a few linemen cost us whatever chance we might have had to see a cohesive group of potential starters. Coming off his back surgery earlier this year, 2-year starter Spencer Drango was participating as a "shadow" behind the starting group for many of the practices but obviously won't play in the scrimmage tomorrow. I can't come up with a good reason for him to even consider it. After sitting out last season following his transfer from Hawaii, Blake Muir (or Muir The Elder, as may be your wont) showed well in grabbing a spot at center before also being injured. We'll find out together if he sees time tomorrow. Add to that Pat Colbert, a backup last season that was expected to step into Drango's spot for the spring, and both Desmine Hilliard, a returning starter, and Kyle Fuller, expected to contribute at either guard or center, and you have basically an entire line of players we may or may not get to see.
While is sucks to lose anyone to injuries of basically any kind, this is probably not altogether a bad thing. I believe Fuller and Hilliard should be ready to go tomorrow, giving us our potential starters at C and RG. Troy Baker is reportedly healthy once again after being limited last season, so that's our RT. Juniors McGowan and Jarell Broxton are both worth the price of admission (free, by the way) as our LG and all-everything, respectively. There's a ton of talent here, and it may turn out that having a few more known quantities out gives those behind them the chance to get reps they might otherwise have been denied.
Questions: Who plays C? Who plays LT? Will McMountain kill someone or something, like maybe a losing stallion after a failed joust? Will he take over from Oakman as the most physically imposing human I've ever seen?
2. The Defensive Line
I anticipate that we'll see the typical scrimmage schedule of 1O vs. 2D and vice-versa, with the 3s playing against each other, but I don't know. If that happens, when the 2O takes the field, my eyes will go to our defensive line. This group should be the most talented of the Art Briles Era, and arguably one of the most talented in school history. I want to see how our starting ends, Shawn Oakman and Jamal Palmer, get after a mobile QB in Seth Russell, probably the one player in the conference most capable of simulating Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight. I want to see how our DTs handle the run and keep linemen off our LBs. Really, considering it is our first defense against our second offense, I want to see domination. Oh, and Javonte Magee. Whether he's a DT or a DE, he's one of the most talented players we've ever had on the defensive line, and I'm ecstatic that he's back.
Questions: We've shown a three-man line in the past in this type of scrimmage. Will we do it again? Who is rotating on the second team with
? Where is Brian Nance?
3. The Linebackers
In addition to the obvious MLB and OLB spots, I'm including NB, or our "Bear" position, in this. Coming into the spring, I was extremely concerned about replacing Sam Holl at that spot given what we had on the roster. Then reports started rolling in that Kiante' Griffin was playing extremely well. Now those reports have become somewhat distant, so I want to see his battle with former walk-on Collin Brence for myself and get a feel for their athleticism at the position.
We've apparently had some trouble locking down the next starter at the OLB position, moving people through one after another. As I mentioned the other day, Kendall Ehrlich supposedly had the spot early before yielding to Xavier Phillips, with both trying to fight off JUCO transfer Grant Campbell. People simply won't stop talking about Taylor Young. I don't know for sure who will take the field first in this spot tomorrow, but I want to know.
Questions: Who starts at OLB? NB? Does Aiavion Edwards have the ability to fly his name would suggest?
4. The Secondary
All we hear about Xavien Howard is how awesome he's looked, and that's great. Same for Terrance Singleton, who has apparently capitalized on Terell Burt's absence at cover safety to great effect. That's two spots where reports are good. A third is down safety, where Orion Stewart has stepped in for Ahmad Dixon and played well. We've heard less about the other cornerback spot, coveted by Ryan Reid and a pair of newcomers in Tion Wright and Chris Sanders (who was injured for a while).
It seems like basically everyone I talk to about Baylor's defense this coming year cites our secondary as the greatest potential weakness. That's probably right. I'll be looking tomorrow to see how Howard, Singleton, Reid, Wright, Stewart, and company handle our receiving corps, which should be one the best, if not the best, in the conference next season. Hopefully, it won't be the bloodbath of scrimmages past.
Questions: Who starts opposite Howard? Assuming we line up with Goodley on one side and Jay Lee or Rhodes on the other, do they put Howard on Goodley or try to use his size against a bigger receiver? Is Tion Wright as fast as they say?
5. The Receivers
I feel like I've been driving the bandwagons on Corey Coleman and Robbie Rhodes long enough now that I can say I want to see them more than just about anybody else and not have it be weird. Coleman, in particular, has dominated prior scrimmages in a rhythm with Bryce Petty. Rhodes and Davion Hall are constantly being lauded for their promise. We know who Antwan Goodley is and what he can do, so that's less of an issue. I'm going to put Tre'Von Armstead in this category because A) he might kill me if I don't mention him, and B) I hope he catches a pass and just punishes someone, however, for daring to try to tackle him.
Questions: Goodley, Coleman, Norwood, and who as our starters? Who is the first DB to get run over by Armstead in the open field? O/U 2 for Corey Coleman TDs?
6. The Kickers
This is a position with nothing but questions. Do we have one, or are we going to be better off just eschewing field goals completely? Pooch kicks: are they still going to be a thing? And what's the deal with airline food?
Other, less important things that I'll be looking to see:
- RBs Devin Chafin and Johnny Jefferson -- because both have been quite impressive this spring, apparently.
- Andrew Billings vs. LaQuan McGowan -- because the stuff Japanese disaster movies are made of (don't hate me for going back to the Godzilla well).
- Jarell Broxton -- because his dad has commented here and that's awesome.
- QBs Seth Russell and -- because the future isn't that far off.
That's a lot of stuff to see. Hopefully there will be a ton of ODBers there tomorrow to help out!