Baylor Football Preview

In less than two weeks I begin my tenure as a student in the class of 2016 at Baylor University. The amount of applications Baylor received for this class was the most in school history. This is undoubtedly the result of the Year of the Bear and all the media attention it brought to the University. While I’m excited to begin my time at Baylor and can’t wait for football season, I know that my class enters Baylor at the same time as the greatest football player in the school’s history exits. I don’t see the electricity colored AdiZero shoes of Robert Griffin III ever being filled, but he has laid the groundwork for my class and classes to follow. I mean this figuratively and literally. Figuratively because he has set the foundation for Baylor to have a solid football program that isn’t laughed at by the other schools in the conference. He
has set up Baylor football to be a team you have to give it your all against when you step out on the field against them. Literally because you could argue that Griffin was one of the deciding factors in the approval of building a brand new state of the art stadium, that for the first time in school history, will be on campus. I can’t wait to take part in everything Baylor. There won’t be an RGIII anymore, but he left the team in good hands.

As I watch a replay of the Baylor v. Oklahoma game from last year, there are a few things I can’t help but take notice of that exemplified how the team played all season. One is that the Bears offense is phenomenal and I have no doubt that the frantic pace of their offense will cause problems for every team they face this upcoming season. The second thought is the defense. Backup quarterback Blake Bell killed the Baylor defense on short-yardage situations, and starting quarterback Landry Jones beat up a weak Baylor secondary. While I’m not worried about Baylor’s offense putting up a lot of points, they won’t be nearly as efficient as they were with their Heisman winner at the helm. That is not a knock against Nick Florence; it’s just, as I said earlier, impossible to replace the best player in school history. Taking all of this into account, the defense needs to step up this year. From an optimist’s point of view, they can only get better after being near the bottom in nearly every defensive statistical category last year. The position that worried me the most last season was safety. Multiple games I noticed offenses would take aim at safety K.J. Morton. I’m sure others were targeted as well, but it seemed like every time I looked up Morton was getting beat, or receivers were looking over their shoulder at him as they crossed into the end zone. Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett is known for dialing up different blitzes and schemes to attack the opposing team’s quarterback and hurry passes. While additional rushers can make a quarterback rush throws, it also puts those in the secondary in one on one situations, and Morton got beat too often.

Another position I think will be interesting this year is running back. Terrance Ganaway is off to the NFL, which opens up the door for a slew of players to take over his carry load. The group includes returning players Jarred Salubi (senior) and Martin Glasco (junior). Salubi is best remembered for his performance in the Alamo Bowl where he gained 101 yards and had two touchdowns on only five carries. Martin’s best performance is when he had 83 yards in five carries against Rice last season. The third back to be in contention for a lot of carries this year is Lache Seastrunk who was a highly recruited player from Temple and is a transfer form the University of Oregon. The potential for Seastrunk is through the roof. His Rivals.com page compares him to running backs such as Jahvid Best and Michael Dyer. Both were star running backs at Cal and Auburn respectively. Ganaway last year was underrated as a back and what he meant to the Baylor offense. While Griffin is widely known as a great runner, Ganaway was an integral part of the Baylor rushing attack and the potent Baylor offense. Without him getting the bulk of the carries this year it will be interesting to see who responds and comes away with the starting role for this year’s Bears squad, or if head coach Art Briles decides to go with a running back by committee.

I believe that the Bears will make another bowl game this year. Their offense will decline a bit with the departure of Robert Griffin III, but their defense will improve enough to make up for it. I think the Bears record will be somewhere between 6-6 and 9-3. This all depends on how much the Bears defense improves, and how solid the new weapons will be on offense for Art Briles. I’ll admit, 9-3 is a stretch for this Bears squad. If I had to guess it exactly, I’d say the Bears end up at 8-4. Nick Florence is going to surprise a lot of people this year with how good he really is, and how good the weapons around him really are; weapons that will include a fast, quick hitting running game. With a full year under his belt, I believe Phil Bennett will be able to push the right buttons leading the Bears to some close victories. It’ll be a good season for the Bears, and I can’t wait to take it all in.

-Colby

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