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2016 Fierce 40 Previews: #20 Baylor

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 1, 2016

#20 Baylor Bears

2015 Recap:

Injuries really hit Baylor hard coming down the stretch as they limped to a 10-3 record. Limped is the correct term as Baylor sat at 8-0 before numerous injuries derailed the offense. Baylor was on it's third string quarterback by the end of the season but Baylor did score a 49-38 Russell Athletic Bowl win over North Carolina to reach double digits in victories.


Coaching:
Jim Grobe has come aboard as a late replacement after the fallout from the Art Briles situation. Grobe is an interesting hire and has been questioned. Grobe has served previously as the head caoch at Ohio and Wake Forest. kendal Briles is still on staff as the offensive coordinator even though Art, his father, was forced into resignation after serving as head coach. Phil Bennett returns as the defensive coordinator.


Offense

Seth Russell comes back to the controls for his senior season after suffering a broken bone in his neck late last season. Russell had a 60% completion percentage with 2,104 yards and 29 touchdowns before the injury as he was piloting the offense that finished #1 in the nation at 616.2 YPG. Jarrett Stidham is ready to step in if needed and will likely see time under center regardless. KD Cannon eases the pain of having Corey Coleman being a first round draft pick for the NFL. Cannon has big play ability as he averaged nearly 19 yards per catch as a sophomore. Cannon could leave for the NFL a year early  with his quarterback Seth Russell. While Baylor racks up a ton of yards in the air it was the fact that the Bears finished #2 in the nation running the football at 326 yards per game that made them so successful. Shock Linwood and Johnny Jefferson are both back and each back topped 1,000 yards last saeason. Kyle Fuller remains the only returning starter along the line at center and as long as the line holds up and opens the same amount of holes as we have seen in years past the Baylor offense will be just fine.
 

Best Draft Prospects: KD Cannon WR 2nd/3rd Round 2018.

                                       Kyle Fuller C 4th Round 2017.


Defense

Baylor is set in the back of the defense as they were ranked in the middle of the pack last season (62nd overall). Taylor Young is an emerging star at the linebacker position and he ofers some pass rushing ability along the edge of the defense. Travon Blanchard will play along the outside with Young and is the leading returning tackler from 2015 with 83 tackles a season ago. Xavien Howard left a  year early at cornerback b ut there is plenty of leadership and skill with Orion Stewart returning. The real question arises along the line where Andrew Billings and Shawn Oakman are gone for life at the next level. K.J. Smith will be counted on to bring the pressure along the edge while Jeremy Faulk, Andrew Morris and Byron Bonds will rotate in the middle of the line.

Best Draft Prospects: Taylor Young LB 3rd Round 2018.

                                      Orion Stewart S 3rd Round 2017.


Special Teams:

Baylor was bested in the return game and for the first time in six seasons they failed to have a punt or kickoff return for a touchdown. the kicoff coverage was a little lackluster and untimely penalties hurt them. Chris Callahan scored over 100 points kicking but he had a whopping 83 PAT conversions and was only 8/13 on field goals with his longest made effort being just 39 yards. Drew Galitz had a promising freshman season punting the football but overall Baylor needs to improve their special teams play.


Schedule:

Baylor has been blasted repeatedly for their creampuff schedule. Outside of the conference schedule this season the toughest game looks to be a road contest with Rice so those questions will pop up once again. Oklahyoma is a road game in Novemeber and it comes after successive weeks against Texas and TCU. The September 24th home contest with Oklahoma State could be the most revealing game early on for the offense.

Draft and Overall Outlook:

Hard to gauge the overall outlook with a new coaching regime, especially the circumstances as to how the coaching staff came aboard. K.D. Cannon looks like the most explosive offensive player on the rosater but a number of running backs here will get a look at the next level. Baylor is thought of as an elite offensive squad but linebacker taylor Younf and safety Orion Stewart are the best pro prospects on the roster right now.

DJ Boyer