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2017 Fierce 40 Previews: #37 Baylor

by DJ Boyer on Jul. 6, 2017

#37 Baylor Bears

2016 Recap:
Baylor started the season 6-0 and was ranked in the top 5 nationally. The Bears then went on a torrid losing streak and dropped from the ranks of respectability....stop me  if you have heard that one before. Baylor lost six more games in a row in fact before salvaging a winning record with a 31-12 upset over Boise State in the Cactus Bowl to come in 7-6.


Coaching:
Matt Rhule takes over after coming from Temple after last year was a mess with the Art Briles incident hanging over the University. We really don't know what to expect this season although Rhule was 28-23 in four years at Temple, turning around the program and leading them to back-to-back double digit win seasons. Jeff Nixon and Glenn Thomas will man the offense while Phil Snow serves as the defensive coordinator.


Offense

It will be interesting to see what sort of elements Matt Rhule brings to Baylor and the wide open offensive attack. Temple utilized three receiver sets often but they were more reliant on the running game and much of the offense went through the tight end position, both running and passing. The tight end usage is a departure from Baylor football. While there is a lot of turnover the receiving corps is deep and Chris Platt and Pooh Strikland can get the job done along the edge. Terence Williams and JaMychal Hasty give Baylor an impressive 1-2 punch running the football with excellent breakaway speed. Williams should receive most of the work and looks like a lock for  a 1,200 yards season. Zach Smith has the inside track to start at quarterback even with Anu Soloman coming over as a graduate transfer from Arizona. Nice to know Baylor will have depth at quarterback as they have suffered major injuries in each of the last two seasons. The offensive line is built more for the run so this could lend itself to Rhule using more of that Temple style rushing attack. Guard Blake Blackmar tips the scales at nearly 350 pounds and with Ismael Wilson Baylor has perhaps the best starting guard combo in the Big 12.
 

Best Draft Prospects: Blake Blackmar OG 4th/5th Round 2019.

                                       Terence Williams RB 4th Round 2019.


Defense

As explosive as the offense is things are usually the exact opposite for the defense. Last year the Bears ranked 81st nationally in total defense and really had problems holding leads. The defense returns only three starters overall and they are devoid any proven stars except for K.J. Smith. Smith is a star but unknown outside the conference but he should explode on the national scene this season. Smith had 7 sacks a season ago, the top returning sack artist for Baylor. Ira Lewis is a fellow member along the line at tackle and the junior really started to deveop near the end of last season. While the line seems to be in good hands the rest of the defense is a mystery. Baylor is filled with terriifc talent and great recruits but they are largely unproven. If the young cornerback duo of Jameson Houston (who we believe is a future star) and Grayland Arnold perform up to expectations, then the defense could surprise some teams within the Big 12.

Best Draft Prospects: K.J. Smith DE 3rd Round 2018.                

                                       Jameson Houston CB 2nd/3rd Round 2020.


Special Teams:

Drew Galitz is back to punt but could be pulling double duty and become the kicker as well. Tony Nicholson and JaMychal Hasty look like the top candidates to return kicks but Baylor is always filled with speed demons who are interchangable and return kicks and punts with ease. The kickoff and punt coverage regressed from 2015 and the units need to hold on to the football as turnovers and dumb penalties seemed to be a common theme in 2016.


Schedule:

Baylor in its tradiotional cupcake fashion will open with mighty Liberty at home. The Bears follow this up with UTSA and Duke before beginning the conference slate. The non-conference schedule is far from daunting but Baylor has played some ridiculously easy schedules in the past and the 2017 version isn't that bad. Baylor opens with Oklahoma at home so things get real very quickly for the Bears this year in Big 12 play.


Draft and Overall Outlook:

Taylor Young at linebacker is another prospect and the senior is the returning tackles leader but we feel he is slightly overrated. The outlook is very puzzling because there are so many unproven entities on defense but the talent is there and never lacking at Baylor. Throw a new coaching staff into the equation and you have plenty of reasons to be skeptical. We feel Baylor will be better than a season ago and eight or even nine wins is within reach. The talent isn't loaded with first or second day picks but there are plenty of players on both sides of the ball that will find their way on NFl rosters.

DJ Boyer