Head Coach: Art Briles
2011 Record: 10-3 overall, 6-3 Big 12
2011 Bowl Result: Beat Washington 67-56 in the Alamo Bowl
Odds to Win Big 12 Championship: 40/1
All Odds Courtesy of Bovada
Last year was a banner year for Baylor athletics. The women’s basketball finished 40-0 and won the national championship led by Britney Griner. The Men’s basketball team made it to the Elite 8 before they lost to eventual national champion Kentucky. The baseball team made it to the super regionals in the NCAA tournament. Oh yeah, the football team won 10 games under coach Art Briles, thanks to a quarterback named Robert Griffin III.
Griffin, nicknamed RG3, ended up winning the school’s first ever Heisman trophy and was the second pick in the NFL draft by the Washington Redskins.
Baylor ended up 10-3 last year. The only losses were to Kansas St, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma St. In fact all three losses were in October when the Bears went 1-3. The Bears ended the season on a six game winning streak, including wins over Oklahoma (the first time they had ever beaten the Sooners) and Texas. Baylor ended up going to the Alamo Bowl where they beat Washington by the Arena Football like score of 67-56. It was arguably the most entertaining of the 34 bowl games last year. Baylor ended up #12 in the final polls, for the first time since 1986. It was the 18th bowl appearance in school history.
That 67-56 score was indicative of most of Baylor’s games last year. The offense was in the top 10 nationally but the defense was in the bottom ten. Baylor had games with scores like 50-48, 56-31, 36-35, 49-26, 55-28, 59-24, 42-39, 45-38, 66-42, and 48-24. The games were very entertaining to watch, unless you were a defensive purist. In which case you were probably cringing.
Last season, Baylor averaged 351.5 passing yards and 235.6 rushing yards. Both were in the top 10 nationally. Overall, Baylor was second in offense at 587 yards per game, and had one of the most balanced offenses in the country under coordinator Philip Montgomery. Of course, it helps if you have a quarterback with almost 5,000 combined rushing and passing yards and 47 touchdowns like RG3.
It will be up to senior Nick Florence to take on the impossible task of replacing Griffin. Though he has only thrown a total of 24 passes in the last two season, Florence played a lot in 2009 when Griffin tore his ACL. That season he completed 62% of his passes for 1,786 yards, with 6 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. He was sacked 19 times, but did have 3 rushing touchdowns. Last season, he was 9 for 12 for 151 yards with two passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown. All of his action came in the Texas Tech game when Griffin sat out the second half with a mild concussion. The Bears were only up 31-28 at the time, but outscored the Red Raiders 35-14 in the second half to win 66-42. So it isn’t like Florence is a complete novice. He justisn’tRobert Griffin III. Look, the offense will still put up a ton of yards and points just because of Briles’ offense, but it might not be crazy video game numbers like last year. Sophomore Bryce Petty is the back-up and quarterback of the future once Florence graduates.
Not only does Baylor have to replace Griffin and his 699 rushing yards, but they also have to replace leading rusher Terrance Ganaway who had 250 carries, 1,547 yards, and 21 touchdowns, plus a receiving touchdown. Ganaway is now with the New York Jets. Ganaway and Griffin had 429 of the team’s total 576 carries last year. Jarred Salubi is the leading returning rusher with 58 carries, 331 yards, and 3 touchdowns, along with 4 catches for 46 yards. Oregon transfer Lache Seastrunk will also get a lot of carries. He never played a down at Oregon as the Ducks had running backs like LaMichael James in front of him. Seastrunk is very quick and speedy. Salubi and Seastrunk could each get around 200 carries, as Florence will run on occasion but not anywhere close to what Griffin did. At Ultraback will be Glasco Martin who had 40 carries, 268 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Redshirt Freshman B.J. Allen will also see some time at Ultraback. Junior Erik Wolfe will be the fullback on the few occasions the Bears use one. He won’t get any carries but is a good blocking back.
Baylor must also replace leading receiver Kendall Wright, now with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans. Wright had 108 catches, 1,663 yards, and 14 touchdowns. Senior Terrance Williams will also be an NFL draft pick next year. Williams had 59 catches, 957 yards, and 11 touchdowns. Tevin Reese also returns after he had 51 catches, 877 yards, and 7 touchdowns. Lanear Simpson had 42 catches, 572 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Levi Norwood had only six catches last year, but will play a more significant role this year. The tight ends will be Jordan Najvar (15 catches, 146 yards, and 2 touchdowns) and Jerod Monk (9 catches, 100 yards, 2 touchdowns). Jay Lee, Clay Fuller, Michael Valdez, Corey Coleman, and Michigan transfer Darryl Stonum will also be in the mix. Coleman is a true freshman, but could be a star in the making.
The line must replace guard Robert T. Griffin (yes, the second Robert Griffin they must replace) and center Philip Blake. Tackle Ivory Wade moves to center to replace Blake. Guards Cyril Richardson and Cameron Kaufhold also return. Spencer Drango and Troy Baker will also start at the tackles. The line should be at least decent.
Former SMU coach Phil Bennett is in his second year as defensive coordinator. People might be surprised that Baylor actually fielded a defense last year. Well, there were 11 players on the field, but I don’t think you can call what they did defense. I am kidding around, of course, but actually Baylor improved slightly from 2010 when they were 106th out of 120 teams. Last year they were 92nd. The pass defense was terrible, but the run defense was average. But teams really didn’t need to run as they could easily torch the defense via an aerial assault. Aside from a 48-0 shutout over Stephen F. Austin, every other team scored over 24 points, and five times teams scored over 42 points.
Bennett uses a 4-2-5 defense. The line couldn’t produce a pass rush or stop the run on a regular basis last year. The tackles are relative newcomers in Nick and Kaeron Johnson who made spot starts last year. Both started in the Oklahoma win. Terrance Lloyd returns at end after he had 36 tackles, including 7 for loss, and 2.5 sacks. Gary Mason, Jr. will start at the other end. He had 8 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Chris McCallister, Tevin Elliott, Beau Blackshear, and Trevor Clemens-Valdez will also get time in the rotation.
Rodney Chadwick leads the linebackers after he had 68 tackles and broke up 5 passes last year. Bryce Hager enters the starting line-up after making 13 tackles last year. Eddy Lackey, Brody Trahan, and Cordarius Golston will also get time on a unit that struggled badly last year.
All five members of the secondary return, but as many times as they got burnt last year that might not be a good thing. Safety Sam Holl was second on the team in tackles with 113, and had 3 interceptions. Nickelback Ahmad Dixon had 89 tackles, 5.5 for loss, an interception and recovered 3 fumbles. Mike Hicks is the third safety, and he had 105 tackles and 3 interceptions. (It isn’t good when 3 of your top 4 tacklers are safeties) Chance Casey can play either safety or cornerback. Corner Jon Williams broke up 12 passes and had a 90 yard pick 6 against Texas Tech. Junior K.J. Morton is the other corner. He led the team with 4 interceptions.
Junior kicker Aaron Jones was only 10/17 on field goals last year. All of his misses were from beyond 40 yards, as he went 3 for 10 on long kicks. He needs to be more consistent. He was 19/27 two years ago as a freshman.
Sophomore Spencer Roth returns as the punter. He averaged 40.5 yards per punt, and landed 6 inside the 20. However, the coverage team was awful, and Baylor finished 118th in punting nationally out of 120 teams.
Antwan Goodley averaged 23.7 yards per kick return last year. Darius Jones averaged 20.1 yards per return, and Demetri Goodson averaged 33.3 yards per return in 3 attempts last year. Levi Norwood will return punts after he averaged 8.2 yards per return.
Baylor opens with home games against SMU and Sam Houston St, before road games at Louisiana-Monroe and West Virginia. The rest of the schedule includes home games against TCU, Kansas, Kansas St, and Oklahoma St. They play Texas Tech in Dallas. The Bears have road games at Texas, Iowa St, and Oklahoma.
The offense will be fine, even if it isn’t quite as explosive as last year. The defense has to get a lot better, but I don’t see that happening. Expect more shootouts this season. I think this team gets back to a bowl, but I can’t see more than 7 wins.
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