2016 Baylor Bears Football Preview

Team Info
Baylor Bears
Head Coach: Jim Grobe (interim)
2015 Record: 10-3 overall, 6-3 Big 12
2015 Bowl Result: Beat North Carolina 49-38 in Russell Athletic Bowl
2016 Returning Starters: 5 offense, 5 defense

Betting Info
Odds to Win 2017 College Football Championship Game: 60/1
Odds to Win 2016 Big 12 Championship: 10/1
Regular Season Wins: under 9 -175 / over 9 +145
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Baylor had a scandal plagued off-season and looks to get back on the football field.
Baylor had a scandal plagued off-season and looks to get back on the football field.

Baylor was potentially a top 10 team until one day in late May. After a long investigation into the university allegedly covering up sexual assaults by players for years, head coach Art Briles was fired. Chancellor Kenneth Starr was demoted and athletic director Ian McCraw would resign in the wake of the scandal. Baylor named former Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe as the interim head coach for 2016, but all of the coordinators kept their job, including Briles’ son Kendal as offensive coordinator. Of the 22 recruits in the 2016 signing class, nine left for other schools, including eight to other Big 12 schools. As of this writing, the school had avoided Penn State-type sanctions after the Sandusky scandal.

There is still a lot of talent here, but the depth will be affected. Baylor finished 10-3 last year but lost three of their last four regular season games after injuries decimated the Bears. In fact in a loss against Texas in the regular season finale, Baylor was down to their fourth string quarterback. The Bears would rebound with a somewhat surprising victory over North Carolina in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Here is a more in-depth look at the Bears on offense, defense and special teams, plus an analysis of the schedule.

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Offense

Baylor led the country in offense at at 617 yards per game last year and in scoring at 48 points a game. However, the offense sputtered at the end of the season when the quarterbacks started going down. Five starters are back on offense for Kendal Briles.

There was supposed to be a battle for quarterback between senior Seth Russell and sophomore Jarrett Stidham, who both started multiple games before season ending injuries. However, Stidham left the program in early July and announced he will transfer. Russell started the first seven games before suffering a neck injury against Iowa State. He threw for 2,104 yards with 29 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He also rushed for 402 yards and 6 touchdowns. Stidham threw for 1,265 yards with 12 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, and also had 2 rushing touchdowns before a broken ankle sidelined him. Chris Johnson was next in line and threw for 302 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions, and also rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown. Johnson graduated and transferred to Houston. So if something happens to Russell, the only other quarterbacks on the roster are freshmen Zach Smith and Zack Bennema.

While there is a lack of depth at quarterback, receiver, and on the offensive line, that is not a problem in the running backs. The Bears return two 1,000 yard rushers in Shock Linwood and Johnny Jefferson. Linwood rushed for 1,329 yards on 196 carries with 10 touchdowns, and also had 9 catches with a touchdown. Jefferson had exactly a 1,000 yards on 136 carries with 8 touchdowns. He rushed for 299 yards and 3 touchdowns in the Baylor bowl win as the Bears rushed for an NCAA record 645 yards. While  Baylor loses Devin Chafin (578 yards, 9 touchdowns), Terence Williams is back after he had 556 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns in a short yardage role. Redshirt freshman JaMycal Hasty will also get a lot of carries.

Receiver Corey Coleman left early for the NFL draft and was a first round pick of the Cleveland Browns. He had 74 catches for over 1.300 yards and 20 touchdowns. K.D. Cannon looks to take over as the go-to receiver after making 50 catches for 868 yards and 6 touchdowns. He is expected to be ready for the beginning of the season after getting his knee scoped last month. Jay Lee is now with the Detroit Lions after making 38 catches and 8 touchdowns last year. The only other veteran receiver is Lynx Hawthorne who made 10 catches with a touchdown, but rush for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns. He was pressed into quarterback duty when third string quarterback Johnson suffered a concussion against Texas. Ishmael Zamora should start at the other receiver after making 9 catches and 2 touchdowns last year. Jordan Feuerbacher will start at tight end but did not make a catch last year.

Senior center Kyle Fuller is the only returning starter on the line and has started every game for the past two seasons. JUCO transfer Dom DeSouza and sophomore Patrick Lawrence should start at the tackles. Blake Blackmar and Texas transfer Rami Hammad were supposed to start at the guards. However, Hammad was suspended indefinitely after being arrested earlier this month for allegedly assaulting a woman.

Defense

Baylor allowed 396 yards and 28 points a game last year. There was some talk that defensive coordinator Phil Bennett would be named the interim head coach as he had experience as head coach of SMU. He will stay as the defensive coordinator though. He gets five starters back in 2016.

The Bears must completely rebuild the defensive line as all four starters are gone. Still, there is a lot of raw talent to fill in those spots. K.J. Smith was a freshman All-American and will likely start at one end but he could also play tackle if needed. Byron Bonds has made 8 career starts at tackle.  Jeremy Faulk and Brian Nance should also start on the line. JUCO All-American transfer tackle DeQuinton Osborne committed to Baylor but was granted his release and signed with Oklahoma State.

Taylor Young should start at one linebacker, while Aiavion Edwards will man the other side. The duo combined for 141 tackles last year.

Baylor uses 5 defensive backs. Travon Blanchard will start at the Bear position, kind of a hybrid linebacker/cornerback. He had 83 tackles and 2 interceptions last year. Ryan Reid will start at one corner after making 3 interceptions last year. Redshirt freshman Jameson Houston should start at the other corner. The safeties will be Orion Stewart and Chance Waz who combined for 134 tackles.

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Special Teams

Kicker Chris Callahan made 8 of 13 field goals but missed all three attempts from beyond 40 yards. Punter Drew Galitz could challenge him for the kicking job. Galitz averaged over 40 yards per punt last year as a freshman. Baylor has speed to burn, but it didn’t really translate to the return game last year. Chris Platt should return kicks again after averaging 27 yards per return. Cannon and Zamora could also return some kicks. Hawthorne will likely return punts again.

Schedule and Outlook

Baylor opens with home games against Northwestern State and SMU before a road game at Rice. The Bears open conference play with a home game against Oklahoma State. October includes road trips to Iowa State and Texas sandwiched around a home game against Kansas. November opens with a home game against TCU and a road trip to Oklahoma. The rest of the season includes a home game against Kansas State, a neutral site game against Texas Tech in Arlington, and a road trip to West Virginia.

There is still a lot of talent here, but the defections have caused a lack of depth. No one knows how this team will react under an interim coach with all of the distractions happening. They could either fold under the pressure or rally together in an us against the world mentality. I think another bowl berth is likely but I don’t know if they can compete with Oklahoma, TCU, or Oklahoma State. I think this team wins 8 games.

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