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2011 Baylor Preview – Offense
Baylor WR Kendall Wright
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Baylor Bear Offense
Preview 2011 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: The offense got QB Robert Griffin back and healthy, and the results showed with a phenomenal year in all phases. There were struggles against the better teams down the stretch, and the bowl loss to Illinois was a major disappointment, but the talent and experience are in place to be more consistent and even more explosive. The line loses NFL-talent Danny Watkins, but rising star Cyril Richardson will move over to left tackle and the line should turn out to be the best in the Art Briles era. Griffin should get plenty of time to make big things happen with a loaded receiving corps led by all-star Kendall Wright. There’s speed, experience, and talent to spread the ball around and make big things happen. Losing 1,218-yard back Jay Finley will hurt, but Jarred Salubi is a speedster and there’s enough depth to form a good rotation in the backfield.
Star of the offense: Junior QB Robert Griffin
Passing: Robert Griffin
304-454, 3,501 yds, 22 TD, 8 INT
Rushing: Robert Griffin
149 carries, 635 yds, 8 TD
Receiving: Kendall Wright
78 catches, 952 yds, 7 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior RB Jarred Salubi
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OT Cyril Richardson
Best pro prospect: Richardson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Griffin, 2) WR Kendall Wright, 3) Richardson
Strength of the offense: Speed, Experience
Weakness of the offense: Production Against The Top Teams, Workhorse Running Back
State of the Unit: It’s not a stretch to call this the best quarterback situation in the history of Baylor football. Not only does the backfield have one of the nation’s best all-around talents, but the reserves are all back for a passing game that finished third in the Big 12 in passing efficiency and 19th in the nation in passing.
Junior Robert Griffin, or RG3, came back from a major knee injury to produce an All-Big 12 season completing 67% of his throws for 3,501 yards with 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions showing he wasn’t just a runner who happened to throw. One of the nation’s fastest quarterbacks, coming up with one of the best 400-meter hurdle times in school history a few years ago winning the Big 12 gold medal. Just when he was coming into his own in 2009, he suffered an ACL tear that knocked him out for the year, but it happened early enough that he was able to come back for the start of last year. While he didn’t exactly let it rip with the running game, he came up with 635 yards and eight touchdowns highlighted by a 137-yard day against Colorado. At 6-2 and 220 pounds he has decent size, a strong, accurate arm, and peerless mobility, but he has to be stronger against the better teams. Just when Baylor needed a big finishing kick in November, the passing game sputtered with just two touchdown passes in the final two games and no scoring throws in the losses to Oklahoma State and Texas. Even so, he was accurate and didn’t struggle too much, but he still needs a little more help. It’s his job to carry the offense and be the best player on the field, but as last year showed, he can’t overcome the team’s other problems.
Griffin is the franchise, but junior Nick Florence is a proven, solid backup who stepped up in 2009 when injuries hit the quarterbacks. The 6-1, 195-pounder threw nine interceptions and just six touchdown passes, but he winged it around for 427 yards against Missouri in a shocking win. He got a little bit of mop-up work last year completing 6-of-12 passes for 55 yards, but with a decent arm and good mobility, the offense won’t fall off the map without him.
Redshirt freshman Bryce Petty is the future, The 6-3, 220-pound passer decommitted from Tennessee and was brought in to add more pop to the passing game. While he’s a runner, he’s not nearly dangerous enough to be called a dual-threat quarterback. With a live arm and good talent, there’s plenty of upside; he can step in if needed and get the passing game going.
Watch Out For … Even more expected from Griffin. He was great last year, but now this is his fourth year in the mix and he’s the signature star of the show. It’s asking a lot for him to take his game to another level, but that’s what the coaching staff is demanding.
Strength: Depth and talent. There aren’t many quarterbacks in America better than Griffin, while Florence is a veteran backup and Petty is a very, very good prospect who should be fantastic someday.
Weakness: Big games. Griffin threw 20 touchdown passes over the first eight games, but he was held to 164 yards and a touchdown in the blowout loss to TCU. He threw for 306 yards in the bowl loss to Illinois, but the offense only produced 14 points. The BU attack rocks against the mediocre, but the team is looking to improve and that can’t happen without bigger performances in the big battles.
Outlook: Florence is fine and Petty is a good one, but make no mistake about it; if Griffin isn’t the best player in the Big 12, Baylor isn’t making a big move. The quarterback situation is fantastic and Griffin is far enough away from the knee injury to start taking off and doing far more with his legs as well as improving his decision-making.
Unit Rating: 9
State of the Unit: While Robert Griffin might be the team’s most dangerous and talented running weapon, the ground game will miss Jay Finley, who set the Baylor single-season rushing record with 1,218 yards with 12 touchdowns. Finley was a home run hitter who stayed healthy and was one of the nation’s most dangerous backs, and now it’ll be a bit of a running back-by-committee approach.
5-9, 205-pound junior Jarred Salubi stayed at home in Waco even though he got several offers from bigger-name schools, and now it’s his time to shine. Lightning fast, the former Texas state champion sprinter averaged 8.3 yards per carry with 215 yards and two scores, and he also has decent hands, even though he didn’t show them off too often, catching six passes for 35 yards. The team’s fourth-leading rusher last year might not pound it between the tackles, but he’ll come up with several huge runs.
Senior Terrence Ganaway is the thumper in the equation finishing third on the team with 295 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 6.4 yards per carry. The 6-0, 240-pounder isn’t just used in short yardage situations; he’s a good back who can stay on the field for three downs and can come up with the big run now and then when given the chance. He’ll work in a backup combination with sophomore Glasco Martin, a 6-1, 210-pound physical runner who managed to get a few carries running nine times for 21 yards and a score. He provides a terrific mix of speed and power.
When the offense uses a fullback, 6-1 250-pound sophomore Erik Wolfe should be ready to go after spending last year as a key backup. Wolfe didn’t get any carries, and he only caught one pass for six yards, but he’s a solid blocker.
Watch Out For … Salubi. It’s asking for too much for him to crank out over 1,200 yards like Finley did, but he’s a speed back who’ll have his moments. Be shocked if the speedster doesn’t have at least three touchdown runs of more than 50 yards.
Strength: Variety. Whether it’s the speed of Salubi or the power of Ganaway or the all-around ability of Martin, the running backs should combine to provide a little bit of everything to keep the ground game rolling.
Weakness: Workhorse experience. Finley handled the ball 195 times on the ground, and while he wasn’t exactly a pounding 30-carry back, he was able to handle the load. Does any Bear have the ability to be the guy? It would be nice if Salubi could hold up to become a major factor.
Outlook: Losing Finley hurts, but there’s enough talent and enough options in the rotation to expect the running backs to keep the running game from being Griffin, Griffin, Griffin. There will be a drop off without Finley, but not a huge one.
Unit Rating: 6.5
State of the Unit: The receiving corps is loaded with the top five targets from last year back and with speed and skill across the board. There’s experience, depth, and a whole bunch of talent, and the coaching staff will rely on the corps to carry the offense after a strong 2010. With Robert Griffin throwing it, there’s no excuse for the BU receivers to not dominate.
The No. 1 target and the leader of the receivers is senior Kendall Wright, an All-Big 12 inside receiver who caught 78 passes for 952 yards and seven touchdowns averaging 12.2 yards per play. While he’s not big at only 5-10 and 190 pounds, he’s tough, smart, and very, very fast. Athletic enough to be a guard for the basketball team, and with a 40” vertical, he has the wheels and the tools. With great moves, he’s also used from time to time as a runner with 53 yards on eight carries. He blew up against Illinois in the bowl loss with 12 catches for 127 yards and a score, and he caught 11 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown against Texas Tech, but he was erased by Texas A&M and was nowhere to be found, making just three catches, against Oklahoma. While he’s not good enough to dominate when keyed on, he busted his tail this offseason to show that he’s ready to do even more as a leader and a playmaker.
Back at the other inside spot is sophomore Tevin Reese, a 5-10, 160-pound speedster who got to school early and proved to be ready as a true freshman finishing second on the team with 45 catches for 401 yards with no scores. He only averaged 8.9 yards per catch, but he has the athleticism to do far more. Lightning fast, he qualified for the Texas state championships in the 300-meter hurdles, the triple jump, and the long jump.
Junior Lanear Simpson is back on the outside after coming up with 42 catches for 390 yards. He didn’t score and he only averaged 9.3 yards per catch, but he’s experienced, tough, and fast enough to make a few big plays. At 5-11 and 195 pounds, he has decent size to go along with terrific hands. 5-10, 185-pound sophomore Darius Jones will be one of the main outside backups after getting his feet wet with two catches for 26 yards. A special teamer so far, the former high school quarterback and state champion long jumper has phenomenal athleticism and the sprinters’ speed to get deep on a regular basis.
Depending on the alignment, working in the starting rotation will be juniors Josh Gordon and Terrance Williams, two veterans who can work inside or out. The 6-2, 195-pound Williams is ultra-consistent and quick enough to be used as a returner. He finished third on the team with 43 catches for 484 yards and four touchdowns with four grabs for 101 yards and two scores against Kansas. He only scored once in the final eight games, but he’s a steady veteran. The 6-4, 220-pound Gordon is a big, strong playmaker who caught 42 passes for 714 yards and seven touchdowns including a terrific day against Kansas State with seven catches for 141 yards and two scores. While he was shut out against Colorado, he caught two passes or more in every game.
Veteran tight end Brad Taylor is gone, but 6-6, 260-pound sophomore Jordan Najvar is ready to roll after transferring over from Stanford bringing great size and good route-running ability. He can do it all, while 6-4, 250-pound junior Jerod Monk is a good blocker who caught eight passes for 69 yards and two scores.
Watch Out For … the tight ends. Taylor was a nice target who caught 20 passes and averaged 13.4 yards per grab, but this year the tight ends are better with the addition of Najvar about to take things to another level. Combining with Monk, the offense can do far, far more now with the targets coming off the line.
Strength: Experience. With all the pass catchers of note returning, led by a possible All-American in Wright, the Bears are loaded with talent and ability. Speed isn’t a question with several terrific high school sprinters who translated well to the Big 12.
Weakness: Consistency from Wright. There are so many good, veteran receivers that the passing game doesn’t have to revolve around any one guy, but if Wright is the Biletnikoff-level star, he needs to come up with more big plays against the stronger teams. He only caught one touchdown pass over the final four games, and for him, the 15 catches against Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma for 123 yards was a disappointment.
Outlook: The Baylor receiving corps lost two of its top three receivers going into last season and turned out to be even better. Years of loading up on good prospects paid off, and now this really might be one of the nation’s best all-around corps. There’s size in Gordon, a No. 1 in Wright, and lots and lots of speed. Even the tight end situation has been upgraded giving Robert Griffin more safety valves and more options to work with.
Unit Rating: 8
State of the Unit: Baylor isn’t exactly an NFL factory, but after sending Jason Smith to the pros a few years ago, and with Danny Watkins about to be a starter on some pro line, the program is doing a decent job of developing talent. Even with Watkins gone, the line has the potential to be even better with all the other top blockers back and with more depth than ever in the Briles era.
The key to the line is the move of sophomore Cyril Richardson from guard over to left tackle to replace Watkins. He got a little bit of practice work on the outside before the bowl game against Illinois, and he looked natural in the spot this offseason and should be an anchor. At 6-5 and 315 pounds he’s a big, tall, prototype-looking tackle who’s strong enough to be a blaster of a run blocking guard. Very strong and very tough, he’ll be an All-Big 12 performer sooner than later.
On the other side once again is Ivory Wade, a 6-4, 295-pound junior who started every game at right tackle a year after earning Freshman All-America honors at CFN at left guard. An athletic guard, he was better at tackle proving to be solid in pass protection and great on the move. Very smart and with good feet, he’s just athletic enough to move to left tackle if needed and he should get be even better with his two years of experience.
After replacing J.D. Walton at center and doing a solid job, senior Philip Blake is ready to be in the mix for all-star honors. A steady veteran who has started 25 straight games, the Canadian moved over from right tackle and showed he could handle the position and make all the right line calls. At 6-2 and 315 pounds, he has perfect size for the position and just enough athleticism to get on the move.
6-6, 335-pound senior Robert T. Griffin is a massive former JUCO transfer who got to school early and established himself right away at right guard. “Big Rob” was a top recruit and turned into an immediate road grader for the ground game. He missed a few games early on and was out for the bowl, but he’s ready to be a brick wall for the right side, while 6-4, 305-pound senior John Jones is a solid veteran who has starting experience under his belt. A great recruit several years ago, he showed excellent promise before getting hurt with foot and hand issues. Now he’ll be one of the key backups on the inside.
6-4, 310-pound junior Cameron Kaufhold was a mainstay at in the interior working wherever needed. Better on the left side than the right, he’ll get the job all to himself after playing three games, including the bowl, on the other side. He has the size to go along with tremendous strength, and he can also move well enough to have been considered a right tackle when he first signed on. 6-3, 295-pound junior Jake Jackson isn’t the biggest of blockers for the inside, but he’s a veteran who can step in at left guard if Kaufhold has to move over to the right side.
Redshirt freshman Troy Baker was expected to be a part of the rotation right away at tackle, but he was held out for the year and now will work at right tackle with Ivory Wade. At 6-6 and 300 pounds he has the right size, and he has the smarts and the motor to become a starter if needed. 6-4, 270-pound sophomore Kelvin Palmer isn’t all that big, but he can move well enough to be a good pass protector at left tackle if Richardson has to move around.
Watch Out For … Richardson to become an All-Big 12 talent. He’s the next big thing on the Bear line with the size and potential to be a top NFL prospect within the next three years. He’s the one the line will work behind.
Strength: Veterans. Losing Watkins isn’t a positive, but the line is loaded with experience and talent. Four starters are returning and the one open spot is being easily filled.
Weakness: Left side backup size. It’s a bit nitpicky, but Palmer is 45 pounds lighter than Richardson at left tackle and Jackson in 15 pounds lighter than Kaufhold. The Bear backups are lighter at four of the five spots.
Outlook: The coaching staff has done a nice job of beefing up the line over the last few years, and this is when the payoff comes. The front five did a night-and-day better job in pass protection last year – helped partly by having Robert Griffin back – and was tremendous for the ground game. Now with so much talent back and decent depth to rely on, this should be Baylor’s best offensive line since joining the Big 12.
Unit Rating: 7.5
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