CFN Preview 2013 - Baylor Reloaded
Baylor RB Lache Seastrunk
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Baylor Bears
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It's been a good plan. Basically, go get as many ridiculously fast and athletic football players as possible, stick them in a system that accentuates the positives of ridiculously fast and athletic football players, put a smart quarterback under center, and voila – you have one of the best offenses in college football over the last few seasons.
Head coach: Art Briles
6th year: 33-30
11th year: 67-58
Returning Lettermen: 47
Off. 13, Def. 9, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 25
Ten Best Baylor Players
1. RB Lache Seastrunk, Jr.
2. OG Cyril Richardson, Sr.
3. OT Spencer Drango, Soph.
4. LB Bryce Hager, Jr.
5. S Ahmad Dixon, Sr.
6. LB Eddie Lackey, Sr.
7. S Sam Holl, Sr.
8. WR Tevin Reese, Sr.
9. RB Glasco Martin, Sr.
10. QB Bryce Petty, Jr.
9/14 OPEN DATE
9/28 OPEN DATE
10/5 West Virginia
10/12 at Kansas State
10/19 Iowa State
10/26 at Kansas
11/2 OPEN DATE
11/16 Texas Tech
11/23 at Oklahoma State
11/30 at TCU
This might be one of the cool programs at the moment, and head coach Art Briles is bringing in a higher caliber recruit, but it's still Baylor and it still has to deal with Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech and all the other football programs that use the Lone Star State as a pipeline. A small private school, Baylor has to get creative, it has to hit the mark on its better prospects, and as it has shown in the stunning turnaround over the last few years, it needs to get production out of the most important positions.
It's also important to know your environment. Baylor doesn't work in the SEC on a regular basis, and it probably isn't doing this in the Big Ten or Pac-12 – the last two bowl games aside. In the Big 12, defense is normally optional, so as long as you can put up massive offensive numbers on a regular basis.
And now the Bears have shown a little bit of staying power. The days of praying for just one Big 12 win are over, having gone to three straight bowl games and with all the offensive success, but there's still work to do. To make a move forward, Baylor has to start playing a little bit of defense, too.
The Texas game last year was winnable, and so were losses to Oklahoma and West Virginia. The Iowa State loss was inexcusable and the D just didn't show up against TCU. When the machine is turned on, like it was against Kansas State, the Bears have the ability to beat anyone in the country on the right day. But when it falls flat, like it did against TCU and Iowa State, the defense has to start picking up the slack.
Or the plan can be to keep bombing away and continue to enjoy the success of the last few seasons.
The ground game should be devastating with Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin certain to have great years behind a decent-looking line. The receiving corps will quickly fill in the gaps and be explosive again, while quarterback Bryce Petty is the next in line to be another mega-producing passer. The offense is going to be the Baylor offense again.
The defense, at the very least, is going to be experienced and speedy. The secondary has to be better with so much talent and athleticism; the linebacking tandem of Bryce Hager and Eddie Lackey will be among the league's best; and the defensive line should be excellent on the outside. No one will confuse the Baylor D with Alabama's but it'll be better.
So is more of the same good enough? Absolutely, and it's going to be fun again, too.
What to watch for on offense: More of a balance. Baylor finished 14th in the nation in rushing averaging 232 yards per game with 3,012 yards and 38 scores – what more could you possibly ask for? With the 1-2 punch of Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin, who combined for 1,901 yards and 22 touchdowns ready to do more, 2,500 yards and 30 scores out of those two might not be out of the question. At the very least, there might be more of a reliance on the ground game than in past years – it's not going to be all passing all the time.
What to watch for on defense: More of true nickel and dime package. Baylor runs a 4-2-5 alignment, but it often uses one of the safeties like a smallish, quick linebacker, and it doesn't work. It's like the defense has one foot in and one foot out as it tries to decide what it wants to be. It's athletic and fast, but it's not disruptive enough to not have a bulkier third linebacker on the field. Now, the secondary really and truly will start to focus on the pass defense, and with so much experience and talent returning …
The team will be far better if … the secondary plays up to its upside. Safety Ahmad Dixon has all-star talent. The same goes for safety Sam Holl and corner K.J. Morton. Joe Williams is a rising star at corner coming off a fantastic year. So why is the secondary so God-awful? The stats don't look good because the pass rush didn't help, and offenses had to chuck to keep up the pace, but the defensive backfield failed time and again to do much of anything right. The
656 yards and six scores given up to Geno Smith and West Virginia might have been the signature moment, but everyone else from SMU, to Kansas State, to TCU, to ULM threw the ball at will – Iowa State threw for 426 yards and five touchdowns.
The schedule: The Bears kick things off with three winnable, but interesting games that look like cupcakes, but probably won't be. Buffalo should have a decent defense, and the ULM team that gave Baylor such a fight last year should be just as potent offensively. But it's still Buffalo and ULM to go along with a date with Wofford, who's a fill-in after the SMU game fell through. BU has to be 3-0 going into the bye week.
There can't be too many complaints with the conference schedule that has Oklahoma and Texas at home and with just four league road dates and a neutral site game against Texas Tech in Cowboys Stadium. West Virginia comes to Waco for what should be a fun and wild shootout before going to Kansas State. Iowa State and at Kansas in back-to-back weeks are must wins before an off week to get ready for Oklahoma. Closing out with the Sooners, Red Raiders, at Oklahoma State, at TCU and Texas will be trying.
Best offensive player: Junior RB Lache Seastrunk. The former Oregon transfer was unstoppable over the second half of the season, showing a breathtaking blend of speed, interior power and timing – he did it all against teams like Oklahoma, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and UCLA. The passing game has its share of high-octane stars, guard Cyril Richardson will be an NFL starter, and it's not insane to suggest that tackle Spencer Drango could turn into a first round draft pick, but it's Seastrunk who has the potential to make the offense explode once again. He might not end up with Heisman numbers with Glasco Martin taking away yards and touchdowns, but 1,500 yards and double digit scores will be an easy mark to hit.
Best defensive player: Junior LB Bryce Hager. Safety Ahmad Dixon is a next-level playmaker who'll put up huge numbers, and linebacker Eddie Lackey could be the team's best all-around defensive star, but it's Hager who'll be the leader again after coming up with 124 tackles – 20 more than Lackey – while also serving as one of the team's top pass rushers. He'll clean up a lot of messes.
Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Bryce Petty. All he has to do is replace a Heisman winner and the nation's No. 2 total offense leader behind another Heisman winner. Petty isn't going to be Robert Griffin III and he might not be as efficient and effective as Nick Florence, but he's been around long enough and knows the system well enough to put up huge numbers in the high-octane offense. He needs to or it'll be a long year.
The season will be a success if … the Bears flirt with ten wins for the second time in three seasons. There's not enough there to win the Big 12 title, but anything less than a 6-1 start before a week off to prepare for Oklahoma will be a major disappointment. If Baylor can win at home against Texas Tech and come up with a few upsets over Kansas State, Oklahoma State and TCU on the road and/or Texas and OU at home, nine regular season wins isn't asking for too much.
Key game: Oct. 5 vs. West Virginia. It was the wildest game of the 2012 season, with Geno Smith and the Mountaineers bombing away for a crazy 70-63 win. A home game this year and the Big 12 opener, the Bears have to come up with the victory in a winnable game. The tough games are later on, and BU has to stockpile as many early wins as possible.
2012 Fun Stats:
- 3rd Down Conversions: Opponents 111-of-213 (52%) – Baylor 85-of-184 (46%)
- Time of Possession: Opponents 32:38 – Baylor 27:22
- Passing Yards Per Game: Baylor 340.5 – Opponents 323.5
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