2014 Baylor Preview: What You Need To Know
Baylor LB Bryce Hager
Baylor LB Bryce Hager
Posted Jun 2, 2014

Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About Baylor (Getty Images)

2014 Baylor Preview

What You Need To Know...

- 2014 Baylor Preview 
2014 Depth Chart & Unit Rankings To Come This Summer

What You Need To Know About The Offense: The offense reloaded in a hurry and was even better, and now it could be positively unstoppable with most of the key parts back. After crushing and killing everything in its path over the first half of the season, the offense slowed down a wee bit, but it ended up No. 1 in the nation by a wide margin – 618.8 yards per game to Oregon's 565. With Bryce Petty returning along with his top receivers, Antwan Goodley and Levi Norwood, the passing attack should be deadly again, while the ground game should hit home runs on a regular basis with a good rotation of backs. Pass protection could be a wee bit of an issue if injuries strike early on, but there was a bigger concern going into last year, and everything turned out fine.

What You Need To Know About The Defense: How quickly did things improve? Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett's group turned into the one of the best in the Big 12 after finishing 2012 as the second-worse defense in America. The Bears allowed 142 fewer yards per game and used its speed and athleticism to be disruptive all year long. The secondary has to undergo an overhaul in the 4-2-5 alignment, but the front six should be outstanding with a potentially dominant line and linebacker Bryce Hager to anchor the middle. Overall, expect a step back, but all this D has to do is come close, and the offense to do the rest.  

Players You Need To Know

1. QB Bryce Petty, Sr.
No one expected Petty to be another Robert Griffin III, but there was hope that he could do more than Nick Florence, who came up with a terrific 2012. All Petty did was come up with 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns with just three interceptions to go along with 209 rushing yards and 14 scores. The 6-3, 230-pounder could've turned pro early and been a top 100 pick, but with one more big season like 2013, depending on who comes out, he should be a first rounder.

With great poise and field vision, he's able to not only hit the open target, but also get the ball to his man in a position to do something with it on the move. No, he doesn't have RG3's magic, but he has an accurate deep arm and was every bit as effective with 10 games with 300+ yards, a 430-yard day against Kansas, and good accuracy and off-the-charts efficiency. The spotlight is on to be brilliant again week in and week out, and he has the talent to do it with the potential to put up the stats to make him the school's second Heisman-winner in four years.

2. OT Spencer Drango, Jr.
Cyril Richardson was the main man for the offensive line last year, but Drango is about to be the main man for the line at left tackle with the size, skills, phenomenal strength and upside to be an All-American. Smart, quick and big, he has next-level tools as a right tackle or a guard, but he'll be a star to keep Bryce Petty upright with 6-6, 305-pound size and good feet. An All-Big 12 performer last season, he's returning from a back problem that cost him the final four games of the season. He'll be back and ready to roll by the start of the season.

3. WR Antwan Goodley, Sr.
How were the Bears going to survive the departure of so much receiver talent and the loss of star Tevin Reese? Goodley needed to step up and become amazing, and he did with a team-leading 71 catches for 1,339 yards and 13 touchdowns averaging 18.9 yards per pop. The 5-11, 225-pound veteran is a short, compact target with 4.4 speed and freakish strength. Dangerous early on, he caught 31 passes for 764 yards and seven scores over an early five-game stretch, and she finished the year with eight 100-yard days. While he'll be a marked man, he has the talent to handle it.

4. LB Bryce Hager, Sr.
Despite missing the final four games with a groin injury, he still earned All-Big 12 honors for the second year in a row finishing third on the team with 71 tackles and a team-leading nine quarterback hurries. At 6-2 and 235 pounds he has decent size and tough tackling ability on the inside, making 18 stops against Kansas State and coming up with everything that came his way before getting hurt. Just enough speed to be a pass rusher when he times things right, he's at his best when he gets to read, react and go. The leader of the defensive front, if healthy, he should be able to hit around the 124-tackle mark of 2012.

5. RB Shock Linwood, Soph.
Is he ready to shine as the main man in the backfield? Combining with Lache Seastrunk last season, Linwood came up with an impressive 881 yards and eight touchdowns averaging 6.9 yards per carry, and caught four passes for 19 yards. Explosive against West Virginia, he took off for 126 yards on 14 carries and ripped off back-to-back games of 182 yards against Oklahoma and 187 against Texas Tech. At 5-9 and 200 pounds he's a short, compact back who can be used in a variety of ways, with the physical toughness to barrel through the interior and the quickness to bust out the big play. Good enough to tear off 2,105 yards and 25 scores as a high school senior, he's about to be a statistical superstar.

6. DE Shawn Oakman, Jr.
The Penn State transfer took to the Bear line right away showing off his next-level upside making 33 tackles with two sacks and a team-leading 12.5 tackles for loss. At a freakish 6-9 and 280 pounds he's a huge presence on the end with a tough frame to get around and good toughness against the run. While he tailed off late in the season with just a half a tackle for loss in the final six games after coming up with 12 in the first seven, he's going to be a force.

7. P Spencer Roth, Sr.
The Baylor punting game was rough two years ago, and then Roth improved as a sophomore averaging 44 yards per pop. Last season he turned out to be a true weapon, earning First Team All-Big 12 honors while averaging 45.8 yards per pop putting 17 inside the 20. Big and strong, the 6-5, 220 pound veteran will be on the short list for All-America honors and the Ray Guy, but he needs to put fewer kicks into the end zone – there were seven touchbacks – but he makes up for it by blasting away, coming up with 17 kicks of 50 yards or more. He knows how to kick the field.

8. WR Levi Norwood, Sr.
The 6-2, 200-pound veteran bulked up a bit, and now he's a big, quick target who's smooth as silk in and out of his cuts. He finished second on the team with 47 catches for 733 yards and eight scores averaging 15.6 yards per grab, and now he's poised and ready to do even more. More steady than spectacular, he blew up on Texas Tech with 156 yards and two scores on seven catches, coming up with a touchdown in each of his last six games.

9. DE Jamal Palmer, Jr.
A promising pure pass rusher, the 6-3, 240-pound speedster came up with 38 tackles with five sacks and 11 tackles for loss. His real worth was as a havoc wreaker coming up with five forced fumbles. With a great burst off the ball, he should be a threat for at least seven sacks with all the other great linemen taking attention away.

10. TE Tre'von Armstead, Soph.
Gone is Jordan Najvar, a talented blocker who caught ten passes, but Armstead has more upside. The 6-6, 270-pound big body will combine with 6-6, 240-pound junior Gus Penning to give the attack a short range target at tight end, but now they have to be used. Armstead has a next-level blend of size and athleticism, used more like a blocker with the ability to start being a part of the passing game. However, he could be an all-star on his blocking alone. He's like an extra offensive linemen.

- 2014 Baylor Preview