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2007 Baylor Preview

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jun 6, 2007


Preview 2007 Baylor Bears Preview

Baylor Bears

Preview 2007

By Michael Bradley & Pete Fiutak

- 2007 BU Offense Preview | 2007 BU Defense Preview

-
2007 BU Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Baylor Preview 

Three conference wins don’t seem like much. Three. At Baylor, that’s the most the program has ever pulled off in the Big 12. Three years ago, Guy Morriss’ team managed a single league triumph. In ’05, it won two. Last year, three. You know what’s coming, don’t you?

That’s right, four wins in ’07. At least that’s the hope.

Head coach: Guy Morriss
5th year: 15-31
7th season overall: 24-45
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 20, Def. 21, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 34
Ten Best BU Players
1. LB Joe Pawelek, Soph.
2. OT Jason Smith, Jr.
3. DT Vincent Rhodes, Jr.
4. OG Dan Gay, Jr.
5. S Dwain Crawford, Jr.
6. LB Nick Moore, Sr.
7. S Jeremy Williams, Soph.
8. WR Thomas White, Jr.
9. OG Chad Smith, Sr.
10. QB John David Weed, Jr.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
3-9

Sept. 1

at TCU

Sept.8

Rice

Sept. 15

Texas State

Sept. 22

at Buffalo

Sept. 29

at Texas A&M

Oct. 6

Colorado

Oct. 13

at Kansas

Oct. 20

Texas

Oct. 27

at Kansas State

Nov. 3

Texas Tech

Nov. 10

at Oklahoma

Nov. 17

Oklahoma State

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
4-8
2006 Schedule:
4-8
Preview 2006 predicted wins

9/2 TCU L 17-7
9/9 Nwestern St W 47-10
9/16 at Wash St L 17-15
9/23 Army L 27-20 OT
9/30 Kansas State W 17-3
10/7 at Colo. W 34-31 3OT
10/14 at Texas L 63-31
10/21 Kansas W 36-35
10/28 Texas A&M L 31-21
11/4 at Texas Tech L 55-21
11/11 at Oklahoma St L 66-24
11/18 Oklahoma L 36-10

Okay, so that still doesn’t seem like a lot, but with a non-conference schedule that includes Texas State and Buffalo, a continued improvement in league play would mean a bowl game for the first time in 13 years, while finalizing one of the better building jobs done in college football.

It’s possible that the Baylor administration understands that building a team capable of contending in the tough Big 12 South, from the ruins of a hapless also-ran, might take more than five years. Just look at Rutgers. But there no doubt will be some pressure on Morriss to get to the postseason, or at least to enter November in a position to make a run, to avoid any sort of a hot seat in 2008.

But it’s not that easy, not with a young team that could have as many as seven freshmen and sophomores starting on offense and five more on defense. And not with an unsettled quarterback situation that could take until just before the opener at TCU to be resolved. Baylor is making progress, but in a division with Oklahoma and Texas, not to mention Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech – bowl teams all – it’s hard to move at anything other than a snail’s pace. Thus the sense of accomplishment over the 1-2-3 league wins.

If Baylor is even going to sniff three Big 12 wins again this year, it has to improve a defense that gave up yards and points by the bunches. Perhaps the ascension of Larry Hoefer, who replaces Bill Bradley (San Diego Chargers) as defensive coordinator, will help. Maybe the importing of junior college end Leon Freeman and JC safety Ray Sims will make a difference. Whatever the case, the Bears can’t keep surrendering 30-plus points a week (and more than 50 three times), as they did in their final seven conference games, and expect to compete.

There’s no question Baylor is making progress. The question is whether that advancement is sufficient to exceed what others in the conference are doing. Should the Bears follow their recent progression, the answer will be a resounding yes.

What to look for on offense: Despite the loss of seven starters, and big needs at receiver and running back, the main focus during the spring and summer will be at quarterback, where sophomore Blake Szymanski, who started three games last year and completed 52.9% of his 121 passes, will now be third in the mix with JC transfers Michael Machen and John Weed likely to take over. Whoever wins will pilot a spread attack with potential – provided the triggerman is right. The coaching staff will try to do something to generate a bit more of a running game after finishing dead last in America last year.   

What to look for on defense: The Baylor 4-2-5 was particularly ineffective against the run last year, surrendering 191.1 yards per game and 5.0 each carry. Perhaps Sims and Freeman will help, but it’s asking a lot to expect that they’ll be enough to reverse things completely. If the Bears can stop people, they’ll get better. If not, look for some more ugly scores.

           
This team will be much better if… it runs the football. You think the Bears’ rushing defense was bad? Well, check out the ground activity on the other side of the ball…or the lack thereof. Baylor averaged a paltry 40.2 yards per game and just 2.1 yards per carry last year. Part of the problem statistically was a boatload of sacks, but the running backs simply didn’t produce.

The Schedule:
The non-conference slate isn’t bad outside of an opening-day game at TCU, with winnable dates against Rice and Texas State along with a strange trip to Buffalo. Getting Colorado, Kansas and Kansas State from the North is a decent break, while Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State have to come to Waco. The Big 12 slate alternates between home and road games.

Best Offensive Player: Junior OT Jason Smith. The 6-5, 288-pound junior is one of only four returning starters to the Bear offense, with three of them up front. The former tight end is the best of the lot, a durable pass protector with 20 career starts and good upside. Even with all his experience, he’s still growing into the job.

Best Defensive Player: Sophomore LB Joe Pawelek. A breakout player, Pawelek had a fantastic redshirt freshman season, leading the team with 86 tackles to go along with two sacks and four broken up passes. He’s smart, big, mobile and tough, checking in at a surprisingly quick 231 pounds. He’ll be in the hunt for All-Big 12 honors from the start of the year.

Key player to a successful season: Senior QB Michael Machen. Szymanski started the final three games of last season for an injured Shawn Bell with limited results, finishing his season with four touchdown passes and seven interceptions. Now it’ll likely be up to Machen, a transfer from Kent State, to shine, or the Bear high-octane passing attack will go nowhere and any dreams of a bowl season will be shot in the first month.

The season will be a success if ... BU wins six games. It might be a bit of a reach considering the strength of the Big 12 South, but with three near-certain non-conference wins, Baylor will have a nice base to build on. The passing game, if it’s sharper than last season, should be enough to shock at least one or two Big 12 teams looking ahead to something bigger.

Key game: Oct. 6 vs. Colorado. If everything goes according to form, the Bears should be 3-2 in September. If they have any hope of going to a bowl game, they need the fourth win as early as possible, with the meat of the Big 12 schedule coming up. However, Colorado has lost two straight to BU and won’t take this lightly.

2006 Fun Stats: 
- Second quarter scoring: Opponents 126; Baylor 47
- Sacks: Opponents 36 for 320 yards; Baylor 11 for 83 yards
- Rushing yards per game: Opponents 191.1; Baylor 40.2

  

Related Stories
2007 Baylor Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 5, 2007
2007 Baylor Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 5, 2007
2007 Baylor Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 5, 2007








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