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2007 Baylor Preview - Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jun 6, 2007


Preview 2007 Baylor Bear Offense Preview

 

Baylor Bears

Preview 2007 - BU Offense

- 2007 Baylor Preview | 2007 BU Defense Preview
-
2007 BU Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Baylor Preview 

What you need to know:
After making the change to a Texas Tech-like passing attack, the Bears threw well, but did absolutely nothing for the running game, finishing dead last in the nation averaging just 40.17 yards per game. There will be more emphasis on running the ball, but this will still be a passing attack. First, BU has to find someone to throw, and someone to catch. It'll be a three-way battle for the starting quarterback job, with former Kent State Golden Flash Michael Machen the leader in the race, while the two star receivers of last season are gone. Several young players have to turn into reliable targets, while Brandon Whitaker has to try to provide some semblance of a rushing attack behind a line that should be a bit better.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Blake Szymanski
64-121, 689 yds, 4 TD, 7 INT
Rushing: Brandon Whitaker
41 carries, 158 yds, 1 TD
Receiving: Brandon Whitaker
30 catches, 192 yds, 1 TD

Star of the offense: Senior QB Michael Machen, junior QB John David Weed, and/or sophomore QB Blake Szymanski
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior RB Brandon Whitaker
Unsung star on the rise: Junior WR Thomas White
Best pro prospect: Junior OT Jason Smith
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Smith, 2) The starting quarterback, 3) White
Strength of the offense: Passing game
Weakness of the offense:
Running game, veteran receivers

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter
:
Is Michael Machen the answer? He wasn't at Kent State, where the Golden Flashes had the nation's most pitiful running game in 2005 before Baylor took over the honor last year. With Julian Edelman appearing to be the star of the KSU program for the next few years, Machen, who suffered a broken collarbone early last season, transferred to Baylor, where he'll turn 27 over the course of the season and bringing plenty of experience and maturity to the passing attack. At 6-6 and 237 pounds, he's a big, strong passer with a live arm. While he's hardly a lock for the starting job come fall, he showed this spring that he has the potential to make the offense shine.

Projected Top Reserves: Machen might end up starting the year, but top JUCO transfer John David Weed will likely see time at some point. At 6-4 and 214 pounds, he's a good-sized bomber with far more mobility than Machen. His issue, at least this spring, has been his consistency; he seems like he just needs a little more time.

The third man in the mix will be 6-4, 209-pound sophomore Blake Szymanski, who struggled mightily when thrown into a starting role when Shawn Bell went down. He has the size, the arm, and the high school résumé to sling the ball all over the place, but he has to be far better after completing 53% of his passes for 689 yards and four touchdowns with seven interceptions. He's mobile and can run for a few scores.
 
Watch Out For ... a three-way quarterback battle for a long time. Machen, Weed and Szymanski will all get equal shots to take over the starting job.
Strength: Size. The top three candidates average over 6-5 and around 215 pounds with great arms. These three can fling the ball around.
Weakness: Rushing skills. Machen can't run. Weed and Szymanski aren't stuck in mud, but aren't going to run the spread exactly like it's supposed to. If there are positive yards from the starting quarterback at the end of the year, consider it a major plus.
Outlook: The offense went into the tank once Shawn Bell went out for the year with a knee injury. Finding the right triggerman right away, and not allowing for any major controversy, will be the key. It's Machen's gig for now, but the offense will eventually have to find a passer to build around for the future.
Rating: 6.5


Running Backs

Projected Starter
:
Senior Brandon Whitaker got a few yards here and there, finishing second on the team with 158 yards and a touchdown and third in receiving with 30 catches for 192 yards and a score, but he missed the final three games of the year with a foot injury. He's 5-10, 197 pounds, and extremely quick. While he wasn't able to bust off many big plays, and didn't come up with any game-breaking plays for the passing game, but he has the potential to become one of the team's better offensive weapons.

Projected Top Reserves: Whitaker might have had a nice spring, but 5-11, 195-pound redshirt freshman Jay Finley could quickly turn out to be the better runner. Even though he's not the same receiver, he should be able to carry more of the workload and should add more pizzazz to the awful ground game. He was one of the team's top recruits last year, and now he has to play like it.

Another top 2006 recruit was 5-10, 180-ound redshirt freshman Andre Pierce. Another quick, good runner, blocking and catching will be his key to playing time. The better he gets at doing both of those things, the faster he'll see carries. Finley might grow into the better runner, but Pierce could become more explosive.
 
Watch Out For ... Finley and Pierce to play a major role. These two were recruited to Baylor to with the idea to be be the main runners in the spread offense, and while Whitaker is fine, they're better fits.
Strength: Quickness. All the main running back options can move, but they need openings. If the offensive line does its job and is merely mediocre, there will be chances to come up with a some big gains.
Weakness: Dependability. The backups had better be ready. Whitaker has never had to be the main man, and he missed time last year hurt and was out all of 2004 with a knee injury. Finley and Piece have no experience.
Outlook: After finishing dead last in America in rushing, netting 482 yards with nine touchdowns and a 2.1 yard-per-carry average, there's nowhere to go but up. Whitaker looked the part in spring ball, and with more of a commitment to balance out the attack, there will be plenty of chances and carries to go around.
Rating:
5.5

Receivers

Projected Starters
:
With last year's top receivers, Dominique Zeigler and Trent Shelton, gone, that mans it'll be up to junior Thomas White to be the new star. He finished fourth on the team with 26 catches for 372 yards and two touchdowns playing on the inside. Now he'll most to the outside X position where he'll have to use his 6-2, 206-pound frame and excellent speed to be a dangerous number one target.

Stepping in a the inside Z position will be 6-3, 186-pound sophomore Ernest Smith, who got one start and played behind Zeigler making six catches for 55 yards. With his size and smooth quickness, he's one of the team's most talented receivers with the potential to grow into a top target now that he has a full-time job.

In the slot, called the Little H, will be speedy Justin Fenty, who made 19 catches for 183 yards and a touchdown. Needed early on, he burned his redshirt and stepped in to start three times and see plenty of work in the middle of the season, highlighted by his five-catch, 65-yard, one touchdown debut against Washington State, but he was out of the mix over the final four games with just one catch for nine yards. As expected for a true freshman, consistency was a problem.

The Baylor tight end is called the Big Y, or H. Taking over will be sophomore Justin Akers after seeing time in every game, getting two starts, and making five catches for 54 yards. At 6-5 and 237 pounds, he's a good-sized target with decent athleticism. He's not going to block anyone, but he can stretch the field.

Projected Top Reserves: The Bears use plenty of four and five-wide sets, meaning there will be a spot somewhere for redshirt freshman Brad Taylor, an interesting prospect at the Little Y. Sort of a combination of big inside receiver and second tight end, Taylor is 6-3, 232 pounds and athletic. Originally a quarterback, and a high school linebacker, he was switched over to receiver right away last year.

The team's most dangerous receiver will eventually be 6-4, 206-pound sophomore David Gettis, a sprinter on the the Baylor track team who averaged 20.5 yards per catch. He only caught four passes for 82 yards with a touchdown against Oklahoma State. He was out this spring with mono, along with duties with the track team, but he'll be back to see time at the outside X along with White.

Behind Fenty in the slot will be 5-10, 182-pound junior Carl Sims, who's coming off a 15 catch, 108-yard season. He has good size and athleticism, but he hasn't been able to bust off many big plays. A basketball player when he came to BU, he quit to concentrate more on football.

While technically called an inside receiver, 6-4, 247-pound senior Jordan Adams is a pure tight end. Bigger than Akers, the New Mexico transfer can block a little bit and has decent hands, even though he only caught four passes for 32 yards in 12 games with two starts.
 
Watch Out For ... White to flourish as the starter. It's a bit much to say he was being held back by playing behind Zeigler and Shelton, but he wasn't forced to be the guy. That'll change now that he's the key deep threat on the outside.
Strength: Potential. The Bears did a good job of coming up with promising receivers to fit the passing system, and while there's a lot a youth, there are also plenty of decent prospects to grow into roles.
Weakness: Go to stars. White will end up being good, and there are other promising targets, like Akers and Smith, but to lose 107 catches, 1,543 yards and 11 touchdowns from Zeigler and Shelton will hurt.
Outlook: All the young players who got their feet wet throughout last year are now needed to make the offense shine. This is still a baby-young corps with too many freshman and sophomores needing to play big roles, but in time, it should be good. First some steady playmakers have to emerge.
Rating: 6

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters
:
Three starters return to a line that struggled throughout last season. The hope is for all the kinks to be worked out after making position changes. Junior Jason Smith started his career at tight end before moving to the line, starting every game at right tackle. He's an athletic 6-5 and 288 pounds, but he had major problems in all areas last year, especially as a consistent pass protector. Even so, he'll move over to the left side of the line to take on an expanded role. Also switching sides will be 6-5, 311-pound junior Dan Gay after starting the last ten games of the year at right guard. Like Smith, he was learning how to become a lineman after moving over from defensive tackle. A tough hitter, he should be better now that the offense is planning on running more often.

Replacing Will Blaylock at center will be 6-2, 322-pound sophomore J.D. Walton, a transfer from Arizona State with phenomenal strength and good upside. A big, physical blocker, he'll be an upgrade despite not having any D-I experience.

With Smith moving over to left tackle, 6-7, 289-pound sophomore Thad Boatner will move in at right tackle after seeing time where needed. Mostly a guard throughout the season, he's a more natural tackle with his long frame and perfect arms for pass protection. He was always out of position on the inside.

6-6, 280-pound Chad Smith played every game at left guard last season, and now he'll move over to the right side, swapping places with Gay. He saw time at tackle before settling in at guard, and while he's not the most physical blocker, he doesn't have to be in this offense. Even so, he won't be a liability for the running game. As the only senior starter, he'll have to be a leader.

Projected Top Reserves: Senior Mike Miller has seen plenty of time over the course of his career with three starts, though he hasn't done too much on the offense. Before bulking up to 273 pounds on a 6-3 frame, he was a tight end and a slot receiver, and now he'll back up Walton at center.

Behind Boatner at right tackle is extremely promising sophomore Jordan Hearvey, who didn't see any time last year, but has good potential. At 6-4 and 305 pounds, he's heavier than Boatner, but he's an excellent athlete.

6-2, 270-pound sophomore Sam Sledge has seen time at center and now will back up Gay at left guard. The former walk-on is a smart, tough player who might be undersized, but he's good enough to be a part of a rotation.
 
Watch Out For ... Smith and Gay to be better on the left side. They spent last year getting acclimated to the life of being starting offensive linemen in the Big 12. Now they know what they're doing.
Strength: Athleticism. The line is put together to be quick and do well on the move. Baylor has a hard time getting linemen who are big and athletic, so it's top blockers are often times converted from other positions. That's not always a bad thing.
Weakness: Depth. There isn't any. The line has to work on getting the starters in the right place and creating some sort of cohesion, much less finding quality backups who can step in and shine if needed.
Outlook: The line will be better, and it's not just because it can't be any worse than it was last year. Gay and Jason Smith should be better now that they're experienced and working together on the left side. Walton adds a desperately needed big body in the middle, and Chad Smith and Boatner will be fine, in time, on the right side. Don't expect a sledgehammer of a running game from the front five, and the pass protection is still a work in progress, but the spread should be smoother after everyone has had a year to learn it.
Rating:
6

 

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