Preview 2007 - BU Offense
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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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.