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2009 Baylor Preview - Offense
Baylor WR David Gettis
Baylor WR David Gettis
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 9, 2009


CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Baylor Bears Offense

Baylor Bears

Preview 2009 - Offense

- 2009 CFN Baylor Preview | 2009 Baylor Offense
- 2009 Baylor Defense | 2009 Baylor Depth Chart
- 2008 Baylor Preview | 2007 Baylor Preview | 2006 Baylor Preview 

What you need to know:
Robert Griffin, Robert Griffin, Robert Griffin. Not since Michael Vick took Virginia Tech from good to special has one player completely changed a program around. Griffin, one of the fastest players to ever play quarterback, will get to throw more, will still run, and will still be the smart leader who’ll be the focal point of the offense. He has a ton of speed and athleticism around him with Kendall Wright leading a fast, experienced receiving corps and Jay Finley a good back who averaged 5.8 yards per carry. The line will be fine, but it will hardly be special after losing tackles Jason Smith and Dan Gay. With Griffin a year older, and smart enough to handle anything thrown his way, the offense will open it up a bit more with more emphasis on the passing game to go along with the speedy running attack. Griffin will make more mistakes and he’ll throw more picks, after throwing three last year, but he’ll also come up with more big passing plays.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Robert Griffin
160-267, 2,091 yds, 15 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Jay Finley
149 carries, 865 yds, 7 TD
Receiving: Kendall Wright
50 catches, 649 yds, 5 TD

Star of the offense: Sophomore QB Robert Griffin
Player who has to step up and become a star: Redshirt freshman OT Cameron Kaufhold
Unsung star on the rise: Junior OT Danny Watkins
Best pro prospect: Griffin (as a receiver/runner)
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Griffin, 2) C J.D. Walton, 3) WR Kendall Wright
Strength of the offense: Robert Griffin, Speed
Weakness of the offense:
Proven Linemen, Pass Protection

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter
:
There was a tremendous buzz before last season began about Robert Griffin, a true freshman who wowed everyone every time he stepped on the field. He turned out to be worth the hype and more rushing for 843 yards and 13 touchdowns while completing 60% of his throws for 2,091 yards and 15 touchdowns with a mere three interceptions. He stepped into the game early against Wake Forest and ended up setting an NCAA record with 209 straight passes without an interception to start his career. After bulking up a bit, now he’s 200 pounds on a still-skinny 6-3 frame, but he should be able to withstand punishment a bit better. While he’s an accurate passer, and will be asked to do even more this year, the key to his game is raw speed. A track star, he won the Big 12 gold medal in the 400-meter hurdles with the third fastest time in school history. Now that he has a year under his belt, he has the size, the speed, and the smarts to become an even more dangerous weapon.

Projected Top Reserves: Senior Blake Szymanski has been a spot starter throughout the last few years getting the call 13 times. The 6-4, 205-pounder has good mobility and a nice arm throwing for a school-record 2,844 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2007, but he also gave away 18 interceptions. He’s a near-perfect backup quarterback for the Bears. He’s not going to pull off any big wins, but he can step in and produce if he has to come off the bench cold.

Almost certain to redshirt, but in school early to learn the system anyway, is Nick Florence, a good recruit with a nice arm and excellent running skills. He threw for 3,047 yards in his senior year of high school with 30 touchdowns and ran for 448 yards and nine scores. While he’s only 6-1 and 180 pounds, he moves well and has a nice touch on his passes.
 
Watch Out For ... More passing. Griffin will still run whenever he gets space to move, but the coaching staff will open up the air attack a little more.
Strength: Griffin. It’s not just that he’s the fastest quarterback in college football, and it’s not just that he has a good, accurate arm, it’s that he’s smart enough to pick everything up right away and not be overwhelmed. He might be just a true sophomore, but he has the smarts of a far more mature player.
Weakness: Griffin vs. good teams. He ran extremely well against last year’s Big 3, tearing off 302 yards against Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech, but he didn’t hit the 100-yard mark in passing against any of them. While everyone will be scared of Griffin’s running ability, they’ll take a 100-yard day if it means the passing game goes kaput.
Outlook: In a conference full of elite quarterbacks, Robert Griffin stood out last season as a tremendous playmaker to build the program around for the next few years. He has it all, with the exception of a howitzer arm, but that’s more than made up for by being the fastest guy on any field he steps on. Blake Szymanski is a solid veteran for the No. 2 spot, while Nick Florence will be groomed to be the top backup for 2010.
Rating: 8.5

Running Backs

Projected Starter
:
Lost in all the hoopla of Robert Griffin’s breakout season was the play of Jay Finley, who led the team with 865 rushing yards and seven touchdowns to go along with seven catches for 141 yards and two scores. A strong runner who can pound inside or make big things happen in space on the outside, the 5-11, 205-pound junior was solid throughout and ended on a high note running for 116 yards against Texas A&M and 105 against Texas Tech. With everyone keying on Griffin, Finley should have plenty of room to roam.  

Projected Top Reserves: Ready to play a big role is Jarred Salubi, a 5-10, 190-pound redshirt freshman who stayed home in Waco despite getting offers from some big-time schools. Extremely fast, he was a Texas state champion sprinter and should be deadly both as a runner and a receiver out of the backfield.

Finally eligible, Houston transfer Terrance Ganaway will provide some power to the mix. The 6-0, 220-pound sophomore ran for 550 yards and six scores for the Cougars before deciding to follow Art Briles to Waco. Able to be a workhorse if needed, he’ll be used between the tackles and could be a key back for long stretches to help wear down a defense.

While Baylor doesn’t use a true fullback, it has an H-Back who does a little of everything. 6-3, 235-pound junior Brad Taylor started in three games as a tight end, catching eight passes for 93 yards, and while he’s not going to do much in the way of blocking and can be used as an inside receiver, he’ll get a little work in the backfield.
 
Watch Out For ... Salubi. Everyone knew he was fast, and he was fine in practices last year, but he was a breakout playmaker this spring showing the running skills, to go along with his speed, to make him a solid No. 2 back to work into the rotation.
Strength: Robert Griffin. He’s the star of the offense and the one everyone will be focused on stopping. On every play, at least one defender will be forced to keep an eye on where No. 10 is going. The Bear running backs won’t have much pressure to carry the offensive load.
Weakness: Catching the ball. While Finley can do it, the offense hasn’t gotten the ball to the backs all that often. With the speed of Finley and Salubi, the offense needs to get the ball to the backs on the outside on a regular basis, but it didn’t happen last year.
Outlook: The Bears finished third in the Big 12 in rushing thanks to the 843 yards of Robert Griffin, but the backs did their part. Now the backfield is far stronger with a speedster in Jarred Salubi and a pounder in Terrance Ganaway to add more weapons to go along with Jay Finley, who’ll step out of Griffin’s shadow from time to time and be the star of the offense.
Rating: 6.5


Receivers

Projected Starters
:
Robert Griffin wasn’t the only true freshman to make a big impact last season. 5-11, 180-pound sophomore Kendall Wright led the team with 50 catches for 649 yards and five touchdowns showing great speed and athleticism, but the big shocker was his consistency. Able to be used as a runner as well as a receiver, he ran for 168 yards with a touchdown. Athletic enough to be on the basketball team, he went from hoops to spring football, and while that might not be a big deal for a player his age, there’s a chance he could hit a bit of a wall at some point if he takes a beating on the inside.

Senior David Gettis has never lived up to his prep hype and had problems this spring with a hamstring, but he has grown into a decent target who provides size and experience. The 6-4, 210-pounder was third on the team with 29 catches for 391 yards, but his production started to wane by the end of the year as the passing game looked elsewhere. With his track star speed, size, and experience, he has all the tools but will be a No. 2 target, at best.

Working inside will be Ernest Smith, a 6-3, 195-pound senior who only caught seven passes for 175 yards, but he scores three touchdowns and averaged 25 yards per catch. His season struggled to get off the ground after suffering a bout with mono throughout spring ball, he has good size and smooth quickness on the inside.

Taking over a spot on the outside will be 6-0, 190-pound redshirt freshman Lanear Smith who doesn’t have elite speed, but is fast enough to make things happen on the outside. Still emerging in a role, he has good hands and excellent athleticism to be a key part of the attack.

Junior Justin Akers made 14 catches for 167 yards and two scores in his second year as the starting tight end. At 6-5 and 245 pounds he’s big, but he’s more like a big wide receiver than a blocking tight end. He’s a good athlete who can stretch the field, and he’s not bad at coming up with a good downfield block now and then.

Projected Top Reserves: Getting some time in four-wide sets will be senior Mikail Baker, who suffered a broken collarbone two years ago and was pushed out of the mix last season. He made just four catches for 44 yards, but the 6-0, 205-pounder is a veteran who knows what he’s doing inside or out.

While he’s not going to knock Kendall Wright out of a starting spot on the inside, 5-9, 175-pound Justin Fenty is an ultra-quick inside target who made six catches for 50 yards and a touchdown. He’ll never power over anyone and can get shoved around, but he has the potential to be dangerous if he ever gets the ball on the move.

Krys Buerck started out his career making 23 catches for 280 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman, and then moved to the defensive side last season where he made 24 tackles with an interception. Now he’ll move back to receiver where he’ll work on the inside behind Ernest Smith. Extremely fast, he makes things happen no matter where he lines up.

In a crowded receiving corps full of speed and talent, Terrance Williams was a standout this spring and could end up bumping David Gettis out of a spot. At 6-2 and 190 pounds, the redshirt freshman has good size and excellent hands. He’s simply a smooth, solid wide receiver who could be the team’s breakout star.

Watch Out For ... the redshirt freshmen. Wright is the team’s No. 1 receiver, but new prospects Lanear Sampson and Terrance Williams were standouts this offseason and will be the future of the passing game. They were naturals in spring ball and should make the most of their opportunities.
Strength: Speed. Guy Morriss and his coaching staff recruited speed, speed and more speed, and Briles and his staff have kept the tradition going. Everyone can fly and everyone is quick. There will be several big plays with secondaries having to focus on the running game and making sure Robert Griffin isn’t breaking off big runs.
Weakness: A sure-thing No. 2. Wright is the best receiver, and while almost all the other key targets are back, there isn’t anyone who stands out as a second option. Now, that’s not necessarily an awful problem considering the production will be spread around, but the passing game could become deadly if there’s another Wright-like playmaker.
Outlook: This might be the best Baylor receiving corps in a long, long time, if not ever with seven of the top eight targets form last year returning. There’s a great mix of speed, size, and options with some reliable veterans mixed in with some promising, exciting young players. Basketball player Kendall Wright is the best of the bunch, and depending on the day, there will be a rotation of good players who’ll come up with big-time production.
Rating: 7

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters
:
How do you replace the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft? With a hockey player. 6-4, 310-pound junior Danny Watkins is a tough JUCO transfer who’s originally from Canada and has the unenviable task of trying to replace Jason Smith at left tackle. Watkins is hardly polished, having only played football for two years, but he has a high motor, is good on the move, and has excellent upside.

While replacing Smith is next to impossible, replacing Dan Gay at right tackle won’t be easy, either. 6-4, 285-pound redshirt freshman Cameron Kaufhold will get the first look this fall, but he’ll have to battle hard to get the job going into the season. He’s an athletic pass blocker who’ll struggle with his consistency, but is good enough on the move to spring big plays down the field. To win the job, he’ll have to plow over some defenders in the running game as well as help keep Robert Griffin upright.

While he’s not going to be the star Smith was, senior center J.D. Walton has the potential to be another NFL draft pick with good size, excellent toughness, and good consistency. The former Arizona State Sun Devil is 6-3 and 305 pounds with the leadership ability to be a great quarterback for the line. He’s the intimidating force for the offensive front.

With Jordan Hearvey injured at the end of last year, and still trying to come back, the job is wide open at right guard with 6-4, 300-pound sophomore John Jones getting a long look. One of the team’s top recruits two years ago, he started to show promise getting a starting assignment against Connecticut and spending most of the season as a key backup. He’s very strong, big, and extremely promising.

Back at right guard is senior James Barnard, who has started all 24 games over the last two years. The former JUCO transfer is a 6-4, 295-pound run blocker who earned second-team All-Big 12 honors. He’s not bad in pass protection, but he’s at his best when he’s able to pound away to get the ground game going.

Projected Top Reserves: Trying to get back and healthy is Jordan Hearvey, an athletic 6-5, 270-pound guard who was the starter for most of the year at left guard before suffering tearing his ACL. Out all offseason, he’s 50/50 to be back this season, and considering his strength is his quickness, he might need a little while to get back to form.

A part-time starter who got the call at left guard over the final four games of last year, 6-6, 275-pound junior Chris Griesenbeck is a bit undersized, but he’s versatile enough to play right tackle if needed and tough enough to be fine at guard. He’s athletic and experienced, and he’ll be one of the team’s key backups working somewhere on the right side.

6-3, 285-pound redshirt freshman Jake Jackson has the talent to grow into a strong blocker somewhere on the line. Able to play either center or guard, he’s the main backup for both guard spots and at center. He’s pushing hardest for the starting left guard job, but he’s too valuable and too versatile to keep one job all year long. He’ll be moved around where needed.
 
Watch Out For ... the tackles to not be all that bad. Replacing Smith and Gay and getting the same production will be next to impossible, but Watkins and Kaufhold are extremely promising and shouldn’t be too bad.
Strength: Robert Griffin. Having a speedy, mobile quarterback like Griffin under center helps the pass protection in a huge way. Griffin will make up for several mistakes by being able to outrun everyone else, however ...
Weakness: Pass protection. Baylor had the No. 2 pick in the draft and an all-star, NFL caliber blocker on the other side, and yet the line still allowed 28 sacks. Part of the problem was the youth of Griffin, as he looked to take a sack rather than screw up and give the ball away, and part of the problem was the line.
Outlook: The line has good potential with nice size, decent experience, and versatility among the backups. Unlike last year, when the tackles were the stars, this year the anchor will be in the middle where J.D. Walton might be the Big 12’s best centers. This group doesn’t have to be dominant; it just has to open things up enough to let the speedsters shine.
Rating: 6