2010 Baylor Preview
Baylor QB Robert Griffin
Last year, Baylor was one of the underground teams that everyone was talking about. Star QB Robert Griffin hurt his knee, the offense sputtered, and all the hopes went into the tank. Is the program ready to finally turn the corner? Check out the 2010 CFN Baylor Preview.
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Oh, Baylor, will you ever win?
Head coach: Art Briles
3rd year at Baylor: 8-16
7th year overall: 42-44
Off. 22, Def. 23, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 23
Ten Best Baylor Players
1. QB Robert Griffin, Soph.
2. WR Kendall Wright, Jr.
3. OT Danny Watkins, Sr.
4. LB Antonio Johnson, Sr.
5. DT Phil Taylor, Sr.
6. P Derek Epperson, Sr.
7. RB Jay Finley, Sr.
8. CB Chance Casey, Soph.
9. DT Tracy Robertson, Jr.
10. FS Tim Atchison, Sr.
Sept. 4 Sam Houston St
Sept. 11 Buffalo
Sept. 18 at TCU
Sept. 25 at Rice
Oct. 2 Kansas
Oct. 9 Texas Tech (in Dal)
Oct. 16 at Colorado
Oct. 23 Kansas State
Oct. 30 at Texas
Nov. 6 at Oklahoma State
Nov. 13 Texas A&M
Nov. 20 Oklahoma
Nov. 27 OPEN DAT
Forget about records and forget about a lack of success on the field; Baylor's biggest win since joining the Big 12 was to still be a part of the Big 12 (or whatever you want to call the collection of ten teams in the conference). Just when it looked like BU would become completely irrelevant, Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech decided to stick around, and now it's time to take advantage of the new lease on life.
Everything was in place to become a real, live, factor in the Big 12 South last season, and then star QB Robert Griffin tore up his knee and that was the end of all the fun. But the window hasn't closed and there will still be a chance to finally become worth paying attention to.
Texas is undergoing a bit of an overhaul, Oklahoma doesn't appear to be back to being Oklahoma again, Texas Tech has a new coaching staff, Texas A&M is still trying to figure out how to put together two decent games in a row, and Oklahoma State is in a rebuilding year. Of course, Baylor isn't going to beat all five of those teams, and it'll get its doors blown off by at least two of them, but that doesn't mean this will be yet another clunker of a season.
Griffin is back and almost as good as new, there's blazing speed at the skill positions and in the defensive back seven, there's size and experience on both sides of the line, and head man, Art Briles, is good enough to be a candidate for any job that opens up.
Does that mean Baylor will come up with a winning season? How about a bowl appearance? How about beating some of the bigger teams in the conference?
Not necessarily. Baylor is 0-14 when it comes to winning seasons since the Big 12 was formed, hasn't gone to a bowl since 1994, hasn't beaten Texas since 1997, is 0-18 all-time against Oklahoma, and hasn't gone a season scoring more points than it allowed since 1995. However, all the pieces are in place for a very, very interesting year.
If nothing else, this might be one of the most fun teams in a division full of fun teams. Griffin might be the most exciting player in college football, the games should be shootouts, and there's enough speed and talent in place to finally turn a corner.
What to watch for on offense: Besides Robert Griffin's knee, the play of the offensive line. The receiving corps is raw, but it's extremely fast and extremely athletic. It'll be able to make plays on the move as long as Griffin is given time. There's also a track team (literally) in the backfield with Griffin, RB Jay Finley, and other rushing options all with the potential to go the distance every time they touch the ball. Now everyone needs room to move. There was some changing around of positions and some nice new pieces added to the line puzzle this offseason, but it needs to find something it can do well. Pass protection has been an issue, even with NFL-caliber tackles like Jason Smith, and now, Danny Watkins, on the outside, and running consistently has been a big problem against the stronger Big 12 defensive fronts. If the line is better in any way, the offense will come up with a few explosive games.
What to watch for on defense: The ends. 355-pound Phil Taylor and converted end Tracy Robertson (who's in a more natural position) will be solid on the inside, but the line has to generate pressure from the outside. Gary Mason Jr. and Zac Scotton are big bodies who might hold up well against the run, but neither will scare opposing quarterbacks on a regular basis. If you don't get to the quarterback in the Big 12, your defense will get ripped up, so the idea will be for the BU defense to try to get more quarterback hits and be more disruptive on the outside so the back seven doesn't have to pick up the slack.
The team will be far better if … it can stop the run. Baylor is supposed to use its running game to own the time of possession battle and give the mediocre defense a break. Instead, the Bears finished 111th in the nation in time of possession partly because the loss of Griffin killed the ground game and partly because the defense couldn't stop anyone on third downs. A lack of a pass rush was an issue, but too many offenses got too many 3rd-and-shorts because the ground attacks were so effective. Baylor allowed 195 rushing yards or more six times, and in two games, Missouri and Oklahoma, the secondary was too busy getting bombed on for the respective running games to take control.
The schedule: The Bears couldn't get much more of a break with the interdivisional schedule missing Nebraska and Missouri and getting Kansas and Kansas State at home with a trip to Colorado. The problem will be a midseason stretch of only one true home game from October 9th through November 13th with the Texas Tech game to be played in Dallas kicking off a run of four non-home games in five weeks. Going to Texas and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weeks will be rough, and the home games against Texas A&M and Oklahoma are at home. There's an almost sure-thing loss at TCU in non-conference play, but the other three games are layups against Sam Houston State, Buffalo and at Rice.
Best offensive player: Sophomore QB Robert Griffin. What does he mean for the Baylor running game? In 2008, BU ran for 2,349 yards and 29 touchdowns scoring 18 times on the ground in Big 12 play and cranking out 150 yards or more nine times. With Griffin out, the Bears ran for four touchdowns in conference action and ended up running for 150 yards or more just once (Kent State) after the star quarterback got hurt. Not just a runner he has thrown for 2,572 career yards and 19 touchdowns with three interceptions.
Best defensive player: Senior LB Antonio Johnson. Very fast and extremely active on the outside, the 6-0, 215-pound veteran came up with 77 tackles and was a star against Texas Tech with a 54-yard interception return and a fumble recovery. As the only returning starting linebacker, he has the time logged in and the skill to become a star who starts to get more recognition with MLB Joe Pawelek gone.
Key player to a successful season: Senior DT Phil Taylor. LB Antonio Jones might end up leading the team in tackles, or coming close, and a few of the defensive backs could turn out to be terrific, but Taylor is the big nose guard who needs to be more of a rock on the inside. The former Penn State Nittany Lion has next-level potential, and he's big body for the run defense, but he needs to do even more. If he's not special, the defense won't take a big step forward.
The season will be a success if … Baylor wins six games. It would be the program's best season since joining the Big 12 and it would show how the plan Briles has in place is working. There are several winnable games against teams like Sam Houston State, Buffalo, and Rice to provide a nice base, and if everyone is healthy and all the parts are working as expected, beating Kansas and/or Kansas State and/or Colorado is possible.
Key game: Oct. 2 vs. Kansas. Considering the four of the next five Big 12 games are on the road, Baylor can't afford to give away anything at home. It's the conference opener, and if all goes according to form, the Bears should be 3-1 with a chance to make a big national splash with a strong start before going into a neutral site game against Texas Tech.
2009 Fun Stats:
- Third Down Conversions: Opponents 82-of-184 (45%) – Baylor 60-of-167 (36%)
- Time of Possession: Opponents 32:36 – Baylor 27:24
- Second Quarter Scoring: Opponents 121 – Baylor 62
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2010 Baylor Defense |
Baylor Depth Chart
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