Breaking down spring practice: Baylor

March, 10, 2011
3/10/11
2:00
PM ET
Schedule: Practice began on February 28, and continues through the spring game on April 2. Selected portions of select practices are open.

What’s new: Baylor ranked 10th in the Big 12 last season in total defense and ninth in scoring defense, which necessitated a change at defensive coordinator. The Bears brought in Phil Bennett, whose defense at Pitt last year ranked eighth nationally. Bennett also won the Panthers' bowl game as an interim coach. He'll be charged with helping shore up the Bears' defense to match their high-powered offense.

Breaking out: Receiver Josh Gordon became a big contributor as a sophomore in 2010, ranking second on the team with 42 catches for 714 yards and seven touchdowns after catching just one pass as a freshman. He could be a candidate for an all-conference nod next season, but the beginnings of a big season could happen this spring.

Question marks: Jay Finley had a huge year, rushing for 1,216 yards and 12 scores for the Bears. He's gone now, but Baylor's offense needs someone to fill his role or it'll take a step back in 2011. Baylor has a thunder and lightning-type duo with Terrance Ganaway and Jarred Salubi, who may share the duty, but those rushing yards have to come from somewhere in 2011.

Big shoes to fill: Phil Taylor is taking his 330-pound talents to the NFL, and for as much trouble as Baylor had stopping the run in its bowl game and throughout the season (79th nationally), someone has to step in and plug the middle with a smaller frame. Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, a 310-pounder, should fill the role after making 31 tackles a season ago. The Bears also have to replace starting left tackle Danny Watkins.

All eyes on: The defense. The Bears got over the hump and made it to a bowl game last year, but the defense kept them from winning more than seven games, especially in losses to Texas Tech and Texas A&M. Baylor is set for another bowl game, and being in the Big 12 title picture next year isn't out of the question, but to get close or be a factor, the defense has to improve. For established stars in quarterback Robert Griffin III and his top target, receiver Kendall Wright, the spring should be business as usual. Sharpening their timing and other minute details while preparing for a third big year in 2011.

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