Big 12: Joe Crawford

Baylor spring wrap

May, 14, 2009
5/14/09
9:55
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Baylor Bears
2008 overall record: 4-8

2008 conference record: 2-6

Returning starters

Offense: 9, defense: 9, kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

QB Robert Griffin, TB Jay Finley, WR Kendall Wright, C J.D. Walton LB Joe Pawelek, LB Antonio Johnson, S Jordan Lake

Key losses

T Jason Smith, T Dan Gay, DE Leon Freeman, DT Vincent Rhodes, DB Jake La Mar.

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Jay Finley* (865 yards)
Passing: Robert Griffin* (2,091 yards)
Receiving: Kendall Wright* (649 yards)
Tackles: Joe Pawelek* (128)
Sacks: Leon Freeman (4)
Interceptions: Joe Pawelek* (6)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 at Wake Forest
Sept. 19 Connecticut
Sept. 26 Northwestern State
Oct. 3 Kent State
Oct. 10 at Oklahoma
Oct. 17 at Iowa State
Oct. 24 Oklahoma State
Oct. 31 Nebraska
Nov. 7 at Missouri
Nov. 14 Texas
Nov. 21 at Texas A&M
Nov. 28 Texas Tech (at Arlington)

1. Robert Griffin: His freshman season was one of the most memorable in Big 12 history and he's back for more. Griffin was sharp in the spring, passing for 310 yards and three TDs in the spring game. And he's intent on honing his football skills after giving up track, adding weight and boosting his strength to be ready to play in his sophomore season. Big 12 defensive coordinators should consider themselves warned.

2. Skill-position strength: Griffin will have most of his weapons back from last season, including leading rusher Jay Finley, top receiver Kendall Wright and the depth provided by valuable runner/receiver Terence Ganaway, a transfer from Houston who should provide immediate depth.

3. Phil Taylor: The Bears need some help in the trenches after the loss of starting linemen Leon Freeman and Vincent Rhodes. Taylor, a massive 340-pound transfer from Penn State, will provide all of that and more. Coach Art Briles unabashedly talks about Taylor having All-Big 12 talent. If he plays that way, he could be the missing piece leading the Bears into a bowl game.

Fall questions

1. Help along the flanks: It's a risky proposition protecting Griffin with two new offensive tackles. The Bears will switch from Jason Smith, the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft, to former Canadian fireman Danny Watkins. Briles is also sorting through his options on the right side where Dan Gay graduated. Obviously, protecting the Bears' franchise quarterback will be a prime task this season -- perhaps the biggest facing the team.

2. Punt returns: The Bears were looking for help returning punts after struggling all of 2008 with the lack of a breakaway special-teams threat. Baylor ranked next-to-last nationally, producing only 25 yards all season long on punt returns and a long return by Joe Crawford of 11 yards. Baylor needs a big upgrade and should have some productive playmakers like Wright and David Gettis ready to contribute.

3. Breakthrough needed: For all of the talk about closing the gap with the challengers in the Big 12, Baylor needs to step up and beat a highly ranked team. The Bears have lost 19 straight games to ranked teams and are 2-45 against ranked foes in the history of the Big 12. Seven of last season's eight losses came to ranked opponents. The Bears need an upset or two if they are to emerge as legitimate bowl threats.

SPONSORED HEADLINES