Big 12: Mike Hicks

Baylor Bears spring wrap

May, 1, 2013
5/01/13
11:30
AM ET
2012 record: 8-5
2012 Big 12 record: 4-5
Returning starters: Offense: 6; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners: OL Cyril Richardson, RB Lache Seastrunk, S Ahmad Dixon, WR Tevin Reese, LB Eddie Lackey, DE Chris McAllister, LB Bryce Hager, K Aaron Jones

Key losses: WR Terrance Williams, QB Nick Florence, WR Lanear Sampson, S Mike Hicks, C Ivory Wade, DT Gary Mason Jr.

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Passing: Nick Florence (4,309 yards)
Rushing: Lache Seastrunk* (1,012 yards)
Receiving: Terrance Williams (1,832 yards)
Tackles: Bryce Hager* (124)
Sacks: Chris McAllister* (6)
Interceptions: Eddie Lackey* (4)

Spring answers:

1. Bryce is the guy. It was going to take a lot for Bryce Petty to lose his starting spot, but he looked like a guy who suited up for his fourth spring this year and cemented his status as the heir apparent to a crazy-good quarterback tradition under Art Briles. He'll follow Robert Griffin III and Florence, who both set school records for passing yards.

2. Defense changes its identity. The Bears didn't have a ton of speed in the secondary last season, and as a result, relied heavily on zone and didn't play a lot of tight coverage. To start fixing the problem, Dixon moved back to traditional safety, and as the defense's most physically skilled talent, that was a wise decision. Baylor wants to play more man and play tighter this year, and we'll see if it pays off in the fall.

3. Offense finds its playmakers. Williams is gone and so is Sampson, two of the team's top three receivers. Reese returns, but Antwan Goodley and Jay Lee emerged to win starting spots this spring, and both look like big-time targets for one of college football's best offenses. Count on those guys and Clay Fuller to keep the tradition going.

Fall questions

1. Can the defense prove itself? The Bears were definitely one of the best defenses in the Big 12 over the last month of the season. The same unit, however, was also a big reason why Baylor limped to an 0-5 start in conference 12 play before ripping off four wins to end the season. The defensive line should be improved and young talents like Javonte Magee and Shawn Oakman could make names for themselves this fall.

2. Is the offensive line deep enough? Baylor's history under Briles at this position makes me pretty confident, and the Bears have a solid starting five. But losing Troy Baker this spring is a big knock, and the Bears only had 10 healthy offensive linemen this spring. Come fall, more injuries could force the Bears to force inexperienced players into the rotation. This was probably the biggest concern for Briles all spring.

3. Just how good is Petty? He looks good for now, and was productive and impressive during the spring. That's also the spring. RG3 and Florence broke school records for passing yards in consecutive seasons, though, so the bar is sky-high. There's every reason to believe in Petty, but expectations are high and reaching them won't be easy. The good news is he has a huge talent in Seastrunk and a solid receiving corps around him to support his efforts.
Signing day has come and gone, but we'll have plenty of coverage looking at each Big 12 team's class. This morning, we'll look at how each team filled its needs.

BAYLOR

Needs filled: Prerogative No. 1 for Baylor is fixing its defense, and the Bears are getting some help at linebacker in prep transfer Brian Nance, Raaquan Davis (No. 28 outside linebacker) and Travon Blanchard (No. 37 OLB). Future defensive tackle Andrew Billings was a home-grown talent who should compliment Javonte Magee well up front in the years to come. The Bears also need to keep the offensive machine humming. They seem to have done that with their two top signees, Robbie Rhodes, the nation's No. 3 receiver, and Chris Johnson, the nation's No. 5 dual-threat passer who coach Art Briles raved about in his signing day presser.

Holes remaining: Debate their quality all you'd like, but the Bears lost players in the secondary like Chance Casey and Mike Hicks, and cornerback Joe Williams will be a senior. There's not a lot of strength at defensive back in this class, unless Taion Sells (No. 46 safety) and Alfred Pullom (No. 67 safety) can blossom in Waco.

IOWA STATE

Needs filled: Rodney Coe comes to Ames via junior college and will try and replace some losses along the defensive line, but the biggest need for the Cyclones has been offensive playmakers. Aaron Wimberly checks in via the juco ranks at running back, but can ISU develop Texas receivers Brandon Harris and Bryan Ajumobi into major weapons at the Big 12 level?

Holes remaining: The Cyclones lost a pair of starters at linebacker and signed just one linebacker in this class, Florida native Brian Mills. Besides that, Iowa State did a nice job of bringing in big bodies along the defensive line and filling some offensive line holes, too, headlined by in-state prospect Jake Campos, who Iowa State swiped from Mizzou.

KANSAS

Needs filled: I'll be honest here, KU could use a big talent upgrade at pretty much every position on the field, other than running back. It's all about the jucos for the Jayhawks. Marquel Combs could be a major player up front to help KU stop the run and collapse pockets, but KU got a pair of big-time playmakers at receiver, too, in Ishmael Hyman and Rodriguez Coleman. Chris Martin offers another solid option as a pass-rusher. The Jayhawks also added a pair of quarterbacks in Montell Cozart and Jordan Darling.

Holes remaining: Did KU get enough high-quality linemen to replace its three lost starters? Ahongalu Fusimalohi is a juco transfer and Joey Bloomfield is the nation's No. 118 offensive tackle, but replacing solid starters like Tanner Hawkinson and Trevor Marrongelli is no easy task.

KANSAS STATE

Needs filled: K-State basically lost its entire defense from last year, so any defenders will be greatly appreciated. Four of the classes' top five signees are defenders, highlighted by inside linebacker Nick Ramirez and juco corner Nate Jackson. Inside linebacker Tanner Wood and juco defensive end Devon Nash will also help fill the Wildcats' big losses defensively.

Holes remaining: The Wildcats are solid at running back this year, but it could be looking a bit thin in the future. John Hubert will be a senior this year and Bryce Brown didn't pan out, so K-State might have used a running back in this class. It didn't happen. K-State was shut out at the position.

OKLAHOMA

Needs filled: Defensive line was the biggest one, and the Sooners grabbed two pass-rushers in the ESPN 300, D.J. Ward and Matt Dimon. Those two should pay off big, and Ward has enrolled early. Hatari Byrd also gives the Sooners an answer in the secondary while the nation's No. 3 running back, Keith Ford, helps provide solid depth at running back.

Holes remaining: Oklahoma lost Tom Wort to the NFL draft and Corey Nelson will be a senior next year, but Oklahoma didn't stock this class with a single linebacker. The Sooners don't put many traditional linebackers on the field and has converted a lot of safeties into outside linebackers, but still.
Defensive numbers are always harder to project than offensive numbers, because they're so dependent on other teams' schemes. Still, let's take a look back at the most likely players to top 100 tackles before the season, and how they did this season.

The Big 12 had nine players with 100 tackles this season. There were 89 players in FBS with at least 100 tackles. Let's have a look at projections vs. reality.

1. Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State: Knott was on track to hit 100, but a shoulder injury ended his career four games early. He was stuck on 79 tackles to end the season after nine games, capped by a home win over Baylor.

2. A.J. Klein, LB, Iowa State: Klein was third in the Big 12 with 117 tackles, closing strong with 33 tackles in his final two games. After Knott's injury, Klein had six or fewer tackles in three consecutive games, but the strong finish helped him easily clear the 100-tackle threshold.

3. Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State: Brown made nine tackles in K-State's loss to Oregon to hit the 100-tackle mark on the number and finish ninth in the Big 12 in tackles.

4. Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas: Hicks got off to a great start, making 20 tackles in Texas' first two games, but a hip injury ended his season early against Mississippi in the third game of the season. He earned a medical redshirt and will still be a sophomore next season.

5. Mike Hicks, S, Baylor: Baylor's linebackers shouldered the load for tackles this year and were much stronger up front. Hicks needed just 67 tackles this season.

6. Alex Elkins, LB, Oklahoma State: Elkins was Oklahoma State's leading tackler, but finished the season with just 75 tackles. In four of his last five games, he had five or fewer tackles.

Here are the guys we overlooked:

Bryce Hager, LB, Baylor: Hager came out of nowhere to lead the Big 12 with 124 tackles. He made just 13 tackles in 2011.

Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma: Oklahoma's scheme change under Mike Stoops funneled a whole lot more tackles Jefferson's way, and he was there to make the plays. He had just 74 tackles in 2011, but racked up 119 this season to finish second in the Big 12.

Ben Heeney, LB, Kansas: Heeney made a rousing eight tackles in 2011, but emerged as a playmaker this season to finish fourth in the Big 12 with 112 tackles.

Eddie Lackey, LB, Baylor: The juco transfer became Baylor's biggest big-play threat on defense late in the season with a pair of pick-sixes, but he also made 104 tackles.

Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia: The true freshman became WVU's defense's biggest playmaker, racking up takeaways but making 102 tackles.

Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor: Baylor had two safeties make 100 tackles last year, but Dixon was the only one this year. It's hard to believe Baylor had three 100-tackle defenders this year, though. Dixon had 102.

Cody Davis, S, Texas Tech: Davis is the least surprising player who I didn't project for 100 tackles. He's been a huge part of Tech's defense, and nearly topped 100 stops in 2011. This year, he made 101 as a senior four-year starter.
We're breaking down the Big 12's benchmark performers next season, and we're on the defensive side of the ball now.

For defenders, 100 tackles is the dividing line of a productive season, even though plenty of other big talents don't hit the triple digits.

As for the ones who will in 2012?

College football had 86 players top 100 tackles in 2011. Only eight from the Big 12 reached that benchmark. Here's who will do it next year:

1. Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State: Knott's the most physical defender on Iowa State's defense, and he's already got two 100-tackle seasons under his belt. He'll add a third this year alongside his teammate, A.J. Klein, who's brought the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year hardware to Ames in 2011.

2. A.J. Klein, LB, Iowa State: Klein will do the same thing Knott will in 2012: earn his third consecutive 100-tackle season. Iowa State's defensive line leaves a bit to be desired, but the Cyclones backer duo brings a punch, even if they're not behind the line of scrimmage too often. Klein's the better athlete between the two, but these two will go head to head again for the Big 12 tackles title.

3. Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State: Brown's speed and sure tackling will pay off again in his second year as the cornerstone of the K-State defense. The Wildcats need him to shut down open spaces, and nobody in the Big 12 closes them faster than Brown.

4. Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas: The Longhorns are losing 215 tackles at linebacker without Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho. The time is now for Hicks. Texas' defense will be salty, but Hicks, a former five-star recruit from Ohio, may be a household name very, very soon.

5. Mike Hicks, S, Baylor: Baylor won't have two safeties with 100 tackles this year, but they'll still have one, and Hicks will be that guy for the Bears. The defense will be better in Year 2 under Phil Bennett, but not all that much better. Big plays will happen against Baylor, but Hicks can keep them from being backbreaking plays.

6. Alex Elkins, LB, Oklahoma State: Elkins' story is incredible, and he'll finish it with 100 stops as a senior. Not bad for a guy who responded to an open tryout at junior college. Now, he'll be a lynchpin of a much-improved defense in Stillwater.

Do you see anybody else hitting triple digits?

The Big 12's returning 100-tackle defenders

May, 16, 2012
5/16/12
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The Big 12 had eight players notch at least 100 tackles in 2011.

Of that group, five return. Here's a look at the Big 12's returning 100-tackle defenders.

1. A.J. Klein, LB, Iowa State: Klein's no joke. He shared Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors with Frank Alexander, and is the Big 12's leading returning tackler. Only Kansas' Steven Johnson had more than Klein's 116 tackles in 2011. He's physical and a sure tackler, and ISU's defense has enjoyed the benefits.

2. Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State: Knott might just be a better overall talent than Klein, but played through injuries in 2011 and was limited throughout the season. He dislocated his shoulder twice in a loss to Baylor, and needed surgery after the season. Knott and Klein are legit, but when your linebackers both have 100-plus tackles and only 11.5 of those 200+ stops are tackles for loss, you've got a problem on the defensive line.

3. Sam Holl, S, Baylor: Like the backers at ISU, Holl is one of two Baylor safeties with 100 tackles. Thaaaaat's ... not a good thing. Holl and Mike Hicks were torched often, and racked up tackles as cornerbacks missed them. Holl had 113 stops.

4. Mike Hicks, S, Baylor: Hicks added 105 tackles of his own, but had just 3 interceptions and 2.5 tackles for loss. He broke up just five passes, too.

5. Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State: For my money, Brown is the single best talent on this entire list. He's fast. He's a sure tackler and he's smart. That's a good combination, without even mentioning his toughness. He gave a much needed speed boost to a very slow K-State defense in 2010, and led the Wildcats with 101 stops in 2011. He also had 9.5 tackles for loss and his one interception set up a season-changing victory over Baylor.

Spring superlatives: Baylor

March, 8, 2012
3/08/12
10:30
AM ET
We'll kick off a new series today we've done in the past.

In "Spring Superlatives," we'll break down each team's best and worst positions entering the 2012 season. We'll kick it off with Baylor.

Strongest position: Wide receiver

Don't fret too much about losing Kendall Wright, Bears. The team lost an NFL-caliber receiver in Josh Gordon before the season and loses Wright, a 1,600-yard receiver, after the year.

Coach Art Briles, however, keeps reloading at the position and new quarterback Nick Florence will have plenty of targets next season. Terrance Williams tops that list, and NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. lists him as the nation's No. 1 NFL prospect at receiver among players eligible for the 2013 draft.

Wright put together a Biletnikoff Award-caliber season last year, but Williams quietly put together a 59-catch, 957-yard, 11-touchdown season and finished fifth in the Big 12 in receiving.

That makes him the leading returning receiver in the Big 12. Who's No. 2? Funny you ask. How about Tevin Reese, another Baylor receiver who racked up 877 yards and seven scores on 51 catches.

West Virginia has a pair in Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey who were more productive in the Big East, but we'll see how they measure up.

Lanear Sampson fills out Baylor's receiving corps after grabbing 42 balls for 572 yards.

Weakest position: Safety

Baylor gave up loads and loads of big plays last year; they were one of four Big 12 teams to give up more than 200 plays longer than 10 yards. No Big 12 team gave up more plays of longer than 30, 40 or 50 yards, too.

Mike Hicks and Sam Holl both return. Is this good news or bad news for the Bears? Expectations will be low for the duo, but every year we see second- and third-year starters take big steps forward on the field. Baylor needs those guys to do that.

The duo combined for 218 tackles, and both picked off three passes, combining to break up six passes. Those numbers aren't good enough considering the yardage and points Baylor's defense gave up. Fixing this position has to be goal No. 1 during the spring.

An inside look at Baylor's win over TCU

September, 6, 2011
9/06/11
1:30
PM ET
Baylor invited cameras from CBS College Sports into its fall camp, and those cameras followed the Bears through its Week 1 game, which also happened to be the weekend's most thrilling game, won 50-48 by the Bears in dramatic fashion.

If you didn't get to see the show, here's a bit of what you missed, plus some observations from yours truly, who was in Waco on Friday night:
  • First off, here's the entirety of our coverage from the game, if you missed any of it.
  • The Bears' confidence was pretty obvious as cameras caught some candid moments before the game. Robert Griffin III and coach Art Briles said this was a more confident team than a season ago, a team more sure of its ability. It's hard to tangibly represent that, but body language is a good indicator. Baylor was a team that looked like it knew it was going to win. That was true in the practices leading up to game week as well as all the activities leading up to kickoff. "The first game of the season is always exciting, because from week to week, you have other games that you're focused on," linebacker Elliot Coffey said. "So, the first game of the season, you've had eight months, nine months where really, your single focus has been that game, and we're three days away from it, and it's kind of like, you know what? It's real now. It's here."
  • Unbelievable coincidence revealed by defensive coordinator Phil Bennett: Both he and Briles were born on December 3, 1955.
  • Part of Briles' pregame speech to the team: "Come out of the gates playing, alright? Deliver the first blow. Mean. Aggressive. Tough. But with passion and with intelligence. Play hard. Play with passion. This is our family."
  • Kaz Kazadi, the Baylor strength coach, is one of the most intense coaches you'll see in the game. I've been to a handful of practices at Baylor and that's obvious. It didn't change on the sidelines during the game.
  • Before the final, game-winning drive, cameras got a glimpse of Griffin offering a few words to his offensive line. "Don't ever relax. Don't ever relax, alright?" he said, slapping high fives with them as he walked by.
  • The Baylor sideline after Aaron Jones' game-winning kick? You can imagine what it was like. For as much talk lately of TV markets and revenue sharing, that's what this game is about. Working hard and accomplishing something meaningful to a whole lot of people with a group of guys you've been through everything with. Those eight months that Coffey was talking about? All the buildup and tension from the anticipation of waiting finally was released on those sidelines after the kick and once Mike Hicks' interception sealed the game. "One of the biggest wins in years!" exclaimed Baylor radio broadcaster John Morris.
  • In the locker room after the game, cameras got a pretty hysterical shot of Briles taking his shirt off and being picked up by a few of his players while he flexed his biceps. I didn't make that up. And you thought Briles' personality was compelling with the media...
  • Coffey after the celebration: "I've never seen Coach Briles like that before. I've never seen Coach Briles' arms before," he said of Briles, clearly a longsleeve turtleneck enthusiast. "He went all out, shirt off, so I was kind of blown away. I didn't really know how to perceive it, but I figured we did something right to see Coach Briles like that."
  • Said Griffin of the comeback: "Like coach said. They stole our bike, and we wanted it back. We got the bike back."

Bears complete the comeback

September, 2, 2011
9/02/11
11:51
PM ET
WACO, Texas -- Baylor was down, but one thing didn't change: It still had the best player on the field.

Robert Griffin III extended the winning drive with a gutsy catch on a double pass over the middle of the field and brought Baylor back into TCU territory.

Aaron Jones finished the drive with a pressure-packed 37-yard field goal that proved to be a 50-48 game-winner for the Bears, who squandered a 24-point fourth quarter lead.

Mike Hicks sealed the game with an interception.

My question: Which comeback was more impressive?

I'm headed down for interviews. We'll have plenty more right here as the night continues.

Big 12 position ranking: Safeties

June, 30, 2011
6/30/11
1:15
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We'll move on to the safeties today in our position rankings across the Big 12.

Here's what we've covered so far:
The group of safeties across the Big 12 isn't fantastic, without any truly elite groups, but it's decent. There aren't any teams that look really hopeless at the position in the immediate future.

I haven't given it real close examination so far on the positions we haven't covered yet, but this is by far the closest gap between 1-10 of any position so far.

Here's how I ranked them. (Remember, I lumped in nickel backs with linebackers, so Ahmad Dixon and Tony Jefferson won't be found anywhere in this post.)

[+] EnlargeOklahoma State's Markelle Martin
John Rieger/US PRESSWIREOklahoma State's Markelle Martin is the Big 12's best overall safety.
1. Oklahoma State -- The Cowboys have Markelle Martin, the Big 12's best overall safety who's a big talent but a much better hitter than he is a cover man. Johnny Thomas is solid and both safeties got a lot better as the 2010 season progressed. OSU's depth lands them here, though. Daytawion Lowe could start for a few Big 12 teams and is slightly better than A&M and Texas' reserves, the other two teams with the deepest group of safeties.

2. Texas -- Blake Gideon takes his share of criticism, a good deal of it fair, but there's a reason he's starting for Texas for a fourth season this fall. He knows what he's doing. Kenny Vaccaro will challenge OSU's Martin, among others, for the title of the Big 12's biggest hitter and Nolan Brewster and Christian Scott are strong reserves at the position. The Longhorns lose a lot at corner, but all the safeties are back from a defense that allowed just over 170 yards a game through the air in conference play last season.

3. Texas A&M -- The Aggies' Steven Terrell and Trent Hunter are solid, and Hunter is a big playmaker who made 62 stops and picked off two passes last year. Toney Hurd Jr. is the backup and was one of the most impressive freshmen in fall camp last year, joined by Steven Campbell in the rotation.

4. Kansas State -- Tysyn Hartman has loads of experience and is one of the Wildcats that Bill Snyder loves to rave about. Ty Zimmerman was one of the Big 12's best freshman last year, and picked off three passes. They should be solid again next year, and for as much criticism as K-State's defense faced last year, they were fifth in the Big 12 in pass defense. Logan Dold should be in the rotation, too.

5. Oklahoma -- Reserve Sam Proctor has starting experience, but Javon Harris and Aaron Colvin enter fall camp as starters. That says plenty about how Bob Stoops and Brent Venables feel about them. In a word: confident. Colvin has the most potential in the group, but the two starters will have to learn on the go. Proctor, a senior, should be able to help. James Haynes will also be in the rotation.

6. Missouri -- Jasper Simmons is gone, but Missouri's safeties might be a bit underrated in this spot. Kenji Jackson has loads of experience and should be solid, and Tavon Bolden and Matt White are a pair of promising sophomores who should compete at free safety. Kenronte Walker should be in the rotation, too.

7. Texas Tech -- Injuries were a problem last year for the Tech secondary, but Cody Davis and D.J. Johnson will hold down the traditional safety spots away from the line of scrimmage in new coordinator Chad Glasgow's 4-2-5. The unit gave up lots of big plays in 2010 (151 over 10 yards, 46 over 20, and 25 over 30, all the most in the Big 12), but I'd expect that number to drop under Glasgow if the secondary stays healthy. Davis is the team's leading returning tackler, with 87 stops. Brett Dewhurst and Giorgio Durham should be in the rotation.

8. Kansas -- Keeston Terry and Bradley McDougald give Kansas a lot of speed and athletic ability at the position, but both of the team's safeties from 2010 graduated and Terry and McDougald are short on experience. Lubbock Smith should add some solid depth to the position.

9. Iowa State -- Iowa State loses their top playmaker at the position, David Sims, but returns starter Ter'Ran Benton. He'll be helped out by some combination of Jacques Washington, Earl Brooks and Deon Broomfield once the season starts. Iowa State's biggest weakness is on the defensive line, so it's hard to get a good read on how good the safeties really are with such a poor pass rush up front.

10. Baylor -- This group might move up the list during the year under Phil Bennett, but the two best raw athletes (Ahmad Dixon, Prince Kent) at the position moved to nickel back and linebacker, respectively. The team's leading tackler, Byron Landor, graduated, and that left Mike Hicks as the other starter. He'll be helped out at safety by Sam Holl, Josh Wilson and K.J. Morton. Last year, the Bears ranked last in the Big 12 in pass defense in conference play, giving up over 300 yards a game. That'll have to change or Baylor won't get past seven wins.

Spring superlatives: Baylor

March, 23, 2011
3/23/11
3:00
PM ET
We'll kick off a series today looking at the weakest and strongest positions for each team in the Big 12. First up: the Baylor Bears.

Strongest position: Wide receiver

Key returnees: Kendall Wright, Josh Gordon, Terrance Williams, Tevin Reese, Lanear Sampson

Key losses: None, although tight end Brad Taylor graduated after catching 20 passes for 269 yards last year.

Analysis: Quarterback Robert Griffin III keys Baylor's offense, but he's got plenty of targets to throw to, and last year he distributed the ball well. All five of his top receivers had at least 40 receptions and 390 yards, and Wright led the group with 79 receptions for 952 yards and seven scores. Wright is already one of the Big 12's best receivers. Gordon could become one this year after emerging as a big red-zone target at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds. Former blue-chip recruit Darius Jones also looked impressive during my visit to Waco for spring practice last week. Because Griffin has so many targets and isn't forced to rely on just one, none of the five may ascend to the Big 12's absolute elite, but Gordon and Wright both have that potential. At worst, all five will be solid and keep Baylor's passing game a huge boost to the Bears hopes at being a Big 12 title contender.

Weakest position: Linebacker

Key returnees: Elliot Coffey, Chris McAllister

Key losses: Antonio Johnson, Chris Francis, Earl Patin

Analysis: Baylor already ranked ninth in the Big 12 in rush defense last season, and loses Francis and Johnson, two of four Bears to make at least 70 tackles last season. Johnson was also one of the defense's leaders. The Bears' D has had problems stopping the run early in spring practice, and needs someone to help solidify the defense's second line. McAllister has plenty of potential after a strong freshman season in 2010, but he'll need to turn that potential into production to help the linebackers eliminate their status as a weakness before the season. Baylor loses both safeties -- the team's two leading tacklers from last season. Though the depth chart is still very much in flux, there's plenty of talent on the back line, as Ahmad Dixon and Mike Hicks that could be ready to replace Tim Atchison and Byron Landor.

Weak & Strong: Baylor

March, 8, 2010
3/08/10
2:00
PM ET
Here, we’ll take at one area where each team in the Big 12 can expect to succeed, and another that needs improvement.

Baylor

Strong: Receiver

Leading receiver Kendall Wright returns after upping his reception total to 66 from 50 as a freshman. His 740 yards and four touchdowns should see another bump with the return of quarterback Robert Griffin. Wright, a rising junior, caught less than three passes in a game just once last season, and finished with 26 catches in his final four games. He’ll need to remain consistent as defenses target him even more without outside receiver David Gettis, a 6-foot-4, 215-pounder, to take some of the pressure off Wright, an inside receiver who is just 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds.

But when Wright has been successful, so have the Bears. Last season, he raced for 149 yards on 10 catches and a pair of touchdowns in Baylor’s lone conference win, a 40-32 win over Missouri in Columbia.

More big days for Wright should lead to more big days for the Bears.

Weak: Safety

Last season, Baylor had one of the Big 12’s most experienced back lines with senior safeties Jeremy Williams and Jordan Lake patrolling the secondary. Their experience leaves, along with their combined 146 tackles. Another senior, JUCO transfer Byron Landor, could step in as a permanent starter and played in 11 games last year, racking up 11 tackles. But the other safety spot could go to a much less experienced player. Mike Hicks, a sophomore, or incoming recruit and Waco native Ahmad Dixon, the nation’s No. 3 safety, are possible replacements.

Either way, Baylor can’t replace Williams and Lake's seasoning and chemistry. The two were a pair of redshirt seniors with years of experience beyond what their replacements will have. Growing pains, at least in the beginning, are almost a guarantee.

Baylor defense has a lot to prove

March, 3, 2010
3/03/10
9:00
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Robert Griffin’s return highlights Baylor's spring practices, but even an otherworldly effort next fall won’t matter if the Bears can’t replace a pair of All-Big 12 defenders. Senior Earl Patin is the most likely candidate to replace linebacker Joe Pawelek, and Jordan Lake’s strong safety spot is up for grabs after his career came to an end last fall.

Byron Landor and Mike Hicks will have to show they’re ready to compete against the top talent in the Big 12, and will also replace the graduated Jeremy Williams. If they’re not ready, ESPNU 150 recruit Ahmad Dixon, the nation’s No. 3 safety and a Waco native, could land pretty high on the depth chart when fall practice arrives.

However, it'd be dishonest of me to not admit I’m also looking forward to watching JUCO offensive lineman Robert Griffin (6-foot-6, 345 pounds) block for quarterback Robert Griffin. Only 20 more Robert Griffins to go until Art Briles has himself a terrifying juggernaut.
Robert Griffin’s return highlights Baylor’s spring practices, but even an otherworldly effort next fall won’t matter if the Bears can’t replace a pair of All-Big 12 defenders.

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