Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Breaking down spring camp: Baylor
By David Ubben
Baylor's next in line to kick off spring practice, and the party gets started in Waco this afternoon. Here's a closer look on what to watch for.
Schedule: The first of Baylor's 15 practices is today, leading up to the annual spring game on April 14. Baylor's spring game is a controlled scrimmage at the practice field. Practices are open to the media.
What's new: This is the first spring since 2008 that Robert Griffin III won't be on the field at Waco, and the first since 2009 that he's not in the spring as the starter. It'll be a little jarring without his No. 10 jersey on the field making plays, but the time is now for his understudy for much of that time, Nick Florence.
New faces: Special teams/wide receivers coach Dino Babers took the head coaching job at Eastern Illinois, and he was replaced from within. Coach Art Briles promoted assistant Jeff Lebby to a staff position. Baylor is also welcoming two new scholarship players: juco signee Eddie Lackey, a linebacker, and 2012 Recruiting All-Name team MVP Lynx Hawthorne, an early enrolling freshman athlete.
Big shoes to fill:Terrance Williams. The senior might have had the quietest 59-catch, 957-yard, 11-touchdown season of all time last year. He's supremely talented, but Kendall Wright led the Big 12 with 1,662 yards and leaves after leading the Bears in receiving for the past four seasons. Williams made some big catches in 2011, including the game-winner over Oklahoma that will live on as the defining moment of the Bears' dream year that ended with the first Heisman Trophy in school history. Williams has to show he can handle being the No. 1 target for a new quarterback.
Question mark: Will the defense progress? It should in Year 2 under coordinator Phil Bennett, who Baylor aggressively pursued after the 2010 season. The Bears were one of the league's worst defenses in 2011, but had the best player in the country on offense the pick up the slack. Florence is good. He's not the best player in the country. Will the payoff for getting Bennett begin to show up this spring? It was rough last year from what I saw on my trip to Waco. Leading tackler Elliot Coffey and DT Nicolas Jean-Baptiste are gone, but the team returns nine of its top 10 tacklers.
Breaking out: Running back Lache Seastrunk. The Oregon transfer tried to become eligible for 2011, but didn't do so after joining the team just before the season. The Bears didn't need him anyway; Terrance Ganaway rumbled to a Big 12 rushing title. Ganaway's gone now, though, and Seastrunk will try and win the job this spring alongside promising, more experienced backs in Glasco Martin and Jarred Salubi.
All eyes on: Florence. It's pretty obvious. Florence hasn't been handed the job just yet. Bryce Petty is behind him on the depth chart and loaded with potential, too. Florence, though, played most of the 2009 season and looked good in relief of RG3 this year, leading the Bears to a win over Texas Tech on Thanksgiving weekend. I'm betting Florence is above average this year, and he'll have arguably the Big 12's best receiving corps (with apologies to West Virginia), a good offensive line and a great group of backs. In Briles' system, though, the quarterback makes it all go.