Baylor began preseason camp on Monday. Let's get a closer look before things heat up in Waco.
Schedule: Players reported on Sunday and the Bears began practice on Monday, as well as hosting a local media day. Baylor begins its season on Aug. 31 at home against the FCS Wofford Terriers.
Setting the scene: Baylor will begin the season just outside the top 25, and for the first time in school history, got first-place votes (2) in the Big 12 preseason poll. The story in Waco is an improved defense and a promising quarterback in Bryce Petty. I'd make the argument that this Bears team looks more complete than any under Art Briles, including all of the ones with some guy named Robert Griffin III on the roster.
All eyes on: The defense. We saw brief flashes in 2011 before a disastrous Alamo Bowl, even though the Bears won that game. The Bears showed what looked like overnight improvement again in 2012, stifling an efficient K-State offense in an upset win and carrying over a strong defensive performance for most of the season, highlighted again by locking down a good UCLA offense in a Holiday Bowl blowout win. Does that finally carry over to the start of a season? We'll see.
Breaking out: DE Shawn Oakman. Last year, Lache Seastrunk was Baylor's big breakout transfer who blew up in November. Look out for Oakman. The Penn State transfer came to Waco last year and spent the 2012 season practicing with the scout team, but he's eligible now and should contribute alongside a good set of defensive ends in Chris McAllister and Terrance Lloyd. They're both seniors, but Oakman, a sophomore, should show that the position is in good hands moving forward this season.
On the mend: Cornerbacks Demetri Goodson and K.J. Morton. Joe Williams is holding down one starting spot at corner, but Goodson and Morton are basically co-starters at the other, giving the Bears three quality players at the top of the depth chart. Goodson broke his arm in two places in a loss to West Virginia and missed the rest of the season, but was granted a medical redshirt and will return after a strong start to 2012 before the injury. Morton injured his groin two weeks later against Texas and missed the rest of the year, but both are back on the field and ready to go for the season opener.
Outlook: Like I mentioned earlier, this should be a very, very salty Bears team. Nobody in the Big 12 was playing better football by the end of the season and nobody looked better in their bowl game than the Bears. They're getting more respect around the league than ever, and everybody knows what kind of offense the Bears will have with Lache Seastrunk returning and Briles calling the plays. For years, the tune has been the same: If BU ever figures out how to play defense, this team will be dangerous. That might have finally happened. We saw it late last year.
Quotable: Briles, on Seastrunk's Heisman hopes. "Lache has some qualities that give him an opportunity. He's a dynamic football player that's very engaging, and those are good qualities to have. They help you with the voters. I'd much rather have players wanting to win the Heisman than clap for the one that does."