The Baylor Bears will have their biggest test of the season this Saturday in Ft. Worth, as they take on the #4 TCU Horned Frogs. The Baylor defense has yet to give up a touchdown this season, one of only three teams nationally to accomplish that through 2 games. But the 2-0 Bears will be facing their toughest test of the season thus far when they take on a balanced attack from TCU.
While most fans rightfully think of the TCU defense when discussing their success over recent years, it has been the steady hand of Andy Dalton and the TCU offense that has won them plenty of games. As the trending Baylor defense gets ready for Saturday, BearsIllustrated.com gets you ready by looking in depth at the TCU skill positions.
Quarterback: At quarterback, it's no secret TCU is led by senior Andy Dalton, a 4 year starter and the leader among active QB's in wins nationally. Dalton has steadily improved throughout the years, and has been part of the reason TCU has won 16 of their last 17 games. Dalton's yards per attempt have gone up each year, as have his touchdowns - from 10 his freshman year to 11 his sophomore year to 23 last year as a junior. Meanwhile, Dalton threw 11 interceptions as a freshman, and dropped that number down to only 8 last year. He does have 2 interceptions in the early going this year, but both came in the first game against Oregon State.
Perhaps the best overall measure of a quarterback is their QB rating. Dalton's rating has gone from 118 to 129 to 151 during his first 3 years in college football. While Dalton is no Robert Griffin in running the ball, he has 3 rushing touchdowns in the early going this season. In the one true test TCU had this season against Oregon State, TCU ran Dalton 15 times for 64 yards and 2 TD's.
The Baylor defense will look to put pressure on Dalton with their front 4, one of the key areas of improvement the Baylor staff has worked on since last season. Certainly one of the keys for Baylor's defense will be forcing Dalton to be TCU's playmaker, rather than letting the game come to him so he can pick apart the defense.
Running Back: Ed Wesley is a sophomore who had a big game against Oregon State - 134 yards on 17 carries. He averaged over 6 yards a carry last year, and is putting up 7.8 yards per carry so far this year. He is a little guy at 5'9", 200lbs, but clearly he is hard to catch and bring down. He added another 85 yards and a score against Tennessee Tech.
TCU is not a 1 man show at running back, as they will certainly try to wear down Baylor's defense on the ground in ways similar to what Connecticut did last year against the Bears. While Wesley had 17 carries against Oregon State, fellow sophomore Matthew Tucker had 20 carries. He is bigger at 6'1, 210 lbs, but only managed 74 yards on those 20 carries against Oregon State. Still, at 3.7 yards per rush, TCU would live with that type of production against Baylor. Tucker had a long of 13 yards in that game, so he really grinded out his yards. He added 53 yards and 2 TD's against Tennessee Tech.
TCU will try to use this duo to control the game. Baylor will need a great game out of its defensive line and linebackers to stop this early and often. If you see TCU gouging Baylor for 5 yards a pop in the 1st quarter, defensive coordinator Coach Norwood will be forced to bring extra players into the box, which will allow Dalton to go to work with TCU's play-action game.
Wide Receiver: Jeremy Kerley is the guy to watch here and in the return game. He is a 5-10, 192lb speedster. Against Oregon State, he had 49 yards and a touchdown on 6 catches. Last year was his biggest year in the receiving game, finishing with 44 receptions for 532 yards (12 yard average) and 2 receiving and 3 rushing touchdowns. He can have quiet games (see Tennessee Tech), but he's your classic gamebreaker.
Bart Johnson is a senior wide receiver who has 10 catches through 2 games. He is 6'0, 195lbs. He was average last year with 33 catches - but had a good yardage total with over 400 yards.
Josh Boyce is another 6'0 wide receiver, a redshirt frosh from Copperas Cove. He had 3 catches for 70 yds and a TD against Tennessee Tech, against Oregon State he only had 1 grab for 5 yards.
Skye Dawson is a 5'10" sophomore wide receiver that had 4 catches for 69 yards against Oregon State and appears to be someone Dalton might be relying upon more this season.
Jimmy Young is a 6'1" senior that hasn't done much this year. But 2 years ago he had almost 60 catches and almost 1,000 yards. He dipped down last year, but did have 4 catches for 68 yards in the Fiesta Bowl.
Overall, the names at the TCU skill positions won't blow anyone away. Although there are several all-conference selections, most of these players likely won't make an NFL roster unlike some of the Bears other opponents on the season. For those fans interested in their star rankings out of high school, Scout.com rates them like this: Dalton (2) Kerley (4) Tucker (3), Wesley (2), Young (2) Boyce (2).
But what Baylor knows all too well in facing TCU in recent years, this group is not defined by individual success or name recognition. Rather, it's the balance of the TCU offense that poses the potential threat. There's no great weapon against a smart, veteran quarterback, and that's exactly what the Baylor secondary will face in Dalton, who may turn out to be the most poised quarterback Baylor will face this year.
It will be a stern test for the Baylor defense, but what better way to find out if your hot start is real than facing experienced skill position players with a history of winning.
For more coverage of the Baylor Bears, keep it locked to BearsIllustrated.com.
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Dalton, TCU Offense Leading the Way
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