Spencer Drango is a future NFL left tackle. We have been hearing that for the past few years, even during his recruitment out of Leander High School. The four-star 2011 prospect was heavily recruited out of high school, but ended up choosing and sticking with the Bears. After redshirting his initial year in Waco, he got his chance to play, and took full advantage of it. As a redshirt freshman, he was the mainstay at left tackle all of last year and earned All-American Freshman team for his efforts. With another year of starting for one of the most explosive offenses in the nation, Drango could be looking at an All-American future in 2013 or 2014.
On the other side of the line is a bit of a question mark after the spring knee injury of returning starter, junior Troy Baker. Now, Baker could return in time for conference season, but for now, let's assume he will miss most of the year or even possibly all of it. Yes, I know that is a bit of a doomsday scenario, but even with the loss of the Honorable Mention All-Big 12, the right tackle position is still in good hands.
The starter right now is Kelvin Palmer, a senior who when Baker was healthy was probably going to be the starter at center in 2013. Palmer is a solid player who has experience across the line, with 31 career appearances. While he has not been a starter yet, Palmer is a player that the coaching staff trusts in a multitude of spots.
Behind Palmer and Drango on the depth chart though are a lot of question marks. This is where the loss of a player like Baker hurts the most. We can survive one loss to a starting lineman, but if one of the tackles or another key lineman go down, we will be left scrambling and putting guys in positions they might not be ready for. The primary backup for the tackle spot is Pat Colbert, a player that got some playing time last year at the blocking tight end spot, after Jerod Monk was lost of the year. Colbert is a nice player, but still needs to put on more weight and strength to really be able to shine at tackle.
The other listed backup is Tre'Von Armstead, a player that I like quite a bit for the future, but is coming off of his redshirt year, and will be looking for his first playing time as a Baylor Bear. The 2012 three star recruit from Port Arthur, TX is absolutely a building block for the future, but is he ready to step into a large role if injuries move him up the food chain? The hope would be if that the Bears had to shuffle guys around again, that they could hold the fort down until Baker could get back in the lineup.
With the lines very blurry in terms of positions on the Baylor line for this year and especially moving forward after the 2-deep is considered, it is hard to tell where the coaching staff has certain guys lined up for in the future. In the 2011 class, we had Drango, Colbert and Desmine Hilliard who are all in the two-deep right now (Hilliard is the starter at Right Guard). That is a VERY good sophomore class to depend on. But in the 2012 class, it is just Armstead and Kyle Fuller (who is listed as the backup at center). For 2013, we took just two linemen in Maurice Porter and Darius Moore, with Moore absolutely looking like an interior lineman and Porter probably leaning that way as well.
So the future of the tackle position is really the present as well. Drango will be depended upon to carry the load this year and hopefully next year (he is draft eligible as a 3rd year sophomore after this year) and if we are very lucky the year after that. You have to imagine that Baker will be back next year as well, and if he gets a medical redshirt year for this year, could possibly have another season as well.
In the 2014 class, we have three commitments from lineman with one of those being a future guard, one a future tackle and one a guy that could play inside or outside. The obvious future tackle is Patrick Lawrence, a 6-5 250lb ball of clay for the Baylor coaching staff to mold. He just looks like a prototypical tackle to me, and a guy that will develop quite nicely for the Bears. The other guy that could play tackle is Josh Pelzel, a 6-6 320 lb lineman who's future could be determined by the other recruits in this class and next. I like him at guard personally, but he has the tools to move outside, if the Bears keep getting high quality interior candidates and need more players on the outside.
The 2014 class has at least one, maybe two more spots for lineman, and I would imagine they are holding a spot open for one of the three very highly regards tackles they are recruiting heavily in Jovan Pruitt, Tyus Barrett, and Michael Grimm. Personally, I think the Bears are sitting pretty well with Barrett and Pruitt, and are probably on the outside looking in on Grimm. The Bears staff would be ecstatic to get a commitment from any of the three though. Outside of those three though, keep an eye on Nick Gates, a teammate of Randall Cunningham II out in Las Vegas and also some possible junior college targets later in the year.