Under Art Briles, the Bears have not been afraid to run a true freshman out on the field and put him to work. We saw it last year with Robbie Rhodes, Taion Sells and Andrew Billings. But, the goal of most programs is still to utilize the redshirt year to ease a high school player into the college grind and get him to develop physically and mentally a full year before they contribute on Saturdays. So which 5 redshirt freshman could make an impact in 2014?
1. Austin Jupe – Nickel Back, 6-1, 205 pounds
My personal choice for the nickel back position for the Bears, Jupe is a tremendous athlete. He was a safety primarily in high school, but his physicality could make him an intriguing prospect for the NB role vacated by Sam Holl. While not the hitter Holl is, Jupe could bring better coverage skills to the position and help the Bears out in other ways. Look for this talented freshman to make an immediate impact on the depth chart. Jupe will be in a big-time battle with fellow redshirt freshman Raquaan Davis and sophomore Kiante Griffin to win the NB spot.
2. Johnny Jefferson – Running Back, 5-11, 200 pounds
With the top two running backs for the Bears last year no longer on the team, the Bears will have a new starting group next year in the backfield. Shock Linwood will be the starter when camp starts as he had a very successful freshman campaign and is one of the returning rushing leaders in the Big 12 next year. However, Jefferson will get a chance early in the year to get carries, and could be one to watch. You always want to have depth in the backfield, and Jefferson will give that to the Bears right away.
3. Kevin Smith – Defensive End, 6-2, 255 pounds
This talented defender almost wasn't on this list, because the Bears staff seriously considered removing his redshirt and playing him last year, even with some excellent players and good depth in front of him. With two starters in Terrance Lloyd and Chris McAlister graduating, there will be spots in the lineup and rotation for Smith.
4. Xavier Phillips – Linebacker, 6-0, 230 pounds
With Eddie Lackey and Brody Trahan no longer on the squad, one of the Bears linebacker positions will need some depth. Look for Phillips (along with juco transfer Grant Campbell) to make a dent in the depth chart and get some more playing time. If he doesn't climb the ranks onto the depth chart, Phillips speed and athletic ability should at least help the Bears special teams units.
5. Chris Callahan – Kicker, 5-9, 180 pounds
With senior kicker and all-time leading scorer in Baylor history Aaron Jones graduated, the Bears have a hole in the lineup at kicker. Callahan, who originally was going to be grey-shirted last year, chose to redshirt instead and will be entering his 2nd year at Baylor. Callahan brings an accurate leg to Waco and should provide a good weapon for inside 45 yards.