Last year was an up-and-down season for the Baylor tackles. While netierh was injured at the same time, the Bears never had Spencer Drango and Troy Baker on the field at the same time. Baker was held out early after a knee injury in the offseason, while Drango hurt his back during the season. Both players will have to get back to full strength to carry the load on the outside of the line.
CURRENT STARTERS – 10
|2-year starter, '12 Freshman All-American, Preseason All-American||Seasoned backup, able to play both RT and LT||2-year starter, All-Big 12 HM in 2012||Backup in 2013, appeared in all 13 games|
The Bears are as strong at the tackle spots as they are anywhere else on the field. The only question is if Spencer Drango can come back from back surgery, and if Troy Baker is all the way back from a knee injury. If those two are back to what they were two years ago, the Bears will have two All-Big 12 caliber tackles. Drango is a pre-season All-American, and one of the best offensive lineman in college football. He is a 2-year starter, and was well on his way to a 2nd All-Big 12 caliber season before the back injury.
Baker had a serious knee injury in spring practice in 2013 that slowed him down well into the 2014 season, but his presence helped off-set the loss of Drango. He was not fully back though, and his ability to get full strength in the knee is a big question mark. This is a big position of strength for the Bears for 2014.
POSITIONAL DEPTH - 8
Behind Drango and Baker are two experienced options. Pat Colbert is an experienced backup, though he did struggle at left tackle last year when replacing Drango in the lineup. He is a solid right tackle though and played quite a bit the last two years in a backup role. Colbert has tremendous size at 6-foot-6, exactly what Briles looks for in his tackles.
The backup at right tackle is currently Tyler Edwards, who played primarily at center last year and his career before Baylor at Blinn College. He has good height and size though fo the position, and is another seasoned backup. He is also listed as the backup at center, so Edwards flexibility could be a key for the Bears.
Behind Edwards and Tolbert is not much, at least on the depth chart now. However, the current co-started at left guard profiles as an excellent tackle, Blake Muir, and has experience there at the Division I level at Hawaii. If injuries were to hit the Bears at the tackle position for the 2nd straight year, Muir could easily slide outside and be a strong player.
CLASS BALANCE – 6
The Bears have two seniors, two juniors, and not much else on campus right now. They have two commitments from the 2014 class coming, and a top level junior college player for 2015 committed, but they have missed on some recruits the last few years. The Bears are very top-heavy right now, and will need a very large tackle class in 2016 to get their numbers back up.
NEXT YEAR – 8
With one starter guaranteed to be gone in Troy Baker, there is a chance the Bears could be replacing both starters if Spencer Drango has the kind of year many think he will. He is a 1st round talent, and one that could be very successful in the NFL. With a healthy year, and one that builds on his great start to 2013, Drango will have a big decision to make.
This grade hedges the bet on Drango. If he comes back, this could be a 9 easily. However, if he does bolt to the NFL, this would drop at least 1 grade and maybe two. This position could have more movement than any other based on that simple decision from the Drango family.
Junior College commit Maurice Porter will step into a large role, either at right or left tackle with Blake Muir also a possibility if the Bears have two open spots. That is still a very capable tackle combination, but a step down from Drango.
FUTURE YEARS – 2
The Bears have missed out on a few high school tackles in recent classes. They had no high school commits for the 2013 class as both Maurice Porter and Darius Moore failed to qualify out of high school. Porter has since recommitted to the Bears after playing at Navarro Junior College. He will be depended on to take a large roll in 2015. The Bears also have failed to generate a high school tackle out of the 2012 class, with Kyle Fuller moving inside to center and Tre'von Armstead moving out to Tight End this year. In fact, the last high school tackle to sign with the Bears and actually be on campus right now is two redshirt juniors in Drango and Colbert.
The Bears did sign two tackles in the 2014 class though, with Patrick Lawrence being the price. The 3-star tackle committed to the Bears early and they hung onto his commitment. The other tackle is Josh Pelzel, who might profile better as a guard. However, he has the height (6-foot-6) that the Baylor coaches covet.
With them missing out on production from the high school ranks, that hurts their forecast considerably. Lawrence is a high level commitment, but the Bears lost a very projectable high school tackle in Ronnie Major for the 2015 class to Texas. The Baylor staff is still looking at securing a high school commitment for a tackle, but until they get that, this section will be a big question mark.
You just have to go back to looking at the Bears offense with and without Spencer Drango to get a great idea of the importance of having great tackle play. With Drango, this was an undefeated team that was literally obliterating all-time offensive records. Without him, they were a really good offense, but obviously weaker against the blitz. The Bears need tremendous offensive line play to work their offense to the fullest. Giving the quarterback time on the play action plays and the deep routes that make the offense so dangerous is something that cannot be taken away.
TOTAL – 38
This is a position that is absolutely loaded for 2015, with two All-Big 12 caliber players, and even two All-Americans if fully healthy. Drango is a star, one of the best lineman in college football, while Baker is a proven player that has been quite dependable for the Bears. You couldn't ask for two better tackles, assuming they are both fully healthy after an injury scarred 2013 for both players. There is experienced depth behind them, but not much youth coming up in the system. They have a few freshmen coming in, but will need to get 1 more for 2015 and a few for 2016 to get the pipeline fully back up to speed.