The Bears are a Top 10 team, so it makes sense that they have some very talented players all over the roster. But, who are the 10 best players for the Bears. This isn’t about next year, or down the line. This is about who the ten best players will be for the Bears THIS year. Let’s dive in:
10. Corey Coleman – Wide Receiver
Expected to be one of the breakout stars for the 2014 Baylor Bears, Coleman is a supremely talented sophomore receiver looking to build off of a solid 2013 campaign that began as a backup and ended with a starting role. Stepping in for the injured Tevin Reese, Coleman had on the job training for the 2nd half of the season. With his speed and big-play making ability, look for Coleman to continue the “Wide Receiver U” tradition.
9. Shawn Oakman – Defensive End
With a 2nd on the team 12.5 tackles for loss, Oakman had a breakout role with the Bears last year, despite playing limited snaps as a backup. The 6-foot-9 defensive end is a physical freak of nature. However, in the last 5 games of 2013, the sophomore end only had .5 tackles for loss as offenses schemed against him and limited his impact. With a larger role ahead of him, Oakman will have chances to make a huge impact. With some of the best talent in the Big 12, I am betting he does.
8. Desmine Hilliard- Right Guard
A stalwart at his right guard position last year, Hilliard was overlooked by many with now NFL Guard Cyril Richardson at the Left Guard spot. Hilliard has great size and strength for the position, and will be looked upon to lead the Baylor running attack. He has the fourth most starts on the team going into the 2014 season, so expect the junior to have a large leadership role on a slightly revamped offensive line.
7. Terrence Singleton – Corner Back
Simply put, the Bears need a cornerback or two to step up and take the job. Singleton has done that and more. Originally thought of as a safety, Singleton has pushed his way to the top of the cornerback depth chart with an outstanding spring. In the pass-heavy Big 12, Singleton will be matched up against some elite passing attacks. A big year for the sophomore defender could answer a ton of questions for the new Baylor secondary.
6. Shock Linwood – Running Back
The top returning running back for the Bears was a third stringer that pretty much no one knew of at this time. With injuries forcing him to a much larger role that anyone could have dreamed of, Linwood gave the Bears a viable (and dangerous) running threat. Linwood was recently named as Scout’s #1 Returning Running Back in the Big 12. With 881 yards rushing and 8 touchdowns, Linwood is looking to build on his break out freshman campaign and continue the four year run of 1,000 plus yard rushers.
5. Andrew Billings – Defensive Tackle
Strong. Strong. Strong. Seriously, just look at the below image of what Billings can do. He just destroys his blocker, throws him into the ball carrier and then tackles the runner. The strongest man on the team, Billings played quite a bit last year as a rotation defensive tackle. He had 30 tackles and 4 tackles for loss last year. Did I mention that he was a true freshman doing that? Well he was. Expectations are high for this 2nd year player.
4. Spencer Drango – Left Tackle
The Bears were not the same offense without their All-American left tackle. You could chalk that up to several other factors (harder competition, loss of other key offensive players) but the fact is, when Spencer Drango went out of the lineup against Texas Tech, the Bears took a massive step back in terms of offensive production. The Bears were just 2-2 without him (9-0 with him) and went from scoring 61.2 points per game to 32.5. Their total yards fell over 200 yards per game. Those are massive losses. The top offensive lineman returning to the Big 12 this year according to Scout, Drango looks to have a big bounce back junior season.
3. Bryce Hager – Linebacker
Another player that saw his 2013 season end too soon, Hager was the Bears leading tackler through the first 8 games. Injured against Texas Tech, Hager would be on the sidelines for the last four games of the season. He still ended up with 71 tackles on the year. One of the best tacklers in the Big 12, Hager has developed into a leader for the Baylor defense.
2. Antwan Goodley – Wide Receiver
With just 19 career catches in his first two years for the Bears, Antwan Goodley entered his junior season as a bit of a mystery. How could he replace the production from Terrance Williams the year before? Well Goodley had no issues with that, leading the Bears with 71 receptions for 1339 yards and 13 touchdowns. Goodley is a running back with wide receiver speed and hands and he was recently voted as the 2nd best Wide Receiver in the Big 12.
1. Bryce Petty - Quarterback
You could make a pretty good case that Petty is not only the best player on the Bears, but in the Big 12. The 2013 Big 12 Player of the Year finished 6th in the Heisman voting last year. With the NFL calling, Petty decided to stick around another year and finish what he started at Baylor. Simply put, the Bears mission is to get Petty to New York for the Heisman ceremony. That is not a small goal, as Petty would be just the third finalist in Baylor history with the hope of joining Robert Griffin III as a Heisman winner. A repeat of his 2013 season with 4200 yards passing, 46 total touchdowns against just 3 interceptions with the Bears winning another Big 12 title would surely be a great start at both of those goals.