The foundation for any great offense is the offensive line. It has been a staple for Art Briles and his Baylor Bears. With 6 offensive linemen drafted since 2010, the Bears have featured a professional caliber blocker each year under Art Briles. It started with Jason Smith, continued on with J.D. Walton, Danny Watkins, and Cyril Richardson and now features Spencer Drango.
Drango of course was suppose to continue the NFL draft tradition in the 2015 draft. As an eligible junior, most thought that the All-American left tackle would leave Baylor after his fourth year and take his talents to the NFL. However, a surprise return to Baylor was in the cards, giving Baylor not only its star left tackle back, but allowing it to return all five starters from its Cotton Bowl game.
The depth and talent do not end with those starting five players though. With injuries hitting the Bears along the offensive line last year, several backups were thrust into larger roles. Pat Colbert stepped in for Troy Baker, who once again injured his knee. Baker is the only Baylor offensive linemen that played a larger role in 2014 to not return. Desmine Hilliard also had his season end early due to injury, only for Jarrell Broxton to step in and make an impact for the Bears.
With center Kyle Fuller and Guard/Tackle Blake Muir joining them along the line, that is 6 starter worthy players already on campus. With the addition of junior college all-american tackle Maurice Porter in the fall, along with JUCO Dominic Desouza, the Bears are loaded with upper classmen for the 2015 year. It still doesn't end there though. Add in transfers Rami Hammad and Ishmael Wilson to go along with redshirt freshman Blake Blackmar and Patrick Lawrence, the Baylor coaching staff has more than enough to fill the 2-deep in 2015.
The main question will be how do the Bears get their best 5-linemen on the field together? It would be fair to say that Drango and Fuller have locked up their spots, but the rest of the starters could move around them. Pat Colbert appears to be the favorite at right tackle, but could he slid to a backup swing tackle role if Blake Muir slides back outside? With Desmine Hilliard and Jarrell Broxton both profiling more as pure guards, the Bears could see a shuffling of Muir to the outside,a more natural position for him, as he is a former left tackle from his Hawaii days.
With Spring Practice coming closer to the end, especially with tonight's Friday Night Lights scrimmage at McLane Stadium. We could see quite a bit of different groupings and combinations all across the offensive line, with Drango and Fuller as the fixtures at center and left tackle. How the line will look as a finished product will say quite a bit about the Bears offense moving forward. Do they go with more of a run blocking unit, with Muir at right tackle, and the powerful duo of Hilliard and Broxton on the inside? Do they go for more pass protection with Muir staying inside? How does Maurice Porter fit into this when he gets on campus in the fall?
So many questions, that will take much more than just the few remaining Spring practices to sort out.
Friday Night Lights
Details of the Game
The first ever spring game at McLane Stadium kicks off Friday, March 20, at 7:30 p.m. CT. Admission to the event is free, and 2015 Baylor football schedule posters will be available. Parking in any of McLane Stadium's lots is open to the public. Gates to the stadium will open at 6:30 p.m. However, tailgating will begin in the South Plaza well before then with inflatables opening for children at 5:30 p.m.
Questions of the Game
1. How will the backup quarterback snaps go? With Seth Russell the leader in the clubhouse for the starting spot, the big question will be who will get the backup duties. Will sophomore Chris Johnson hold off Jarrett Stidham going into the fall? Johnson has been in the system for 3 years now, and has the edge in preparation and experience, but Stidham has looked like a natural in the offense so far.
2. Which redshirt freshman will move up the depth chart- The Bears had a large class of redshirted freshman in 2014, with many future key contributors among them. Guards Pat Lawrence and Blake Blackmar are very highly thought of, but will the depth of the Bears offensive line keep the from cracking the rotation? How will Josh Malin do in a possibly larger role along the defensive line? Could one of the several newcomers to the defensive secondary make an impact?
3. How will the secondary shake out? - The biggest question mark for the Bears this offseason is how much can or will the secondary improve for 2015? The weakest spot of the Bears had its issues in 2014, and with all starters and major contributors returning, has reason for optimism.
4. Who will step up as a leader on defense?With Bryce Hager no longer eligible, the Bears will have a new man in the middle of the defense, both position wise and in a leadership role. The 3-year starting middle linebacker was the quarterback for the defense, and one of its best players. Can Taylor Young take on a larger role, or will it be one of the middle linebacker candidates to step into those large shoes.
5. How will the kicking game work out? - An underrated story line this spring has been the loss of Spencer Roth, the 4-year starter at Punter. The Bears have been set at punter for almost a decade, with Spencer Roth being the third All-Conference caliber punter in a row. With freshman Andrew Galitz making his way to campus in the fall, the Bears punting situation is up in the air right now.