Baylor and the Target Game

With a new signal caller, new play caller, and a few new wide receivers, how will the Bears passing attack change going into 2015.

The Baylor Bears offense has been elite the past few years, directed by the offensive mastermind Art Briles and his staff. It has lived and thrived through 3 different quarterbacks, and will now try and do it on its second offensive coordinator (but 3rd play caller) with the loss of Philip Montgomery to Tulsa.

While wholesale changes to the offense are not expected to occur, there should be some changes around the edges of the scheme with a more dynamic rushing threat under center in Seth Russell. In the 2014 season, the Bears attempted more passes than the previous 4 seasons. They averaged 454 passes over the previous four years, and increased it by over 14% to 518.

    Baylor Passes by Year
  • 518 targets in 2015
  • 448 in 2014
  • 475 in 2013
  • 424 in 2012
  • 469 in 2011
  • With Seth Russell under center now, it makes sense that Baylor fans should expect at least a decrease to previous norms, rather than the larger number of passes they saw in 2015. The Bears also lost a few key wide receivers in Antwan Goodley, Levi Norwood and Clay Fuller. Combined, they accounted for 34% of the targets for Baylor players. That is a lot of targets and snaps to open up behind K.D. Cannon and Corey Coleman.

    Antwan Goodley led the Bears with 108 targets, followed closely by Coleman (88) and Cannon (94). Senior receiver Jay Lee was fourth with 63 targets. The Bears have usually had 2-3 primary receivers with the rest filling in at a much lower level of focus. Goodley had over 21% of the targets, with Coleman and Cannon right around 18%. However, Coleman achieved his totals in 3 less games. A good bet is for Coleman to get closer to 25% of the targets, with Cannon being closer to 20% and a third wide receiver being above 15%.

    That third receiver is the tricky part, with Lee being an obvious candidate due to experience and the need for a bigger outside threat in this offense. He is the most proven of the next tier of wide receivers, and is a much more known commodity. Backups Davion Hall and Lynx Hawthorne could also take on much larger roles, while redshirt freshman Chris Platt and Ishmael Zamora were the darlings of the spring practices.

    So working off of the above target percentages and a total passes number closer to the previous four years, here is a good bet on number of targets and catches for 2016:

    Estimated 454 Total Passes:

    Corey Coleman - 25% = 114 targets

    KD Cannon - 20% = 91 targets

    Jay Lee - 18% = 81 targets

    Running Backs - 5% = 23 targets

    Tight Ends - 5% = 23 targets

    Last year, both the running backs and tight ends as a group were around 3% of the targets. I do expect that to increase slightly, but most Baylor fans have been expecting that for years. Is this the year that Briles and his staff involve the running backs in the passing game? If they do, especially if JaMycal Hasty moves his way up the depth chart, using him in a pass-catching role out of the backfield could be a dangerous weapon.

    The next tier of receivers will be splitting roughly 122 targets with over 73% of the passes accounted for. Davion Hall (24 targets last year) and Lynx Hawthorne (19) are the returning contributors looking to get a bigger piece of the pie. With Chris Platt and Ishmael Zamora right behind them on the depth chart, there is slot with about 50-75 targets left. That "4th" receiver is an important role, and one all of the candidates will be fighting for.


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