1.The Baylor Bears hit the field at McLane Stadium this weekend to participate in a closed scrimmage. All eyes were on first year Junior starter Seth Russell, as he had an uneven scrimmage at Meet the Bears earlier this month. With the attention on him though, Russell was brilliant, completing his first 9 passes of the game, and finishing 17 of 23 for 233 yards and three touchdowns. With touchdown passes to Jay Lee, Corey Coleman and Tre'Von Armstead, Russell led the first team Baylor offense to a very successful day.
Corey Coleman continued to evolve into the Bears biggest weapon, hauling 4 catches for 102 yards, including a 77 yard touchdown. With KD Cannon out with some nagging leg injuries sitting out the scrimmage (he is back at practice today), Coleman is the main guy on the outside for the Bears.
2.In other position battles, Grant Campbell and Travon Blanchard both continued to grab the middle linebacker and nickel back position. Blanchard is bringing much more speed and athleticism to the "rover" position, and looks to make a big impact this year. “It felt good to put yourself in a live situation and finally you get to pad up. We’re trying to be the best defense in the nation, so I feel like we took a step towards that goal,”Blanchard said.
Campbell has been steady in the middle, trying to replace 3-year starter Bryce Hager. Ryan Reid is also doing good work in holding onto a starting cornerback spot. With improved depth and experience in the defensive backfield, every position is up for grabs. Terrence Singleton and Tion Wright are looking to carve out a larger role this year along with starter Xavien Howard. That improved depth and experience will be a key for the Bears as they look to improve their pass defense, especially late in games, in 2015.
3.The Bears will continue to practice and scrimmage in preparation for the season opener on September 4th. “We’re healthy, that’s the number one thing,” Briles said. “Like I was telling them at the end, everybody in this huddle we want at SMU on Sept. 4. The whole thing is keeping these guys healthy, getting them to the game and then turning them loose and letting them play.” If the Bears can continue to develop, and more importantly stay healthy, they should be in great position for the opener.
4.Baylor basketball also got in on the fun as they started their season off with an exhibition tour around Canada. The Bears went 3-1 on the four game trip that included two double header tilts against the University of Ottawa and Carleton University. After a sweep of Ottawa, the Bears edged out a tough win in the first game against Carleton University, but lost the second close. It was an encouraging trip for the Bears, as several young players got some much needed experience. Besides, trips to Canada have usually ended well for the Bears. The last time Baylor took a trip up north, their season ended with advancing to the Elite Eight.
It was also the Bears first look at a few players that are new to the program. Jo Acuil played a big role as the 3rd big man behind Jonathan Motley and Ricardo Gathers. Acuil's best game was a 14 point, 7 rebound effort in the first contest of the trip. The 7-footer from Australia showed off a bigger and stronger presence than he displayed at times in junior college, and will be looked to as a key piece in the rotation.
Also making their first appearances for the Bears were freshmen guards Wendell Mitchell and Jake Lindsey. Mitchell started at the off-guard position a few games, but struggled with his outside shot, while Lindsey was one of the better passers on the trip, getting 4 assists in two of the games. Mitchell will be counted on off the bench to provide some scoring punch, while Lindsey will be fighting for time at the point guard position.
5.One Bears however did not make the trip in King McClure, the crown-jewel of the 2015 signing class. The 4-star combo-guard was kept back in Waco,TX. Bleacher Report's Jason King with the great interview of McClure and how he is simply happy to still be on the roster.
These are the type of things that I always point to and think of when someone says to me (usually a fan of another team) that Scott Drew is a sleazeball and is dirty. Drew sells his program as one of family. The way they tried to take care of McClure first and foremost as a member of that family, and then as a basketball player speaks to that attitude and foundation of the Baylor basketball program. You see it also in the way Baylor has supported Isaiah Austin. This is not a one-time example of what Scott Drew wants his program to be about. This is just another piece of evidence of WHY Scott Drew is so successful. He is not just shilling ice to an eskimo, but rather doing the right things to make the program his.
In a basketball sense, losing McClure would have been a huge blow to the 2015 Bears. They are light on guards right now with McClure, as Lester Medford and Allerick Freeman are the most experienced backcourt options. With McClure and fellow freshman Jake LIndsey and Wendell Mitchell, the Bears have some good depth options. McClure profiles as a legitimate top-tier Big 12 player, and will be looked at as a key rotation player in 2015-16.