The Season That Could Have Been
That will be the thing on everyone's mind as we get closer to the bowl game and move in to the offseason. A year that started out so promising, just to end in a huge thud.
Don't get me wrong, I don't believe you should ever take for granted the fact that your team is in a bowl game. The extra practice for the underclassmen is invaluable, but when you expectations were for a National Championship, and in my opinion it would have happened with Seth Russell at the helm, then it is understandable to be a little disappointed.
Still, I think most Baylor fans are ready for this season and year to end. The year started out with one of the most shocking losses in the 2014/2015 college football season, to Michigan State. Baylor dominated that game for 3 1/2 quarters, before Michigan State stuck the dagger in the hear of Baylor Nation with under a minute left on the clock.
Even with the loss in the Cotton Bowl, many felt that the feeling would be replaced with a season that would boast one of the best teams in Baylor's history. Certainly of the Art Briles era. But that would soon end, after the injuries to starter Seth Russell and true freshman phenom Jarrett Stidham.
I'm not sure what Baylor could learn from this season other than the Quarterbacks need to hang out with new Baylor Head Baseball Coach, Steve Rodriguez, to get some drills on how to slide appropriately. The injury bug is one of the worst, most unpredictable things that can happen to your college football season, just ask TCU, but when you lose THE most valuable asset of your team and its backup, I'm not sure there is much you can do besides throw up the "shrug" emoji and move on with your life.
Personally I think Baylor will be in a better situation next season because you will have 3 battle tested QBs on your roster, and a spring ball season that will allow for some great competition. Look for young Stidham to push Russell even more than he did last spring. And with Stidham having some real game experience, Briles will have a great but tough situation to figure out at the QB position.
Speaking of Seth...
Briles Updates Injury Situation and Seth Russell Update
This past week, Art Briles updated us on the injury situation and it is rather bleek. For the most part, the Baylor defense will be at full strength again. On offense, however, the Bears will once again be without JR QB Seth Russell (Neck), TRFR QB Jarrett Stidham (Ankle), JR WR Corey Coleman (Hernia), and JR RB Shcok Linwood (Jones Fx).
Thats a tough blow for the offense, as those players represent over half of the offensive output by Baylor this year.
I think Baylor will be fine at RB with Terrance Williams and Johnny Jefferson coming on strong in the Texas game. Obviously at WR, the Bears have great options and will likely lean heavily on KD Cannon and Jay Lee to pick up the burden left by Corey Coleman. At QB, it will be the Chris Johnson show and hopefully he will stay with us a little longer this game.
With all the bad news out of the way, Baylor fans did receive some good news regarding QB Seth Russell. Russell has been in a neck brace since his surgery a couple of months ago to repair a fracture in his neck. Russell is currently ahead of pace and will be able to participate in spring drills next March. As I mentioned above, this is great news for Baylor as it gives them 2 very solid options at QB and the competition will only make them and the offense better.
Baylor Welcomes 4 Early Enrollees
Baylor Football will welcome 2 JUCO enrollees and 2 HS enrollees in January.
The 2 JUCO enrollees come highly touted from the JUCO ranks. Defensive Tackle, Jeremy Faulk, is one of the top JUCO DT's in the country and was recently named KJCCC Defensive Player of the year. Faulk originally signed with Florida Atlantic before transferring to Garden City (KS) CC. Faulk brings an athleticism to the line that will allow him play different positions along the line. Faulk should fill right in and fill the void left by Beau Blackshear.
Offensive Lineman, Branton Autry, comes to Baylor by way of Coffeyville (KS) CC. Autry is considered one of the top guards in the country, and should slide right in to the starting lineup when he steps on campus. With Baylor losing 4 of their 5 starters, Autry will fill the void left by Blake Muir and Jarrell Broxton. Autry is an All-Big 12 caliber guard and will anchor a line that could be one of the better offensive lines that Baylor has had, with Rami Hammad and Ishmael Wilson coming up through the ranks.
The 2 HS enrollees are led by US Army All-American, Tren'Davian Dickson. Dickson ended his high school career as the leader in TD receptions. Dickson will likely go down as one of the best HS WR's to ever play at that level. At Baylor, Dickson will be looked upon to continue the stellar WR play that Baylor fans have come to know over the past few years. Dickson has deceptive speed and is a very instinctive player. He is a true route runner, with great hands, and will likely have a shot to see the field during the 2016 season. Dickson was recently named an Under Armour WR Player of the Year for schools under 4A.
The second of the enrollees is an important one, as QB Zach Smith from Grandview (TX) HS, will enroll at Baylor early and bring a solid prospect to the QB group. Smith has been committed to Baylor for over a year and a half, after being offered on the spot by Coach Art Briles after a summer camp showing. Smith ended his HS career as one of the most prolific passers in Texas HS football history. Smith was recently named an Under Armour QB Player of the Year for schools under 4A. Smith was also selected to play in the Simper Fi All-American game in January.
A Baylor Recruiting Wish List
The Bears currently sit at 19 commitments for the 2016 class. They have the #1 ranked class in the Big 12 and are #16 nationally, according to Scout.com. Coach Briles and his staff have done a wonderful job of feeding on their recent success. Baylor can now push reality to recruits that come on campus.
While Baylor has taken care of some of its immediate needs, there are still some spots to fill. Namely along the defensive line and the defensive backfield. Baylor will like work to fill its class to 25, but many of those player will likely come from the staff watching more film on guys that we haven't seen.
Looking at what is out there right now, I have put together a sort of "wish list" for who I think Baylor has a great shot to land. If Baylor is able to hit on some of these guys, their class will likely jump in to the top 10, if not top 12. Lets take a look:
Mark Jackson - The current A&M commit took an official visit to Baylor for the Oklahoma game. With the turmoil surrounding the A&M program right now, Baylor could swoop in and steal one of the top DE's in the state.
I know, that doesn't seem like much, but Baylor is still in on some other guys, but those are 2 that I feel that Baylor has a great shot at. There is a possibility you could see a JUCO player pop up.
Now there has been rumblings that Texas has come after 3 of Baylor's commits, JP Urquidez, Kameron Martin and Patrick Hudson.
With JP, I could very well see him taking a trip to Austin. I wouldn't necessarily be too alarmed by that. Texas was a dream school of Urquidez, but he picked Baylor because of the recent success they have had in devloping lineman and putting them in to the NFL. Baylor can sell that over Texas, right now. Being a dream school doesn't mean much if you can't get developed and the on the field winning isn't there. If Texas somehow convinces JP that he could be a cornerstone in getting the program turned around, then Baylor might be in trouble. Still, as one source said "JP and Coach Clements have a very strong relationship." Remember that Matt Mattox has only been at Texas for a couple of weeks, and won't be able to talk to JP again until the first full week in January. It will be tough for him to build the type of relationship that JP has with Coach Clements, in less than 4 weeks.
Kameron Martin is a non-issue here, and I feel very comfortable saying that. Martin has preached loyalty several times, when mentioning his commitment to Baylor. Baylor offered him in the 9th grade, and once he committed, have not looked at another RB since. Martin will likely continue to have to assure people of his commitment, but he isn't going to Texas.
Patrick Hudson is another player that I think Baylor is in a good spot with here. He has been committed since the summer of 2014 and has never wavered. This is another situation where Baylor's long time relationship with Hudson will pay off in the end. Remember that while having a "dream school" means a lot, there are still so many factors that go in to having a successful college career, and an opportunity to play in the NFL. Baylor can provide that. Texas, the jury is still out.