WACO -- Baylor football had its annual spring game at McLane Stadium on Saturday, the first time fans and media got a glimpse of this year’s team. While plenty is left to be determined, here’s a first look at some of the winners and losers of the spring game.
WINNER: JaMycal Hasty, RB
The redshirt freshman probably won’t get a chance to contribute this season, but he looked like a star in the spring game. Hasty rushed for a game-high 68 yards on 13 carries, and added a 27-yard touchdown reception from Zach Smith. Hasty is likely the fastest running back on the roster, and brings a breakaway threat that the Bears have missed since Lache Seastrunk.
LOSER: Offensive line
It’s not necessarily that the group had a bad day, but it certainly has work to do relative to last year’s lofty expectations. The group allowed 12 sacks, including multiple to Greg Roberts, Aiavion Edwards and Brian Nance. When playing against quarterbacks in a no-tackle jersey, whistles can obviously come early and inflate these numbers. However, it is clear that Baylor needs to find the offensive line group that it plans to go with and develop them together.
WINNER: Clay Johnson, NB
Johnston was a fairly underlooked prospect coming out of Abilene Wylie, but made a name for himself with an impressive SPARQ score. That athleticism was on display today. Johnston led the game with 10 tackles and added two pass breakups and a sack. He was a consistent presence in both coverage and at the line of scrimmage. With Baylor running more 3-4, he could get some early opportunity at any of the linebacker spot.
LOSER: Wide receivers
It’s not necessarily that the receivers had a bad game, but they certainly did not look up to expectations in this game. The expected starters, KD Cannon and Ish Zamora, did not play very much. Instead, the Bears got contributions from Blake Lynch and Pooh Stricklin. While those two looked pretty good, the rest of the rotation struggled with drops and missed routes. Jarrett Stidham hit 21 of his 27 passes, but the other two quarterbacks connected on just 13 of 29.
Baylor is running a new defensive system that shifts to a 3-4 defensive alignment. Because of this, the linebackers become much more of a featured role in the defense. Raaquan Davis was the fourth linebacker in a rotation that featured Taylor Young, Travon Blanchard and Aiavion Edwards, which caused fairly consistent havoc. This rotation will allow Baylor to take advantage of its deep linebacker rotation, while mitigating some of the loss from the defensive line.
Baylor has plenty of talent on the roster, that much is clear. When it comes to spring games, you have to know that the offense will not want to give away too much of its alignment, so it is normal to see them struggle. It has to be encouraging to see the defensive backs step up in pure protection, and to see the linebackers get more comfortable tackling in space. It remains to be seen whether the Bears will be able to continue that success into the fall.