The 2016 Spring Football season is over. Baylor, after 7 weeks, has concluded its annual spring practice. The dark period of summer without football has begun. Questions still remain for the Bears, especially on the offensive line and maybe even at quarterback, but some good things came from the past few weeks of practice. Here are some highs and lows from Spring camp.
Defensive Line Impressing
The Baylor staff has liked what they have seen from their new defensive line. Will it be up to the level of performance the Bears have seen the past few years? only time will tell, but with 4-new starters, the results in the spring were promising. Jeremy Faulk has looked quick and explosive, a little mini-Andrew Billings. While Faulk does not have the brute strength of Billings, his ability to slash and attack the line of scrimmage with speed and agility is a new wrinkle for the Bears to use. This could result in more diversified approaches by the line, especially as the experiment with a 3-man front. More twists, slants and blitz patterns to confuse passing and rushing attacks? I personally hope so.
KJ Smith, Brian Nance, and Tyrone Hunt also had moments this spring to make you believe in this line. With Byron Bonds coming back for the fall, the depth should be there...but will the results?
Still Blurry on the Offensive Line
While the defensive line got much needed clarity, the offensive side of the ball is much less clear. Kyle Fuller is the starter at center, and that is pretty much the only given. Juco transfer Dom Desouza looked strong most of the spring and is the other piece you can feel good about. Right now he is at left tackle, but will still have to earn that spot, though a spot somewhere in the top-5 is looking very likely. Youngsters Blake Blackmar and Patrick Lawrence earned starting spots at left guard and right tackle, holding off two of the better junior college transfers the past few years in Mo Porter and BJ Autry.
There is still a long way to go, so players like Rami Hammad, Ishmael Wilson, Porter, Autry and Tanner Thrift still have time to make up. Most importantly, the Baylor staff needs to find the right mix of players. Some thought has been put into going with a rotation of two 5-man groups. They would need to move Blackmar out of the starting lineup for that to work, as he is the backup center as well, but it is an interesting thought and something they did do in the bowl win against UNC.
Young Players Stepping into Bigger Roles
Speaking of Lawrence and Blackmar, they aren't the only younger players putting a stamp on the depth chart. Four freshmen or redshirt freshmen are on the two deep for the offense, with 6 sophomores joining them. Defensively, the Bears are even younger with 6 sophomores and 5 redshirt freshmen. That is before some of the big names of the 2016 recruiting class get on campus as well.
The biggest young name starting for the Bears might be Jameson Houston, who stood out at cornerback all spring. At 6-foot-2, Houston has tremendous size and athleticism. He looks quite a bit like Xavien Howard, which is a good thing for BU.
Baylor is also getting an infusion of young talent at linebacker, with Clay Johnston and Jordan Williams both standing out behind Taylor Young. Eric Ogor is also a name to watch at the NB position as well.
Pretty Injury Free
Long term, only one injury will take a player out for the upcoming season after Josh Pelzel blew out his knee. Seth Russell took some big steps this spring to getting healthy and fully back from his neck injury. Shock Linwood took time to heal after his late season injury as well. The Bears are a relativity healthy team right now, all things considered. That is a huge win, especially after the glut of injuries late last year.
Wide Receivers Galore
The amount of talent the Bears have on their 2-deep at the four wide receiver positions is just silly. Pure silliness. And this is before the rest of the 2016 class gets on the roster. The backup group of Pooh Stricklin, Tren Dickson, Blake Lynch and Quan Jones is stacked with promise and potential. With KD Cannon, Chris Platt, Ish Zamora, and Lynx Hawthorne starting, the Bears have a well-rounded and experienced group leading the way. Cannon has the chance to be a star in this offense, taking the torch from Corey Coleman, Terrence Williams and a long line of NFL receivers.
A Big Play Kick Returner?
Jamycal Hasty is going to be a joy to watch. He reminds me of Corey Coleman early in his career in Waco. Pure speed and oozes athleticism. Remember Coleman taking back a kickoff for a touchdown for the last points against Iowa State a few years ago? We should see more of that with Hasty being the primary kick returner. He brings a big play presence to the kicking game, something the Bears have lacked at times.
News and Notes
- With the injury to Josh Pelzel, the Bears are looking at some junior college options to come in this summer to give the Bears more depth on the offensive line.
- Baylor featured a new sign on the practice field this week. "Real Men Respect Women". It makes sense with April being National Sexual Assault Awareness month.
- The Bears are expecting several newcomers in the fall to make impacts on the depth chart. Junior college transfer defensive tackle DeQuinton Osborne is at the top of the list. The 3-star Juco All-American could slide into a prominent role for the Bears alongside fellow transfer Jeremy Faulk and returning players Byron Bonds, Andrew Morris, KJ Smith and Brian Nance.
- True freshmen Patrick Hudson, Parrish Cobb, Brandon Bowen, Devin Duvernay, Tren'Davian Dickson, and J.P. Urquidez also could make an impact on the depth chart this summer among a star-studded 2016 recruiting class.