1. It is finally time to talk about football. The Baylor Bears will start final preparations for the 2016 season this Wednesday, looking significantly different than the spring version of the Bears. Gone is Head Coach Art Briles, with Acting Coach Jim Grobe taking over the reins of the Bears. Gone are 6 players that were listed on the post-spring 2-deep with several newcomers in the 2016 recruiting class also finding new homes. With just 70 scholarship players, the Bears will be undermanned in key spots of the field and will be hoping to have an injury free season at quarterback and offensive line. In regards to the depth chart, members got a sneak peak of what it would look like, but the Bears did release a new depth chart this weekend.
Overall, the depth at running back, wide receiver, linebacker and the defensive secondary is solid to great. Where the attrition really hurt the Bears is along both lines and at the quarterback position. I feel confident about the starters on the offensive line, with 5-7 guys that are great fits for what the Bears do. However, there isn't much after that, so injuries will be a key. The quarterback position features one of the best signal callers in the nation, and untested freshmen after that. With just two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, keeping Seth Russell upright and healthy is objective #1 to a great season.
2. The offensive line is a concern, especially depth. With just 11 scholarship players (and one of those will be out for the year), Baylor cannot afford to have injuries on the line. However, 2018 might be an even bigger concern. Baylor has just four scholarship linemen on the roster that will still be here in 2018. However, two of those are guys that could carry this unit for several years in Guard/Center Blake Blackmar and Tackle Patrick Lawrence. Blackmar is the leading candidate at the left guard position, but is most likely to be the next center after Kyle Fuller graduates. Lawrence shot up the depth chart, surpassing Mo Porter for the spot. With these two players locking down their positions the next 2-3 years, the Bears foundation will at least have a good start. After those two, there are a lot of questions with 6 juniors of the 11 scholarship linemen the Bears have.
3. With the sex scandal plaguing Baylor the past few months, there have been very few positive things to see in regards to the Baylor football team, at least from a media perspective. That changed for a day, as Coach Grobe invited Brenda Tracy to speak with the program, along with other male athletes. Tracy was sexually assaulted in 1998 by several members of the Oregon State football team, and recently was invited to speak with the Nebraska football team this summer. Coach Mike Riley happened to be the coach at Oregon State at the time, and is now at Nebraska.
Consider this one, of the many steps, Baylor has taken to remedy the faults and issues that have been found the past few months. Creating a Title IX office, doubling the amount of counselors available, and full-scale training for employees, coaching, students, and of course student athletes.
4. Basketball recruiting is starting to heat up, and the Bears are involved in some major battles for stars. RaiQuan Gray, a 3-star wing recently named his Top-6 teams, including Baylor.
The Bears offered Gray after new assistant coach Alvin Brooks III was hired to replace Grant McCasland on the Baylor bench. While at Kansas State, Brooks was the first to offer Gray and identified him as a high major target.
Baylor also got good new on Nick Claxton, another 3-star forward. The Greenville, South Carolina native cut his list to NC State, South Carolina, Florida State, Georgia, Maryland and Baylor.
With 4-star Tristan Clark already committed, Gray is being looked at more as a small forward, while Claxton could play either center or power forward.
Finally, Alex Barcello, a 4-star 2017 point guard is looking at the Bears along with Arizona, Stanford, Georgia Tech and many more. Barcello will be trimming his list to a Top-5 in the coming weeks after the summer circuit is over.
5. With just two commits for the 2017 class, it is fair to say that the Baylor football recruiting efforts have been a challenge to say the least. Jalen Pitre and Noah Daniels are the only two verbal commitments right now. A few months ago, the Bears had a Top-20 class and 6 commits. Scout-300 players Kellen Mond (committed to Texas A&M on June 27th), Hezekiah Jones (committed to Texas A&M on July 29th), and Kedrick James (Committed to Alabama on July 31st) have already found new homes. Jayden Peevy (Still uncommitted, but still considering Baylor) and Donavan Stiner are both uncommitted still.
This class will continue to grow, and hopefully get to about 7-10 players before the end of the season. At that point, long-term answers will be available for the Bears, and the true housecleaning will start. There is a chance that Jim Grobe could stay on as head coach, but there will absolutely be changes on the staff. There will for sure be a flurry to the finish line as soon as Baylor finalizes their choice for next head coach. For now, it is just about positioning until the sprint to the finish line.