To say that it has been a tumultuous off season for Baylor would be a gross understatement. However, the Bears are in full football mode and are able to concentrate on what they love to do. Football.
New Baylor Head Coach, Jim Grobe, would like to think that he was going in to the season with a full team and new additions, but with everything that has gone on, that just isn't the case. Overall the Bears have lost around 15 players from last years team that won the Russell Athletic Bowl. Several of those players were ones that were thought to come in and play early.
This fall, Coach Grobe and his staff have had to deal with the attrition felt from this summer and that has led to smaller than normal numbers. With limited depth, the coaching staff has had to look at freshmen newcomers to help fill some of the voids left by departed players and have found a few that could actually make a big impact this season.
On the offensive side of the ball, QB Zach Smith and WR Denzel Mims have made some early noise. Mims was thought to be headed to the defensive side of the ball, but with Corey Coleman, Jay Lee, Tren'Davian Dickson and fellow freshman signee Devin Duvernay gone, Mims has had the opportunity to make a name for himself. Mims has a tall frame that will help on the outside. He is an athletic freak that the coaches discovered at their Marshall camp last summer. He is a big body that has the athletic ability to go up and make the tough catch, but also has the ability to stretch the field. Mims is likely to get a chance to play some, but with a talented receiving corp he may be a little down in the depth chart. Still though, he will be an extra talented body that can jump in when called upon.
Freshman Zach Smith, is another that will be asked to carry the load left after Sophomore QB Jarrett Stidham announced his decision to transfer. Stidham was a big loss for Baylor, but Smith, while raw, is very talented and possesses a cannon for an arm. He is a heady QB that resembles Bryce Petty. Smith won't beat you with his feet, but he is nimble enough to gain a few yards, should things break down. Smith has shown a propensity to make good decisions with the football and will likely get some good playing time early. Smith is the future of the Baylor program and is someone who comes in with a very high ceiling.
On the defensive side of the ball, there are three freshmen who have made a big impact early in camp. Defensive line was one of the most hit by attrition, as the Bears lost all 4 starters along the line. Step in Bravvion Roy. The 4-star Spring (TX) HS standout has already begun making an impact and has even taken snaps with the 1's. The defensive line will be one of the biggest question marks heading in to the season and having someone the caliber of Roy will help to fill the void left by Andrew Billings.
Another freshman out of Houston, Micheal Johnson, is likely to play early as well. Johnson has bulked up and taken snaps at DT this fall. Johnson was a bigger sized DE, coming out of HS, and can certainly play that position in the 4-3 package, but with Baylor transitioning more to a 3-4, Johnson will be able to slide down and help out. Johnson isn't likely to make as big an impact as Roy, but will be counted on nonetheless.
The last freshman on the defensive side is Kountze ATH Grayland Arnold. Arnold was one of the more sought after athletes in the state and Baylor held off major pressure from Texas to land his signature. Arnold is best known for his work on the hardwood, but his transition to football has been seamless and he has made a big name for himself early in fall camp. Arnold has taken snaps with the first team defense and is likely to push for major playing time. He isn't on the 2 deep at the moment, but that is likely to change the closer we get to the first game. His athletic makeup and overall football IQ is very high for a young freshman and he has ran with the strength and conditioning program.
This football season will be different from years past, for Baylor fans. It is a time to move forward and embrace a new culture, but one that will continue its winning ways. The few freshmen that stuck with Baylor are raw, but extremely talented. They are the future of Baylor football and many of them are beginning to prove their worth. No matter how things go this season, it's clear that the foundation of the program is strong and that whomever the new Head Coach is in December, the future of the program is in good hands.