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A look at the Bears offensive line entering spring practice

The Baylor Bears will return 3-starters from their 2016 starting line, but a lack of depth will have to wait to be answered till the fall.

The biggest concern entering the 2016 season for the Baylor Bears was depth, most critically at offensive line.  Gone were 4-key starters, with just Kyle Fuller left to lead a new line. The 2017 will have a different set of problems, as Fuller, a 3-year starter, has now graduated.  Along with the graduation of Dom Desouza with a year of eligibility left, the Bears will return three starting linemen and all of their primary backups. 

Depth however will be an issue once again, especially with the lack of any junior college transfers coming in the fall. Currently, Baylor has just 7 scholarship offensive linemen for spring practice, best case.  That includes Josh Pelzel who is returning from an ACL team last spring.  

Walk-on's Danny Russell, Keith Orcutt, Dalton Justice, Harrison Fox, Michael Coffey and Jim Threet all played in games in 2016, and are set to return this year.  In addition, former University of Central Florida lineman Christian Beard has transferred to Baylor, though he will be a walk-on.  He has 2 years to play 1, though he might get a second year of eligibility back due to a medical red shirt. 

These "other" names on the roster are of utmost importance for the Bears this spring, simply to field a team!  They will need to rotate linemen early on to get the reps for the other players required, especially installing a new offense.  Those 7-players will be critical pieces this spring, especially before a group of 6 high school offensive linemen can make it this summer for fall practice. 

The foundation of the 2017 line will be the trio of Mo Porter, Patrick Lawrence and Blake Blackmar. Those three are the top returning starters at both tackle positions and guard.  Blackmar could also slide over to center as well, a possibility if one of the freshman can step up in the fall and earn a spot.  Ishmael Wilson and Tanner Thrift both started and played quite a few games in 2016, and will battle it out one of the guard positions.

Lawrence started the year at left tackle, but lost his spot to Dom DeSouza, and then Mo Porter later in the season, though Lawrence played well at right tackle.  The junior has high upside, and incredible athleticism for the tackle position, and is probably better suited for the left side eventually. Porter however is the favorite to start there. He is a former 4-star player, signing with Baylor out of high school and junior college.  

2017 Baylor Offensive Line Roster

Player Class Position Height Weight
Mo Porter SR Tackle 6-5 310
Ishmael Wilson SR Tackle 6-4 310
Tyrae Simmons SR Guard/Tackle 6-3 300
Tanner Thrift SR Guard 6-5 320
Blake Blackmar JR Guard/Center 6-5 350
Patrick Lawrence JR Tackle 6-6 310
Josh Pelzel JR Guard 6-6 320

While the Bears seem to be set at tackles, the questions will be on the interior of the line.  With Kyle Fuller gone, they are losing a 3-year starter who set the tone for the Bears offensive line in 2016.  How the Bears replace Fuller, especially with backup Sean Muir retiring from football from concussion issues, is one of the biggest questions personnel wise for the Bears.  

Blackmar could slide in, or one of the freshmen could jump up at the center spot, with Xavier Newman the most likely.  If Blackmar slides to center, the Bears will have two guard positions to fill, with Simmons, Wilson, and Thrift battling it out.  

2017 Recruiting Class

Player Stars Rank Position Height Weight
Henry Klinge III 3 77 Guard 6-5 295
Khalil Keith 2 NA Tackle 6-5 293
Eleasah Anderson 3 79 Guard 6-4 280
Jason Moore 3 90 Tackle 6-4 275
Xavier Newman 3 6 Center 6-3 272
Ryan Miller 2 NA Center 6-2 270

As the Bears transition their offense to a more Oregon-style spread attack, which utilizes more zone-blocking scheme.  How the returning players fit into a complete overhaul of their assignments will be something to watch in the spring and as we get into the fall. 

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