IN-DEPTH: BAYLOR OFFENSE

The Baylor Bears are 2-1 so far in their first season in Art Briles' offensive system. BearsIllustrated.com invites you to take an in-depth look at the Baylor offense. *FREE*

Last year, the Baylor Bears offense proved to be one-dimensional. The lack of production in the running game proved to be a fatal flaw in the offensive scheme the Bears ran last year. In 2008, that lack of a rushing attack does not seem to be the case. In fact, the Bears' quarterback has already set a school single game record for the most rushing yards. But the Baylor offense has more weapons than just true freshman quarterback Robert Griffin. We examine the Baylor offense.

QUARTERBACKS

Robert Griffin

True freshman Robert Griffin took over the reigns as starting quarterback in the first half of his first ever college football game. He hasn't looked back. After week 3, Griffin leads all Baylor rushers with 288 yards rushing and an average of 9 yards per carry. Averaging 96 yards on the ground a game, Griffin has also hit pay dirt 4 times with his legs.

Through the air, Griffin has shown his ability to make big things happen. Griffin maintains a 62.3 completion percentage on 33 of 53 passing on the year for 548 yards. Couple that with 4 touchdown passes and zero interceptions, Griffin has proven to be a very efficient quarterback early in the season.

Griffin has raised the excitement level surrounding Baylor football, and is capable of making highlight reel plays on any given snap.

Kirby Freeman

Senior transfer Kirby Freeman transferred to Baylor from the University of Miami. Freeman possesses a strong arm and leadership abilities that the Baylor offense lacked. Freeman started the Bears' opening game against Wake Forest, but struggled moving the offense. Since then, he has seen action in every game, but is utilized often as a mentor to young quarterback Robert Griffin.

Freeman is 6-13 on the season with one touchdown and two interceptions. His knowledge of the game and veteran leadership are the "intangibles" head coach Art Briles speaks of often.

Blake Szymanski

Szymanski was Baylor's starting quarterback last season. With a change in offensive philosophy, Szymanski has taken a back seat to dual-threat quarterback Robert Griffin. However, just because Szymanksi is no longer the starter, it does not mean that he is not capable of successfully running this offense. The junior quarterback has played in games against Northwestern State and Washington State and has been productive in limited playing time. Szymanski is 3-6 for 18 yards with no interceptions. Szymanski has demonstrated the ability to move the chains with his feet as well based on his runs from scrimmage last year. However, Szymanski has no rushing statistics so far in 2008.

RUNNING BACKS

Jay Finley

Sophomore Jay Finley is the Bears' second leading rusher so far this season. He has tallied 232 yards on the ground this year in 3 games averaging 8.3 yards per carry. His 77.3 yards per game also ranks second on the team. Finley has 3 rushing scores to his credit.

Finley is also an asset in the passing game. Out of the backfield, Finley has caught two passes for 73 yards and 1 touchdown.

The talented sophomore running back for Baylor has demonstrated breakaway speed as well as the ability to hold onto the football. Issues with ball security plagued Finley last year, however it appears that in the young season, Finley has corrected his problem. Finley added muscle to his frame in the off-season, and absorbs hits better than previous years. He can handle a bigger load, but seems to be excelling because of the committee approach used by head coach Art Briles with the running back position.

Jeremy Sanders

Jeremy Sanders transferred to Baylor from Navarro Junior College as a quarterback. Although he was given a shot to win the starting position, Sanders was moved to running back, and has seemed to find his niche in the backfield. Sanders has rushed 13 times for 65 yards and 1 touchdown. The junior back averages 5 yards per carry, and has a long run of 13 yards. While the statistics don't seem to jump off the page, Sanders has shown the ability to get to the corner and take his runs to the second level. Sanders is still learning the nuances of playing running back, but appears to be well on his way. Sanders brings the style of a physical runner who has the quickness to get to the edge and turn up field.

Jacoby Jones

Senior Jacoby Jones primarily is used in short yardage or red zone situations. Jones has carried the ball 15 times for 55 yards which translates into a 3.7 yards per carry average. He has scored once this season, and has seen action in every game this year. At 5-11 225, Jones has the ability to punish those defenders who insist on trying to tackle him high, making him the perfect compliment in the Bears' running back by committee approach. Ray Sims

Senior Ray Sims a converted safety now plays running back for Baylor. The 6-0 200 pound back has carried the ball 17 times for 79 yards. His 4.6 yards per carry ranks fourth on the team. Sims showed great second effort in his runs against Washington State, but needs to protect the football as he did put one ball on the ground. Sims provides much needed depth to the running backs position for Baylor, but also provides fresh legs as he has seen action in all 3 Baylor games.


WIDE RECEIVERS

David Gettis

Sometimes it just takes a little time, and for junior receiver David Gettis that seems to be the case. Gettis, a 4 star recruit, came to Baylor as a track star with blazing speed but raw in fundamentals. In his 3rd year of college football, Gettis is now showing flashes of what the Baylor faithful have expected to see from the 6-4 210 pound receiver. If there ever was a "prototypical" wide receiver, Gettis fits the mold. On the season, the junior has hauled in 10 passes for 176 yards and leads the team with a 58.7 yards per game average. Gettis has yet to reach pay dirt so far this season, but has the longest reception from scrimmage with a 61 yards reception hauled in against Washington State.

All eyes have been on David Gettis since his arrival at Baylor, but the Californian seems to be thriving in Baylor's new offensive scheme. Gettis has dropped track and has focused solely on football. Route running is much improved, while the skill of fighting for the ball in the air is necessary for Gettis to make the next jump. A definite and legitimate deep threat, Gettis has been Robert Griffin's favorite target.

Ernest Smith

6-3 190 pound junior Ernest Smith has made his receptions count. Literally. While he has only recorded 3 receptions in 3 games, 2 of those have gone for scores. His 28.7 yards per catch average leads all Baylor receivers, as do his two touchdowns.

Smith starts opposite Gettis, and provides another legitimate deep threat. Possessing good body control, the native of Louisiana makes quarterbacks happy with his ability to go up and get the ball. Dealing with an off-season leg injury, Smith has seemed to recovered fully, and is a big part of this offense, whether he is catching passes or not.

Thomas White

Senior Thomas White is more than a possession receiver. He has recorded 7 catches for 110 yards on the season, and has shown the breakaway ability evidenced by his 32 yard touchdown reception earlier in the year. White has averaged just over 15 yards per catch and has been a favorite target for Baylor quarterbacks over his career. The former walk-on brings veteran leadership to the position as well as an unmatched work ethic.

Kendall Wright

True freshman wide receiver Kendall Wright ranks second on the team with 9 receptions. Although he has gained only 71 yards on those 9 receptions, Wright has demonstrated his elusiveness as a ball carrier. Wright, whose athletic ability allows him to line up in multiple positions, has 5 carries for 20 yards and 1 touchdown. Soft hands and good speed are important for any receiver and Wright no doubt possesses those qualities. Couple those qualities with the ability to make people miss and having a nose for the end zone, and you have a very special player as a true freshman.

Justin Akers

Akers, a 6-5 245 junior tight end/inside receiver, was Baylor's leading receiver a season ago. So far in 2008, Akers has tallied 4 catches for 57 yards. While Akers is still a favorite target in the Baylor offense, he has shown the ability to block on the edge during running plays. He has thrown key blocks that have led to the success of Baylor rushers this season, especially during the Washington State game. Akers will continue to be an integral part of the Baylor offense, whether it comes as a receiver or a blocker.

Justin Fenty

Junior Justin Fenty is a shifty receiver that has taken advantage of limited playing time so far this season. The junior receiver has recorded 2 receptions for 10 yards and 1 touchdown so far this season. The native Texan had 18 receptions for 154 yards a year ago.

Mikail Baker

Mikail Baker has returned to Baylor as an inside receiver after sitting out last year with a medical redshirt. The junior has tallied 2 receptions this season for 16 yards. Baker is also a contributor on special teams adding one kick return for 26 yards this season. While it remains to be seen if Baker will regain his starting kick returner status, Baker has worked though injury last year to find himself being productive on the field this season.

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