Will Baylor Battle in the Trenches?

Bayor's offensive line was a source of strength for the offense in 2008. After 2 key departures to the NFL ranks, the returning players and newcomers are as important as ever this year. BearsIllustrated.com breaks down the Baylor O-line.

Baylor's O-Line Recent History

No one likes to see their top performers leave the program. Baylor's loss of Jason Smith, however, was undoubtedly a boost for Coach Art Briles and company as they head into their sophomore campaign. Unless you live under a rock you are aware that Smith was the 2nd overall selection in this year's NFL Draft. What you may not know is that Baylor also lost Smith's counter-part, right tackle Dan Gay, who recently signed an undrafted free agent contract with the San Diego Chargers. There is considerable hype surrounding the Baylor Bears, and with their talented QB Robert Griffin taking the snaps, you can see why. But what about that offensive line? In addition to losing Smith and Gay, Baylor has also parted ways with OT Larry Bradley (RS-Soph. transferring) who saw limited action in 3 games last season. So who's left?

Who is coming back?

55 JD Walton C 6-3 305 SR
58 Danny Watkins OT 6-4 310 JR
61 James Barnard OG 6-4 295 SR
63 John Jones OG 6-4 300 SO
64 Alex Bonilla OL 6-2 270 RS FR
66 Hunter Hightower C 6-5 275 SO
67 Joe Korbel OT 6-6 265 SO
69 Cameron Kaufhold OL 6-4 285 RS FR
70 Jake Jackson OL 6-3 285 RS FR
75 Jordan Hearvey OT 6-5 270 SR
77 Taylor Douthit OL 6-0 285 RS FR
78 Chris Griesenbeck OG 6-6 275 SR
79 Courtney Green OG 6-3 265 SO

According to Baylor's coaching staff Danny Watkins, a junior college transfer, will likely fill the enormous void left by the NFL bound Smith. The only other tackles on the roster are Jordan Hearvey, Joe Korbel, Chris Griesenbeck, and Cameron Kaufhold.

Jordan Hearvey demonstrated some real talent seeing significant action at guard and tackle these past two seasons. Unfortunately Hearvey injured his knee and the scuttlebutt around campus is that he is not expected to return.

Korbel, a walk-on entering the 2009 season as a redshirt sophomore, played in all 12 games last year but saw only limited action as a backup tackle in four of those contests. Korbel has excellent footwork but needs a little more meat on his 6'6" frame to withstand the punishment he'll be dealt in the Big 12 regular season.

Griesenbeck appears to be the heir-apparent bookending the right side of the line… on paper that is. Griesenbeck played left tackle in 6 games during the 2007 campaign (when Jason Smith was sidelined with injury). He was moved to guard in 2008 and played in all 12 games, starting the final six in place of Jordan Hearvey after Hearvey's potentially career-ending knee injury. Griesenbeck has shown determination and versatility as he has stepped in when and where he was needed, but he has yet to earn a starting position on his own. Several program insiders, despite Griesenbeck's experience, are pointing to the final name on our list as the probable starter at right tackle.

Cameron Kaufhold enters 2009 as a redshirt Freshman yet to see the field in collegiate play. Coming out of high school he garnered a 2-Star ranking from Scout, however, he did receive offers from several other schools including Houston, Colorado State, and Arizona State. Cameron is working diligently this summer with Strength and Conditioning Coach Kaz Kazadi. Based on what we've seen and the rumors we've heard, look for Cameron to see time early in 2009. Whether his work ethic and talent will translate on the field remains to be seen.

A Look at the Newcomers

In addition to the young men currently listed on Baylor's roster Briles signed five lineman who have the potential to contribute this fall. Unfortunately one of those five, Marquis Franklin, may not qualify. Franklin is a junior college transfer coming out of Blinn who is currently enrolled in an overload of intensive summer classes (15-18 credit hours) in an effort to join the Bears in time for their swiftly approaching season. Franklin is a 3 star prospect according to Scout.com and with a 6'6.5" frame weighing in at nearly 320 lbs.

Outside of Franklin the Bears will welcome Stefun Huber, Ivory Wade, Jeremie Roberts, Cyril Richardson, and Philip Blake. Though all of them are quality recruits, it's hard to imagine any of them having the potential to contribute in the immediate future, other than perhaps Blake - who Coach Briles expects to compete for a spot immediately from his signing day comments.

Ivory Wade is a highly touted player with a well developed frame at 6'5" and 300 lbs. Wade has garnered a 3 star ranking from Scout.com and is listed as the #14 ranked guard in the nation. Unfortunately for the Bears, their immediate needs are at the tackle positions more than the interior of their line.

Center and Guard Positions

At the center position the Bears return starter J.D. Walton. Walton's return is a significant positive as started all 12 games last year and is considered an accomplished player and the undisputed leader on the offensive line.

At guard, James Barnard and RS Sophomore John Jones have both seen significant time on the field. Additionally Courtney Green, Jake Jackson, and Hunter Hightower have the potential to see the field. Hightower and Green have practiced at both Center and Guard though neither appears to be a dominating presence.

Jake Jackson on the other hand has shown some real potential. Jake enters 2009 as a redshirt freshman, but one look at him and you know he's one of the many young men who have benefitted from the intensive training and conditioning under the supervision of Coach Kazadi.

O-Line Outlook

A twelve game season and hopefully a bowl appearance, makes for a long season. It's impossible to know what injuries may be suffered. On the flip side, there's also the potential to see some of these young men really grow into competitive Big 12 linemen. It appears that the interior of Baylor's line will start the season with an experienced and talented core. The tackle positions represent significant unanswered questions. Predicting a Starting Line-up versus Wake Forest- LT- Danny Watkins (He has the approval of Jason Smith and the coaches… sounds good to me) LG-John Jones (He's talented, he's seen action against our best opponents, and he's working hard) C- J.D. Walton (He's a rock) RG-James Barnard (Started all 12 at RG last year, a solid lineman) RT-Cameron Kaufhold (He has the tools and by all accounts he's putting in the work to get there).

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