1. Sr. QB Bryce Petty
My pick for the Heisman Trophy and the undisputed leader of the Baylor Bears. The 6-3, 230-pound quarterback is returning for his senior season after passing for 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns while totaling over 4,400 total yards and 46 total touchdowns. Petty has his top two returning receivers, Antwan Goodley and Levi Norwood, to help him make his Heisman run. Petty is the first returning starter at QB Briles has had in three years and just the second in seven years.
Watch for Petty to try to open McLane Stadium with a bang. Baylor racked up nearly 620 yards a game offensively last season, outdoing the Oregon Ducks by nearly 60 yards for best in the nation. Petty is a gamer and won’t take his foot of the gas if he’s left in the game. Baylor likes to go fast, but Petty can never go fast enough it seems. He’ll play that way and play very well against SMU.
2. Sr. WR Antwan Goodley
With every great quarterback, there’s usually a receiver that’s right there to help him be as good as he is. Goodley is that guy for Petty. Goodley had over 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns, but averaged an impressive 19 yards a catch. He’s 5-11, 225 pound and has incredible speed and even better strength for a receiver his size. SMU will have to pay attention to Petty’s favorite target. Goodley isn’t the only receiver that can make plays, but is the one SMU has to watch the most Sunday.
3. Jr. LT Spencer Drango
The 6-6, 305-pound lineman is Petty’s blindside protector and is returning from a ruptured disc in his back that forced him to miss the final four games of 2013 and kept him out of spring practice. Drango has the talent to be an All-America and anytime you’re protecting a Heisman Trophy candidate, you’re going to get attention. With Drango out, Baylor’s points were cut nearly in half, their rushing yards nearly in half and averaged over 200 yards less per game. Ohh and the Bears went 2-2 after starting 9-0. Drango will be a key player to Baylor’s offensive success this year.
Aside from Drango, the Bears lost Bryce Hager, their captain and middle linebacker in the ninth game of 2013. The Bears went 2-2 over the final four games. Art Briles has said that losing Hager to that groin injury was a huge deal. At 6-2, 235 pounds and with his knowledge of Baylor’s defense, Hager is responsible for making the majority of Baylor’s defensive calls against the up-tempo offenses of the Big 12. Hager is even more important with linebacker Eddie Lackey having departed. He’s hungry and watch for him to be all over the field for Baylor.
5. Jr. DE Shawn Oakman
The Penn State transfer notched 33 tackles, two sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss last year. At a whopping 6-9, 280 pounds, his frame makes him nearly unblockable against the run. In the final six games, he only tallied a half tackle for loss, but Oakman has the talent to really take a step and become a consistent force for the Bears defense. With all the energy in McLane Stadium, Oakman will be able to feed off that and disrupt some of SMU’s plans offensively.
5 Other Players to Watch:
6.Soph. RB Shock Linwood: Averaged 6.9 yards per carry while combining with Lache Seastrunk last year.
7. Sr. P Spencer Roth: First Team All-Big 12 selection averaging nearly 46 yards a punt when the Bears did punt.
8. Sr. WR Levi Norwood: 6-2, 200 pound receiver that had his coming out party against Texas Tech, catching seven balls for 156 yards and two touchdowns.
9. Jr. DE Jamal Palmer: Baylor’s true pass rusher at 6-3, 240 pounds that notched five sacks last year.