1. BE: Will Bryce Petty be better than last year? How do you think he starts off against SMU?
KB: When looking at whether or not Bryce Petty will be better, you have to look at the small intangible things. By all accounts, Petty was excellent last year throwing for 4200 yds, 32 TD’s, and only 3 INT’s. This year you have to look at his game management skills. Will he be able to go deeper in to his progressions and find the 3rd or 4th receiver.
Last year, Petty seemed to focus in one 1 receiver, but this year the mental aspect of his game should be much improved which will lead to him being more efficient. Briles’ QB’s always improve in their 2nd year, and I don’t see this year being any different.
2. BE: Tell us about who’s expected to step up on Baylor’s defense with seven starters being gone. Who’s their big playmaker that SMU needs to account for on offense?
KB: I think the idea that Baylor’s defense will be “replacing” starters is a bit overplayed. Several of the current listed starters played “starter” snaps last year. But when you look at players who should step up and fill some of those starter roles, you have to look at Aiavion Edwards. Edwards will fill the role vacated by All-Big 12 LB Eddie Lackey, and those are big shoes to fill. On paper, Edwards is a bigger faster version of Lackey, but will his in-experience put him in some bad positions early? Lackey was hands down one of the leaders of the defense, and was their most intelligent defender, but I think Edwards athleticism and talent will serve him well as he earns more experience.
As for a big playmaker, the obvious answer is Shawn Oakman. You could argue for Bryce Hager, but Oakman is just a MAN. He is 6’9 and weigh 270+ lbs, and can run. He is one of the most gifted athletes you will see in College Football. It will be interesting to see how he does as a starter, and will get a good test against SMU’s experienced Tackles.
3. BE: Everyone knows about Baylor’s aerial attack and Petty, but who are their playmakers on the ground and how much do you expect them to utilize the ground game?
KB: The Bears return two talented RB’s in Shock Linwood and Devin Chafin. Following the theme of “thunder and lightning” held by Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin, look for Linwood and Chafin to be a big part of this years Baylor offense. The Bears will utilize these two early and often to help establish the play-action zone read. Linwood has been raved about in the Big 12 media this year, but Chafin could be just as dangerous. The Bears have a ton of size on the OL, so getting the RB’s going early will help break down the SMU defense and allow them to go to the air.
4. BE: Phil Bennett has the most talent on defense he’s had at Baylor. How do you expect him to attack SMU’s offense and stop them?
KB: One of the weak points on this year’s defense is the young DB’s. How will they react in their first true game action as starters? This will be even more of a concern against SMU, as June Jones always utilizes a potent air attack in his offense. I look for Bennett to bring pressure early from his front 7 against a smaller SMU OL. I also expect him to mix up packages in way to give his young DB’s some coverage help. If the young DB’s can keep things in front of them and play sound fundamentally, and the talented DL can get early pressure on first year starter Neal Burcham, then the Bears should be able to pin their ears back and play aggressive defense, as they have recently become known for.
5. BE: Talk about the hype of McLane Stadium and what type of atmosphere SMU players, coaches and fans should expect with the riverside stadium?
KB: This game will be one of the most anticipated games in Baylor history, and for that matter, this will be one of the most anticipated seasons in Baylor Football history. There will be a ton of pre-game festivities surrounding this game, including the unveiling of the Robert Griffin III statue. The Bears have sold out this game, and will have over 10,000 students in attendance. The Bears coaching staff, led by Coach Art Briles, have also taken to twitter to encourage fans and students to “Gold Out” the new McLane Stadium. SMU players, coaches, and fans, should expect an extremely raucous crowd, but they should also take in the atmosphere of the new stadium.
Baylor has done a masterful job of building this stadium, and putting it in an area that showcases the beautiful Baylor campus. I encourage all SMU fans in attendance to walk around the stadium and take it in. They are a part of history as well, and despite the game being played on the field, SMU fans will greatly enjoy what this new stadium has to offer.
We'd like to thank Kevin for joining us here. Throw him a follow @KBScoutBaylor for anything relating to the Baylor Bears leading up to SMU's 6:30 p.m. kickoff on Sunday at McLane Stadium.