Know Your Foe: Baylor

Kevin Barrera of BearsIllustrated takes some time to answer some questions about the Bears.

1. Are you at all surprised at how good K.D. Cannon has been? Why has he been so successful early on?

Coach Briles has said on more than one occasion that KD is one of the most polished and electric WR’s he has ever seen coming out of HS. I thought that he would play and have a chance to be very good this year, but I wasn’t expecting him to be this good. He capitalized on injuries at the WR position early on, and has certainly lived up to all of the hype. I will say that the competition has been less than stellar, but he has still been very impressive. He gives Baylor someone that can cause great mis-matches for the defense. I think moving forward, you will see him use his speed in seam routes, but also be used in some reverse option plays. Baylor did that a couple of times against ISU, and it was effective. Look for more of that, as Baylor continues on through the year.

2. As if Baylor needed anymore offensive weapons it gets Corey Coleman, Antwan Goodley, Clay Fuller and now Levi Norwood back. How big of a boost is that to Petty?

It is a huge boost. It gives Petty even more options, but even more than that, it gives Petty 7 excellent options at every level on the field. He has WR’s that play the comeback route very well (Coleman and Jay Lee), WR’s that are excellent in the screen game and also being a safe option underneath (Norwood and Fuller), and WR’s that can be a deep threat (Goodley, Cannon, and Hall). Quite frankly that is just disheartening for the defense. It’s almost like creating a team on the NCAA Football game and making all of the WR’s rated as 99’s. Each one of them has the ability to take it to the house at any time.

3. Do you feel like this Baylor defense is being overlooked at all simply because of the amount of points the Bears are putting up offensively?

I think they were somewhat overlooked, but they are beginning to get more and more credit. The important thing here, is that Baylor’s defense can now rely on their front 4 to stop the run and create pressure on the QB. That hasn’t been seen since the early 90’s. This allows Coach Phil Bennett to open up his defensive playbook even more. I am curious to see how teams will attack a still relatively unchallenged defensive secondary. Baylor’s defense has athletes up and down the lineup, and for the first time in a long time, the Baylor offense doesn’t have to score 50+ points to win a game.

4. That defensive front has been exceptional. What makes them go and Is this the best defense that Baylor has had since Briles took over?

This is hands down the best Baylor defense that Briles and company have had. While most of the DL is very experienced, I think you have to look at Shawn Oakman and Andrew Billings. Billings is a beast. This kid is one of the strongest in the country and HAS to be double-teamed. If you allow the C to go one-on-one with Billings, he will get beat every time. Double-teaming Billings opens things up for Oakman, who at 6’9, 275 lbs, is an absolute nightmare for the LT. But what really makes this defense go is the speed that they have on the edges, and the strength that they have in the middle. They are experienced, they are hungry, and they are straight up athletes.

5. Iowa State QB Sam Richardson did have success breaking the pocket and running on the Bears. Is that a concern moving forward for this defense or was the game so out-of-hand at the time he was picking up most of those yards that it isn’t seen as a big deal moving forward?

I think it is a concern for the defense, as Baylor has had some trouble containing dual-threat QB’s in the past. How much of a concern remains to be seen, however. Richardson is a great athlete and did break some big runs, but they were late in the 3rd quarter, with the game in hand. I think you have to look at the 1st half of this game, to see how dominant this defense can be. Richardson was hurried all night, but he was especially non-effective in the 1st half. Still though, I think it is an area that Baylor will be attacked in the future, and one that Phil Bennett will need to address moving forward.

6. Everybody wants to talk about the passing game for Baylor but Shock Linwood has been nails on the ground. Talk about his rise to stardom in this offense and the type of season he’s having.

Shock is one of those players that plays with a chip on his shoulder. I think you could describe all of the Baylor players that way, but Shock was somewhat underrecruited, and has worked hard to get in this position. He has a low center of gravity, but also has a great first step, follows his blockers well, and can change his direction very well. He has been a consistent presence in the backfield, and will be an All-Big 12 performer by the time his career is over at Baylor.

7. If you had to pinpoint a weakness on this team where is it and can it be fixed in time for the game on Saturday?

On offense, I think the weakness (if you can even call it that) has been the OL. And when I say weakness, I don’t mean that they have been bad, I just think that they are still getting used to working together. They will continue to improve as the season goes on, but this will be a big test for Baylor’s OL. The Bears have had some issues with their interior linemen, but the players at the LG and C position are new to the line. If you have seen any of Baylor’s games, you will notice that there are some times where the RB has some trouble running behind the LG, a position that was anchored by All-American Cyril Richardson in previous years.

On defense, you have to look at the defensive secondary. This is a position that has been overlooked, because the DL has been so great. ISU tried to attack the secondary last week, and had some success. They attacked RSSO Ryan Reid several times, and had success. Reid did have great positioning, but was still getting beat. Honestly, I look for Texas to attack Baylor vertically, to not only help with the running game, but also to try and connect early to gain confidence.

8. We have all heard the Steve Edmond lines from the offseason when he bashed Baylor. What is the sense that you get from the Bears about those comments, the comments John Harris made on Monday, and just their overall feelings for this rivalry? Do they feel like they have the respect of UT’s players?

Some may not believe this, but I know that the Baylor players don’t listen to all of that stuff. Baylor emulates their Head Coach. Coach Briles is a guy that always had to fight for respect. He would get knocked down, get up, and prove the person wrong. That’s just how he works, and his team plays that way. They feel like everyone, not just Texas, is disrespecting them. They have one goal, and that is repeating as Big 12 Champions. The team knows that they can’t take everyone for granted, and know that if they want to be a part of the CFB Playoff, they will have to win out. So while it may feed the fans rivalry for the week, Baylor is approaching this game as another on their way to a second Big 12 Championship and hopefully a National Championship.

9. What is it that the Longhorns need to do or that Baylor can’t do that would give UT the best chance at pulling off the upset?

This may not sit well with your readers, but honestly Texas fans need to hope that Baylor has an off day and does things to hurt themselves. This Texas defense will be without question the best DL they will have faced up to this point, and possibly this season. If the Texas defense can cause Petty to get flustered, and make mistakes, this game could be closer than some think it will be.

One other thing that Texas fans can hope for, is an out-of-this-world game from their offensive line. The OL has not been very good this year, and it shows in the output of the RB’s. The OL will need to get a strong push, and hope that they will force the Baylor defense to bring more LB’s to stop the run game. This will in turn leave the DB’s out on an island and susceptible to the deep play.

10. We know Briles isn’t going to hold back at all in this one. What’s your prediction?

Whether some want to believe it or not, Baylor’s resurgence has helped this rivalry immensely. Gone are the days where Texas would hang 50 on the Bears, in a blowout win. Look for the Bears to find success early in the passing game, and then let Shock take over on the ground. On this particular day, I think the Bears are just too much for Texas. The UT offense can’t score, and this will be as strong a defense as Texas has faced up to this point as well. Briles will want to make a statement in this game, but I see this ending about like the game did against Iowa State, although I do believe the game will be closer in the first half. In the end I think the score will be: Baylor 45 Texas 16.


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