Spring football is drawing to a close throughout the Big 12, and teams have started gaining more clarity as to what their 2019 squads are going to look like. As they head into summer workouts, we’ll get into some of the possible issues and potential surprises in store for them.
Baylor took a gigantic leap in 2018, going from 1-11 one season to 7-6 the next. Head coach Matt Rhule enters his third year looking to see if the Bears can keep things rolling after having seemingly restocked the talent pool in Waco, TX.
Spring practices came and went for the Bears, whose spring game was interrupted by weather and had to be changed to an indoor scrimmage that was held last weekend. Many of the Baylor’s question marks have less to do with replacing starters, and more to do with experienced returners who need to take the next step.
How close are the Bears to making another jump up the Big 12 standings? Here we’ll dive into some tentative impressions of the 2019 Bears, providing a projection of offensive and defensive starters for the upcoming season (returning starters in bold) as well as some post-spring observations about Baylor football.
|PROJECTED 2019 STARTERS|
|WR||Chris Platt (Sr.)||DE||James Lynch (Jr.)|
|WR||Josh Fleeks (So.)||NT||Tyron Hunt (Sr.)|
|LT||Connor Galvin (So.)||DT||Bravvion Roy (Sr.)|
|LG||Xavier Newman (Jr.)||RUSH||Deonte Williams (Sr.)|
|C||Sam Tecklenburg (Sr.)||WLB||Jordan Williams (Sr.)|
|RG||Johncarlo Valentin (Sr.)||MLB||Clay Johnston (Jr.)|
|RT||Jake Fruhmorgen (Sr.)||SLB||Blake Lynch (Sr.)|
|TE||Christoph Henle (So.)||CB||Grayland Arnold (Sr.)|
|WR||Denzel Mims (Sr.)||RS||Chris Miller (Sr.)|
|QB||Charlie Brewer (Jr.)||LS||Christian Morgan (So.)|
|RB||JaMycal Hasty (Sr.)||CB||Raleigh Texada (Jr.)|
Rhule’s Team Isn’t Young Anymore
Looking throughout the depth chart for this team, the amount of experience in 2019 compared to years past is striking. Matt Rhule will not longer have one of the youngest lineup’s in the Big 12, but instead enters 2019 with a squad full of veterans.
The youngest players for the Bears will likely be sophomores who’ve had serious playing time, and any freshman who make the cut will do so because they can’t be kept off the field.
This Offense Could Take A Big Leap Next Year
The mood in Waco feels like it’s light years ahead of where it was during the darkest days of Rhule’s initial 1-11 campaign, and offensive success is a big reason for the renewed optimism. Junior Charlie Brewer’s name definitely comes to mind in that regard.
Brewer has the potential to be an All-Big 12 type of signal caller, and there are weapons around him. Seniors Chris Platt and Denzel Mims will be back in 2019, and there was high praise coming out of spring practices for underclassmen wide receivers like Josh Fleeks and Jared Atkinson.
The entire running back room also returns from 2018, meaning that Baylor now has both talent and depth at all of their skill positions. Success next season ultimately depends upon the quarterback, though, and if Brewer shows enough of an improvement next fall, the Bears could really separate themselves from the rest of the conference on offense.
Baylor’s Back Seven Should Be A Strength
It’s fair to expect the Bears to be solid against opposing passing offenses next season, since they mostly held opponents in check through the air in 2018. There are two losses from that secondary, but most of the players dropping into coverage next season will be well-adjusted to their assignments.
Grayland Arnold, Raleigh Texada, and Jameson Houston are all defensive backs who could start next season and have made a name for themselves to this point. With all three starting linebackers returning in addition, expect the back half of the defense to give fits to opposing quarterbacks.
The Bears’ Biggest Questions Are In The Trenches
On both sides of the ball, Baylor will have its most work to do with the big guys up front. Defensively, the Bears are replacing two starters along the line, and there are some concerns about depth there.
Junior James Lynch was one of two players on the Bears’ defense to be an All-Big 12 selection in 2018, and could be the best overall defensive player on the roster. Lynch won’t be able to hold up on his own, however, so he’ll have to hope that those around him progress this summer.
On the other side of the ball, the Bears finally have an offensive line manned by quality junior and senior starters. Baylor ranked last in the Big 12 in sacks given up last year, though, so the coaching staff should hope that all of those game reps translate into better pass protection this year.