Baylor made some major strides in 2018 and the Bears are looking to make even more progress in 2019. They return more talent than just about everyone in the Big 12, and the schedule sets up nicely too. However, with all their returning production they still had some key losses, and need to find ways to fill those shoes.
Replacing Jalen Hurd
Baylor’s leading receiver from a year ago has moved on to the NFL. Specifically, to the San Francisco 49ers. Coach Matt Rhule is now tasked with replacing his 1,155 yards and seven touchdowns last season.
At receiver Baylor will look to Denzel Mims to step up and retake the role as the number one guy in 2019. Mims had 62 receptions and 1,087 yards in 2017 before Hurd was eligible to play. Mims is one of the top receiver talents in the conference, so he’s the obvious candidate to step up and have another outstanding year.
However, Mims won’t answer all of the Bear’s Hurd-less issues. Hurd was also relied upon as a short yardage and goal line back last season. The Bears will need to find someone to step up to this role if they want to improve their red zone efficiency.
In the backfield, Baylor has a three headed monster of experienced backs. They are led by senior JaMycal Hasty followed by Trestan Ebner and John Lovett. Another name to watch out for as the third down back is Abram Smith. He had a good spring, and the coaches are really high on him coming out of spring camp.
Replacing Greg Roberts
One thing the Bears were lacking last year was a consistent pass rush. The loss of Greg Roberts isn’t going to help that.
Roberts was not very productive his first three years at Baylor, but with the development of the Baylor staff, he emerged as s leader on the defensive line in 2018. At his defensive end position, Roberts had 33 tackles, eight for loss and three sacks after have zero sacks in his first three years.
The defensive staff will look to replace Roberts production with senior James Lockhart. Lockhart is along the same mold as Roberts as a player who has developed under Rhule, and the coaches are high on him coming into fall camp.
Behind Lockhart will be freshman Josh Landry, who can both inside and outside at defensive end. Another name to look out for in JUCO tranfer Niadre Zouzoua who is a raw player with all the athletic ability in the world to be a successful defensive end.
Replacing Derrek Thomas
Derrek Thomas was without question Baylor’s best secondary player in 2018. Beyond his 21 total tackles and one interception last season, he was routinely put on their opponents best receiver, and won that match up more times that not. What he lacked in physicality he made up with size and speed. Baylor will definitely need to replace his presence if they want to slow down the rest of the Big 12’s fire power.
Baylor has some intriguing options for cornerback in 2019. Many are hoping that junior Grayland Arnold can fulfill potential he showed early in his career. Other names to look for are Jameson Houston, who was a part-time starter in 2018, and speedster Kalon Barnes, who got valuable playing time in 2018 and is probably the fastest player on the team if not the Big 12.
Without a doubt, if Baylor wants to make another jump in the win column in 2019 like they did in 2018 they will need these players and more to step up and surpass production they lost with departures of key players on both sides of the ball.