As college football continues to try and ramp up athletic activity for the upcoming season, we turn to looking more closely at what to expect from each Big 12 team come fall. As the summer rolls along, we’ll preview the entire conference, providing an overview of the offense, defense, and special teams. Included as well is a projected depth chart, with returning starters in bold.
Matt Rhule’s last season at Baylor capped off an astounding turnaround in Waco. From a 1-11 mark in 2017 to competing in the Big 12 Championship last December, the Bears under Rhule were rebuilt into a squad that could feasibly compete at the top of the conference for years to come. Last season’s 11-3 campaign was succeeded, however, by Rhule’s NFL departure and the loss of over half the team’s starters to the NFL Draft or graduation.
Now, new Baylor head coach Dave Aranda arrives in Waco to a program that is undoubtedly in better shape than his predecessor found it. Aranda was a long time defensive coordinator who oversaw LSU’s national championship as DC under Ed Orgeron, and Bears fans hope he can bring that title-winning spirit to Baylor. Their first year head coach will have talented athletes to work with, but all eyes will be on how Aranda manages this initial season with so much inexperience on the depth chart.
Projected 2020 Baylor Depth Chart
|LT||Connor Galvin (Jr.)||OLB||William-Bradley King (Sr.)|
|LG||Khalil Keith (Jr.)||DE||Gabe Hall (So.)|
|C||Ty Smith (Jr.)||NT||Chidi Ogbonnaya (Jr.)|
|RG||Xavier Newman-Johnson (Sr.)||DE||T.J. Franklin (So.)|
|RT||Blake Bedier (Sr.)||OLB||Jalen Pitre (Jr.)|
|TE||Christophe Henle (Jr.)||MLB||Terrel Bernard (Jr.)|
|QB||Charlie Brewer (Sr.)||MLB||Jairon McVea (Sr.)|
|TB||Trestan Ebner (Sr.)||CB||Kalon Barnes (Jr.)|
|WR||RJ Sneed (Jr.)||S||J.T. Woods (Jr.)|
|WR||Tyquan Thornton (Jr.)||S||Christian Morgan (Jr.)|
|WR||Josh Fleeks (Jr.)||CB||Raleigh Texada (Sr.)|
Baylor Offensive Outlook
New offensive coordinator Larry Fedora will have a talented and experienced crop of players to work with when the fall starts. That starts at quarterback, where senior Charlie Brewer is expected to start for the third year in a row. Fedora’s history with dual threat quarterbacks should suggest that Brewer, who is one of the best in the Big 12, will be well-suited to the new scheme.
Three of five offensive lineman return, and there are upperclassmen on hand to step in at a guard spot and at center. That line will pave the way for running backs Trestan Ebner and John Lovett, two seniors who have combined for 455 carries in their time at Baylor. Together they wracked up 905 yards in 2019, and could certainly hit the 1,000-yard mark in 2020.
The wide receiver and tight end positions look to be solid as well, with two junior wideout starters on hand from last year. After posting 782 yards receiving last year, look for Tyquan Thornton to be the real standout this season, and junior R.J. Sneed will be likely to follow behind him. Losing a couple of multiyear starters in the wide receiving corps will require this group to develop depth, but Fedora is likely to be able to do so.
Baylor Defensive Outlook
A year after having one of the best defenses in the Big 12, the Bears now face their most questions on that side of the ball. Two starters return in cornerback Raleigh Texada and linebacker Terrell Bernard, both of whom have All-Big 12 type potential. Outside of those two, however, Baylor will be inexperienced throughout their defense.
Up front, the three starting defensive lineman will need to be identified. Junior Chidi Ogbonnaya has played in over 20 career games, and was a backup last season at nose tackle so he’s a good candidate to hold up in the middle. Sophomores T.J. Franklin and Gabe Hall are young but have the size to play at the end spots. Linebacker also will present some challenges. Aranda preferred to field four linebackers with athletic versatility at LSU, but there’s certainly a question about whether he’ll have enough depth there to start out.
Outside of Bernard, the Bears will need to find three starters that can fit into the roles as Aranda sees fit. Baylor landed graduate transfer William Bradley-King from Arkansas State in the offseason, and the All-Sun Belt defensive lineman could find a home at a hybrid spot. Expectations will be high for Texada at cornerback, but he’s far and away the leader of the secondary in terms of experience. J.T. Woods, Christian Morgan, and Kalon Barnes are all upperclassmen with playing experience who should be solid.
Baylor Special Teams Outlook
Though the new staff may want to shake things up in 2020, starters are all back at key special teams positions. Baylor was passable in the third phase of the game last season, managing to put 78 percent of their kicks through the uprights. Having sophomore John Mayers back again could improve that number, a prospect the Bears would no doubt welcome.
With so many starters gone from the 2019 squad, the Bears will, in all likelihood, take a step back. Right now most projections see that as a finish somewhere just below the top tier of the conference. Considering how many close games Baylor won during their 8-1 conference run to the championship, such a regression is foreseeable: though the offense might actually improve under offensive coordinator Larry Fedora, the defense has a number of questions.
That’s Aranda’s bailiwick, of course, but it’s a tall task even for him. Add to that potential issues with quarterback Charlie Brewer’s health, and another title run seems like it’s out of the cards this season for Baylor. Eventually, the Bears could certainly reach that point again, but for now they’ll probably have to focus on putting pieces together to make that future possible.
This Post Sponsored By ESPN+