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2021 Season

Big 12 Spring Outlook: Will Baylor Take Noticeable Steps Forward?

Baylor has reason to be optimistic in 2021, but can they make measurable strides?

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With spring football starting up, teams in the Big 12 are hitting the practice field for the next few weeks. The Baylor Bears started practice on Monday, and will host a spring game on April 24th. Below, we give an overview of the program and provide an idea of what questions the Bears will seek to answer over the course of the next month.

Aranda’s first season as head coach could have gone better in Waco, but there was admittedly much for him to deal with. What had been a championship defense in 2019 saw a substantial loss in the offseason, and Aranda inherited a lot of youth and inexperience. Add to that mix a pandemic that kept Aranda from being able to get on the practice field last spring, and a 2-7 record makes a bit more sense.

Still, the Bears experienced a few issues that didn’t exactly inspire confidence in Aranda’s first year. The offense, which returned a starting quarterback and some quality production, had an almost inexplicable degree of drop-off. To fix that issue, Aranda made some staff changes there. If those move prove fruitful, an improving, experienced defense should help the Bears get better in 2021. The real question is exactly how much better they can they expect to be next season?

PRACTICE BEGINS: March 22nd
SPRING GAME: April 24th
LOCATION: McLane Stadium (Waco, TX)

Offensive Questions For The Bears

Aranda made a major move in letting go of his offensive coordinator after just one year. As a replacement, he hired Jeff Grimes away from BYU, who oversaw one of the most productive offenses in all of college football last season. The biggest offensive quandary that Grimes needs to solve this offseason is the quarterback question. Long time starter Charlie Brewer transferred to Utah, and neither backup Jacob Zeno nor Gerry Bohanon threw more than ten passes in 2020. Still, the junior Bohanon would seem to have an edge, as he’s got slightly more experience than Zeno.

With a new quarterback behind center, the Bears are going to need a running game that was one of the worst nationally last year to come along. Despite losing John Lovett to the transfer portal, super senior Trestan Ebner is back, so Baylor should be able to improve on those numbers. No wide receiver amassed over 500 yards last season, but the entire two deep returns, so expect the the Bears to be more developed there in 2021.

The real test will be with the offensive line, where the Bears lost center Jake Burton, who declared early for the NFL Draft. Vanderbilt graduate transfer Grant Miller comes in with nine FBS starts at center under his belt, and new offensive line coach Eric Mateos will have other experienced players to work with up front.

Defensive Questions For The Bears

Even thought they endured a bit of a backslide last season, this side of the ball was a strength for Baylor in 2020. The good news for the Bears is that it probably won’t see much of a dip. The defense might actually be better, as Baylor only loses one starter off the unit, William Bradley-King, who declared for the NFL Draft. The Bears will have to identify a new edge rusher along the defensive line to replace him, but outside of that, virtually the entire two deep returns. With so much experience coming back on defense, then, developing depth will be key for the Bears this spring. If Aranda can have confidence in more players to step into the rotation, that could help improve a rush defense that gave up 180.4 yards per game on the ground last year.

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