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2021 Season

Big 12 Spring Wrap-Up: Bears Hoping To Fully Establish Identity In Aranda’s Second Season

Last season put the Bears in an odd position with so much turnover, and all the added pandemic obstacles. How will they fair this year?

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Getty Images - John E. Moore III

Spring football is drawing to a close throughout the Big 12, and teams have started gaining more clarity as to what their 2021 squads are going to look like. As they head into summer workouts, we’ll get into some tentative impressions of all the teams, providing a projection of offensive and defensive starters for the upcoming season (returning starters in bold) as well as some post-spring observations.

Baylor is a mere two years removed from their appearance in the Big 12 championship, a game that went down to the wire. That recent success, and a history of nine bowl appearances in 11 years, have shown that it’s possible to do big things in Waco. Dave Aranda became the third head coach at Baylor in five years last season, with high hopes that the long time defensive coordinator could steer this program to competing at the top of the Big 12 Conference.

Last year’s disappointing 2-7 record should of course be considered in the light of all the difficulties Aranda had to face brought about by the pandemic. Still, last season’s near misses – the Bears went 1-3 in single possession games – puts arguably even more pressure on the staff to put 2020 behind them, and show fans that they can higher-quality results out of Aranda-coached football teams at Baylor. Can a shakeup of offensive staff and a wealth of defensive starters help Baylor leap up the Big 12 standings in 2021? Below, we go over some thoughts and observations from spring to try and answer that question.

Projected 2021 Baylor

Depth Chart

OFFENSEDEFENSE
QBGerry Bohanon (Jr.)FRyan Miller (Sr.)
RBTrestan Ebner (Sr.)NSiaki Ika (So.)
WRR.J. Sneed (Sr.)ET.J. Franklin (Jr.)
WRGavin Holmes (Jr.)JACKAshton Logan (Sr.)
WRTyquan Thornton (Sr.)MLBDillon Doyle (Jr.)
TEBen Sims (Jr.)WLBTerrell Bernard (Sr.)
LTConnor Galvin (Sr.)STARJalen Pitre (Sr.)
LGXavier Newman-Johnson (Sr.)CBRaleigh Texada (Sr.)
CGrant Miller (Sr.)SJ.T. Woods (Sr.)
RGMose Jeffrey (Sr.)SChristian Morgan (Sr.)
RTGavin Byers (So.)CBKalon Barnes (Sr.)

The Offense Should Show Some Improvement

Baylor posted some of the worst offensive numbers in the country in 2020, ranking 101st nationally in points per game. With new offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes coming to rebuild the offense, there should be enough returning talent on hand for the unit to makes some strides. That includes wideout R.J. Sneed and running back Trestan Ebner, who both combined to be Baylor’s top two receivers last season.

Settling on a quarterback will continue to remain on Grimes’ to-do list, but junior Gerry Bohanon had some good moments in Baylor’s spring game. He can do enough both through the air and on the ground that the offense will be in good hands if is indeed named the starter. No matter who starts behind center, the offensive line looks to be a definite work in progress, but, overall, new staff additions should lift the play of this unit from the year before.

How Far Can The Defense Carry This Team?

The Bears have leaned on their defense in recent years, and 2021 likely won’t buck that trend. They had the second best pass defense in the conference last year, and with ten starters back, Baylor should again have an above average Big 12 defense, as Aranda appears to have put his stamp on this team by really developing players on this side of the ball. That occurred last season despite serious inexperience with the unit overall.

Now, the two deep looks to be chalk full of upperclassmen, and LSU transfer Siaki Ika should come in to hopefully provide a major presence up the middle. As the offense starts to get under its feet, however, can the Baylor defense step up to keep teams off the scoreboard? If a defense that gave up 29.2 points per game last year can take measurable steps forward, it would be a boon for Aranda in his second year.

Baylor Is Still Developing An Identity Under Aranda

Baylor saw a lot of change from 2019 to 2020, both in terms of staff turnover and personnel. Had the Bears played a full non-conference slate last season, they likely could have finished 5-7, which would look much better for a first year head coach who’s still probably figuring out how to run a DI football program. Heading into 2021, it still feels like there’s a sense of transition with this team from top to bottom, and we may not really know what to expect out of Baylor under Aranda until this season plays itself out.

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