#25 Baylor Football 2016 Preview

Baylor Bears
Overall Rank: #25
#4 Big 12
When Baylor’s schedule got tough last season, the Bears were not ready. They lost to Oklahoma, TCU and Texas in November and December. That took a promising year where playoff dreams were rampant and turned it into a season where they beat North Carolina in the Russell Athletic Bowl. And now there are bigger issues to worry about after the firing of Coach Art Briles. Jim Grobe takes over the program after spending 2001 to 2013 as the head coach of Wake Forest.
2015 Record: 10-3, 6-3
2015 Bowl: Russell Athletic Bowl vs. North Carolina (W 49-38)
Coach: Jim Grobe (0-0 at Baylor, 110-115-1 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Kendal Briles
Defensive Coordinator: Phil Bennett
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Shock Linwood, RB, 1,329 yards
Passing: Seth Russell, QB, 2,104 yards
Receiving: KD Cannon, WR, 868 yards
Tackles: Travon Blanchard, LB, 84
Sacks: Taylor Young, LB, 4.0
Interceptions: Ryan Reid, CB, 3
Other Key Returnees: RB Johnny Jefferson, RB Devin Chafin, RB Terence Williams, QB Jarrett Stidham, OL Kyle Fuller, S Chance Waz, S Orion Stewart, LB Alavion Edwards
Key Losses: WR Corey Coleman, WR Jay Lee, OL Spencer Drango, LB Grant Campbell, DE Shawn Oakman, DT Andrew Billings, DE Jamal Palmer, CB Xavien Howard
This will still be one of the most explosive offenses in the nation. Baylor tallied an amazing 616.2 yards per game last season and also led the nation with 48.1 points per game. There are some holes to fill, but the Bears will not take much of a step back offensively. Quarterback Seth Russell threw for 2,104 yards and 29 touchdowns in seven games last season. With a full year, he will put up huge numbers. Jarrett Stidham played well when Russell was hurt, but he too is coming off of an injury. Losing receiver Corey Coleman is a concern though. Coleman caught 74 passes for 1,363 yards and 20 touchdowns. KD Cannon will have to take over the main pass catching duties and other younger players will have to step up beside him. It is not really possible to rely on the run game more after the Bears ranked second in the FBS in rushing offense, but the unit is loaded. Shock Linwood and Johnny Jefferson were both 1,000 yard rushers last year and the Bears can ride them as much as needed should injuries strike the passing game again. On the other side of the ball, Baylor boasts quite a bit of talent and depth in the back seven. Linebacker Travon Blanchard is the team’s top returning tackler with 83 and Taylor Young was right behind him at 80. Ryan Reid, Orion Stewart and Chance Waz highlight a deep group in the secondary.
The problem is on both lines where experience is extremely limited. On defense, Baylor lost All-Everything Andrew Billings on top of all the other starters on the line. Byron Bonds is the most experienced option after starting a handful of games during his career. K.J. Smith had a promising freshman campaign, but took a step back last year. With some newcomers and junior college transfers joining the mix, Coach Grobe hopes he can manage to put together a decent unit. The story is the same on the offensive line where Kyle Fuller is the lone returning starter. There are some experienced options here though, but it remains to be seen if those players are ready to step into full-time starting spots.
The Bottom Line:
The off-field issues will be a burden on this team and that could get to the team sooner or later. But by the time they are done answering questions and actually playing some football, the team should be doing much better with all of that. The issue on the field will be on the lines. This team is simply not as good as they were a year ago and now they have a new coach trying to put the pieces back together. This will be a team that should reach a bowl without much problem, but it is probably not a team that will seriously compete for a Big 12 title.
Projected Bowl: Russell Athletic Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 326.7 (2nd in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 289.5 (24, 5)
Total Offense: 616.2 (1, 1)
Scoring Offense: 48.1 (1, 1)
Rushing Defense: 163.1 (56, 3)
Pass Defense: 233.5 (75, 4)
Total Defense: 396.5 (62, 3)
Scoring Defense: 28.3 (79, 4)
Turnover Margin: 0.00 (66, 6)
Sacks: 2.31 (45, 7)
Sacks Allowed: 1.15 (15, 1)
Madness 2017 NFL Draft Rankings:
#72 K.D. Cannon
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#30 Devin Duvernay
#58 Patrick Hudson
#104 Ten'Davian Dickson
#135 Brandon Bowen
#175 Kameron Martin
#198 Parrish Cobb
#248 J.P. Urquidez