#82 Baylor 2018 Football Preview

Baylor Bears
Overall Rank: #82
#9 Big 12
 Baylor Logo
The rebuilding project in Waco for Baylor head coach Matt Rhule got off to a tough start in 2017 as the Bears went 1-11. After a 48-45 loss to Liberty at home in the season opener things went south quickly as Baylor lost their first eight games before beating Kansas 38-9 for the lone win of the season. On the positive side, the Bears were competitive in several games as they gave Oklahoma and West Virginia all they wanted in 2017. Thus, Baylor was not quite as bad as their 1-11 record would indicate and they probably should have won about three or four games last season.
2017 Record: 1-11, 1-8
2017 Bowl: None
Coach: Matt Rhule (1-11 at Baylor, 29-34 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Glenn Thomas, Jeff Nixon
Defensive Coordinator: Phil Snow
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jon Lovett, RB, 445 yards
Passing: Charlie Brewer, QB, 1,562 yards
Receiving: Denzel Mims, WR, 1,087 yards
Tackles: Clay Johnston, LB, 54
Sacks: Ira Lewis, DT, 5.5
Interceptions: Three players with 1
Other Key Returnees: RB JaMycal Hasty, RB Trestan Ebner, WR Chris Platt, OL Xavier Newman, C Sam Tecklenburg, OL Blake Blackmar, OL Patrick Lawrence, DE Greg Roberts, LB Jalen Pitre, S Blake Lynch, K Connor Martin, P Drew Gallitz
Key Losses: LB Taylor Young, TE Jordan Feuerbacher, DE K.J. Smith, S Davion Hall, OL Mo Porter, WR Tony Nicholson
There should be some improvement across the board for the Bears this season as there will be a nice infusion of talent in 2018. Charlie Brewer should be the starter at quarterback and will be looking to build off the final four games of 2017 where he showed plenty of promise with his play. Jalen Hurd is a transfer from Tennessee that will make the move out to wide receiver in order increase his stock for the NFL Draft. Denzel Mims and Chris Platt are back as well at wide receiver. Mims had an excellent 2017 season, catching 61 passes for 1,087 yards and eight touchdowns in 2017. Those numbers should only increase in 2018 with more stability throughout the offensive unit. However, the biggest addition to the offense should come up front with Clemson transfer Jake Fruhmorgen out at left tackle. Baylor struggled like crazy to protect their quarterbacks as opposing teams averaged over three sacks per game last season. 
There should be some natural improvement by the defense provided the offense takes better care of the football. Ira Lewis and James Lynch will need to be stout along the defensive front as they combined for 8.5 sacks in 2017. Clay Johnston is back at linebacker and it will be important for that unit to stay healthy and take a step forward with their play by getting pressure on the quarterback. Derek Thomas played for Coach Rhule at Temple and will be eligible to play as a grad transfer for the Bears this season, which should only help the secondary grow in 2018. Grayland Arnold and Harrison Hand are back at cornerback with Blake Lynch moving over to safety this season. The number one goal for the secondary is to create more turnovers to help the offense this season.
The Bottom Line:
Abilene Christian visits Waco for the home opener to start off the 2018 season so Baylor should match their win total from 2017 right away. UTSA, Duke, and Kansas are the next three games on the schedule and for the Bears to get to bowl eligibility they need find a way to start 4-0 on the season. On September 29th, Baylor will go to Norman to play Oklahoma as part of a very difficult stretch of the schedule that has three of four on the road. If this team can stay healthy all season and completely buy in to the coaching staff, then the Texas Tech game in Arlington on November 24th should be a game that decides if the Bears end up bowl eligible in 2018. Look for improvement with this Baylor team as they should get to about five to six wins in 2018.
Projected Bowl: None
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 117.3 (114th in nation, 8th in conference)
Passing Offense: 287.7 (24, 5)
Total Offense: 404.9 (59, 6)
Scoring Offense: 24.3 (98, 9)
Rushing Defense: 189.9 (91, 9)
Pass Defense: 267.0 (114, 6)
Total Defense: 456.9 (111, 9)
Scoring Defense: 35.9 (113, 9)
Turnover Margin: -1.17 (123, 9)
Sacks: 1.92 (74, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 3.17 (121, 10)

Madness 2018 Recruit Rankings:
#166 Byron Hanspard
#189 Gerry Bohanon
#226 Joshua Fleeks
#246 Connor Galvin