Expectations have possibly never been higher in Waco. Baylor returns 18 starters from a team that finished the 2014 season 11-1 and was arguably the most deserving team left out of the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Head coach Art Briles has been very outspoken about why he feels the Bears have yet to receive the respect they deserve. But there may be no excuses this season as many feel Baylor has a chance to run the table. Can Briles and company meet those expectations and prove once and for all the Bears are one of nation’s elite programs?
Baylor’s Five Biggest Fall Camp Storylines
1. Is There a Blueprint to Beat Baylor?
The Bears return their entire starting offensive line, including All-American Spencer Drango. Shock Linwood and speedster KD Cannon also return for an offense that lit up scoreboards last season. However, Baylor’s sole loss at West Virginia proved the Bears’ potent scoring attack can be shut down. The Mountaineers blitzed more than 45 times last season on their way to a 41-27 victory, the Bears’ lowest scoring output of the season. Are there teams in the Big 12 that have the defense, or guts, to attack the Bears like the Mountaineers did? And if so, is that the formula to beating Baylor?
2. Will the Bears’ Schedule Come Back to Haunt Them?
Fair or not the Bears have been criticized for their non-conference schedule recently and their 2015 slate is not exactly stellar. Games at SMU, then at home against Lamar and Rice are actually worse than last season. The last four games of the season are brutal with Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State, at TCU, and home against Texas. With the “what have you done for me lately” mentality of the Playoff selection committee the Bears better hope the Longhorns are better this season than last. That game could very well be the lasting impression the Bears get to make for their Playoff resume.
3. Can Seth Russell Pick up where Bryce Petty Left Off
One thing is for sure, Russell is not inexperienced. The fourth-year junior played in eight of 13 games last season and led the Big 12 in pass efficiency (164.4). Despite his success behind Petty he is now tasked with replacing the record-setting quarterback. With weapons all around him Russell should have no shortage of “go-to” guys. However, he no longer has the luxury of stepping in with a significant lead. It is now his role to produce that lead.
4. Can the Defense Improve?
Baylor ranked 107th in the country in pass defense last season, allowing 264.2 yards per game. Both starting safeties and corners return, giving experience to the secondary after having three first-year starters last season. DE Jamal Palmer is returning from injury and Grant Campbell will be replacing departed LB Bryce Hager. You can expect DE Shawn Oakman to be a force on the line. But can the secondary step up against Big 12 teams that took advantage of the defensive backs last season?
5. Does the Wide Receiver Corps Become the Most Potent in the Country?
If you haven’t seen the aforementioned Cannon run you are missing an amazing feat. Cannon was a deep threat last season as a true freshman and is no longer under the radar. Fellow wideout Corey Coleman is on pace to be one of the most prolific receivers in Baylor history and is an early All-American candidate. Finally, Jay Lee is the most experienced receiver on the depth chart. Although steady, Lee has been overshadowed by both Cannon and Coleman. However, his 633 total yards on 41 receptions in 2014 shows he is a reliable receiver and could be the final piece to a pass-catching trio that could prove to be almost impossible to stop.
— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of BlueGoldSports.com, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow BlueGoldSports.com on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.