Baylor finished 2012 as one of the hottest teams in college football, winning five out of its last six games, including a 49-26 victory over UCLA in the Holiday Bowl. The Bears are coming off three consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history and despite the departure of a few key players, Art Briles’ team should be in the mix for another postseason appearance. The biggest spring question mark will be replacing quarterback Nick Florence, as well as finding more improvement from a defense that finished at the bottom of the Big 12 in yards allowed last year.
Baylor Bears 2013 Spring Preview
2012 Record: 8-5 (4-5)
Spring practice dates: March 1-April 6
Returning Starters: Offense – 4, Defense – 7
Passing: Bryce Petty, 7 of 10, 97 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Lache Seastrunk, 131 car., 1,012 yards, 7 TDs
Receiving: Tevin Reese, 53 rec., 957 yards, 9 TDs
Tackles: Bryce Hager, 124
Sacks: Chris McAllister, 6
Interceptions: Eddie Lackey, 4
Redshirts to watch: WR Corey Coleman, WR Lynx Hawthorne, S Terrance Singleton, OL Tre’Von Armstead, QB Seth Russell, OL Kyle Fuller, LB Kendall Ehrlich, DL Dominique Banks
Early Enrollees to watch: QB Chris Johnson, WR/DB Kiante’ Griffin, DE/LB Brian Lance, TE Gus Penning
JUCO Transfers to watch: TE Gus Penning, DL Terell Brooks
Aug. 31 Wofford
Sept. 7 Buffalo
Sept. 14 Bye Week
Sept. 21 ULM
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 5 West Virginia
Oct. 12 at Kansas State
Oct. 19 Iowa State
Oct. 26 at Kansas
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 9 Oklahoma
Nov. 16 Texas Tech (Arlington)
Nov. 23 at Oklahoma State
Nov. 30 at TCU
Dec. 7 Texas
Related Content: Texas Longhorns 2013 Spring Preview
Offensive Strength: Running back Lache Seastrunk started slow last season but finished with an average of 138.5 yards per game over the final six contests. If he picks up where he left off, Seastrunk will be the Big 12’s No. 1 running back in 2013. He isn’t the only option in the backfield, as Glasco Martin returns after rushing for 15 touchdowns last season. The offensive line returns three starters, including All-American guard Cyril Richardson and honorable mention All-Big 12 tackle Troy Baker.
Offensive Weakness: Quarterback. Despite losing Robert Griffin, the Bears never missed a beat on offense last year. Baylor averaged 340.5 passing yards per game and finished fourth nationally in scoring. Can the Bears keep it going in 2013? Nick Florence departs after a successful year as the starter, pushing junior Bryce Petty into the starting role. Petty has the talent to keep this offense performing at a high level, but he has only 14 career passing attempts.
Defensive Strength: With Bryce Hager and Eddie Lackey returning, Baylor could have one of the Big 12’s top linebacker units in 2013. Hybrid linebacker/safety Ahmad Dixon also returns after recording 102 tackles and two interceptions.
Defensive Weakness: The Bears showed signs of progress on defense late in the year, but this unit still has a long ways to go. The line will be getting a lot of attention from coordinator Phil Bennett this spring, especially with the departure of tackles Gary Mason Jr. and Nick Johnson. Cornerback Chance Casey and safety Mike Hicks will be missed in the secondary.
Spring Storylines Facing the Bears
1. Is Petty ready to lead Baylor’s offense? Transitioning from Robert Griffin to Nick Florence proved to be no big deal for Baylor. Will the same be said for the Bears at the end of 2013? Petty served as Florence’s backup last season, completing 7 of 10 throws for 97 yards and one score. Most of his work came in the season opener against SMU, but Petty did see time in the 49-21 loss to TCU. Breaking in a new quarterback always requires some transition. However, the track record of quarterbacks and offenses under Art Briles suggests the Bears won’t suffer too much in terms of production. If Petty struggles, true freshman Chris Johnson and redshirt freshman Seth Russell will get a chance to play.
2. Finding help for Tevin Reese. With Terrance Williams and Lanear Sampson exhausting their eligibility, Reese is set to be Baylor’s No. 1 receiver in 2013. That shouldn’t be a problem for the senior, as he averaged 18.1 yards per reception last season and has 149 career catches. Outside of Reese, Baylor has dependable options in Levi Norwood and Antwan Goodley, along with tight end Jordan Najvar. However, the Bears would like to find a few more receivers to add depth and playmaking ability to the passing attack. Help could come in the form of incoming freshman Robbie Rhodes and redshirt freshman Corey Coleman. This isn’t a glaring concern for Baylor, but it’s important to find a few more weapons to take some of the pressure off of Reese.
3. Shuffling on the offensive line. Baylor quietly had one of the Big 12’s top offensive lines last season, allowing just 1.5 sacks per game and paving the way for the offense to average 5.1 yards per rush. This unit has a few holes to fill this spring, as center Ivory Wade and guard Cameron Kaufhold have exhausted their eligibility. Wade was one of the nation’s most underrated centers and made 49 career appearances. The cupboard isn’t bare for Briles, as guard Cyril Richardson is one of the nation’s best, left tackle Spencer Drango started all 13 games as a redshirt freshman last season, and Troy Baker made 13 starts at right tackle. Senior Stephan Huber could replace Wade at center, while Desmine Hilliard or Kelvin Palmer will likely battle to fill the void left behind by Kaufhold at right guard.
4. Taking the next step on defense. The final defensive statistics weren’t pretty. Baylor finished 2012 119th nationally in yards allowed, 110th in scoring and 119th in pass defense. While the final ledger was an eye sore, the Bears showed some progress at the end of 2012. Phil Bennett’s defense held UCLA to 26 points in the Holiday Bowl and forced three interceptions in a win over Kansas State. While it’s not a huge improvement, Baylor showed some life in the final few games. With seven starters returning, the Bears should be able to build on their defensive success in 2013. And playing better on this side of the ball should help relieve some of the pressure off of Petty's shoulders.
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