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Baylor Football: 2018 Bears Preview and Prediction

Denzel Mims, Baylor Football

Denzel Mims, Baylor Football

Baylor will be the Big 12's most improved team in 2018. The Bears were one of the youngest programs in the league last season and suffered some bad luck in losing five games by 10 points or fewer. Matt Rhule's rebuilding effort is far from complete, but there should be tangible signs of progress in 2018 -- possibly even a trip to a bowl game.

Previewing Baylor Football's Offense for 2018

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Texas Tech Football/Big 12 Magazine

In the revolving door that is the Baylor quarterback position, sophomore Charlie Brewer is the next man up after getting four starts under his belt during last year's 1-11 disaster. The sixth different starter at the position since Bryce Petty led the Bears to back-to-back Big 12 championships in 2013-14, Brewer passed for 1,562 yards and 11 TDs and earned Big 12 Co-Offensive Freshman of the Year honors.

"There's nothing better than actually being out there and playing and playing against Big 12 competition," co-offensive coordinator Jeff Nixon says. "We feel Charlie got his feet with four-and-a-half games and knows our system now."

The only other scholarship quarterback in the spring was early enrollee freshman Gerry Bohanon from tiny Earle, Ark. Jalan McClendon, a grad transfer from NC State, is set to join the team in the summer.

Denzel Mims emerged as the Bears' go-to guy last season after Chris Platt suffered a torn ACL, hauling in 61 passes for 1,087 yards and eight touchdowns. Like Platt, Gavin Holmes, R.J. Sneed and Pooh Stricklin are also coming back from injuries and should be full-go in the fall. Added to that mix are freshman Tyquan Thornton and Tennessee transfer Jalen Hurd, a converted running back who rushed for 2,638 yards in three seasons. 

Nixon sees a running back-by-committee approach with junior JaMycal Hasty and sophomores John Lovett and Trestan Ebner, a trio that rushed for 880 yards and eight TDs last season. But if Hasty stays healthy, "you'll see a big difference in the run game."

That also goes for an offensive line that added Clemson transfer Jake Fruhmorgen to a group that includes converted tight end Sam Tecklenburg at center, Blake Blackmar and Xavier Newman at the guards and Pat Lawrence at tackle.

Previewing Baylor Football's Defense for 2018 

Now that Baylor has gone through Phil Snow's Defense 101, the Bears should be able to play faster and second-guess fewer things going into head coach Matt Rhule's second season. "We've done this a bunch of different times where we're not very good and then the next year we're the best in the conference," says Snow. "Guys just don't play as fast [that first year]. At the end of the year, I thought we started to play better."

Safety was an albatross, but there's an upgrade with senior Verkedric Vaughns and juniors Chris Miller and Blake Lynch, who's made the rounds at receiver, Wildcat quarterback and cornerback. There's also depth at corner with Grayland Arnold, Jameson Houston, Harrison Hand and Temple transfer Derrek Thomas. 

Texas A&M transfer James Lockhart is a big addition to a front four that returns Ira Lewis, Bravvion Roy, Tyrone Hunt and Micheal Johnson at the interior positions and Greg Roberts, Xavier Jones, B.J. Thompson and Deonte Williams at end. Injuries took their toll at linebacker in the spring with redshirt freshman Terrel Bernard and potential starters Clay Johnston and Lenoy Jones Jr. all out.

Previewing Baylor Football's Specialists for 2018

Before suffering an ACL injury in the fifth game, Drew Galitz (45.2-yard average) was a legitimate Ray Guy Award candidate. His return takes something off the plate of Connor Martin, who was 20-of-24 on field goals.

Final Analysis

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Playing with a chip on their shoulder after last year's 1-11 finish, the Bears should be able to get off to a better start and make a run at their eighth bowl bid in nine years. But staying healthy will be the key.

NATIONAL RANKING: 53

BIG 12 PREDICTION: 8