Baylor Football: 5 Spring Practice Positional Battles to Watch
5 Battles to Watch during Baylor's Spring Practice
The Baylor Bears football team accomplished many goals in 2013, none more important than capturing the Big 12 championship. Art Briles weathered the head coaching rumor mill storm and returns to Waco to continue building the program. A new stadium is under construction to replace the antiquated Floyd Casey Stadium. Life is looking good for Baylor football.
The Bears return a number of key players – Bryce Petty, Shock Linwood, Antwan Goodley and Bryce Hager to name a few. Baylor is stocked at the skill positions, meaning the nation’s No. 1 scoring offense should not miss a beat in 2014. A reloaded offense should help ease the loss of guard Cyril Richardson and center Stefan Huber.
There are concerns on the defensive side of the ball. Eddie Lackey, the heart and soul of the defense, has graduated. Ahmad Dixon moves on to the NFL after a stellar career in Waco. Demetri Goodson took on the Big 12’s best receivers each week, a skill he will take to the next level. Baylor will need some of its depth players to step into these roles.
Not to be overlooked is the loss of kicker Aaron Jones. The senior scored 124 points last season. Kicking is an inexact science, especially in college. Jones provided the stability only a four-year kicker could.
The target is squarely on Baylor this season. Every Big 12 team will be gunning for the Bears. Defensive coaches have had an offseason to study the Baylor offense. It is a safe bet each school is working to create a scheme to slow it down. Graduation robbed the Bears of experience at several positions. How will the younger players respond?
Here are the top positional battles to look for this spring.
The offensive line will need to replace two valuable contributors in Richardson and Huber. Kyle Fuller is expected to take over for Huber at center. Pat Colbert, Desmine Hilliard and LaQuan McGowan are in the mix for the open guard position. Line play will be key to giving Petty the time he needs in the pocket.
Hager will miss spring practice following shoulder surgery. This will give players like Kendall Ehrlich, Aiavion Edwards and Xavier Phillips valuable reps. Baylor is very green in the line backing group. Replacing Lackey and his 108 tackles will not be easy.
Baylor lost seven defensive backs to graduation. Much like the linebackers, the secondary is lacking experience. Kiante’ Griffin, Xavien Howard, Terrence Singleton and Lee Bristow saw limited action last season. Howard and Singleton are former 3-star recruits expected to battle for the starting corner jobs. The secondary looks to be the weak link in the defense.
Dixon was the captain of the secondary. The senior had 81 tackles and six pass-breakups. Terrell Burt returns to assume the leadership role, but who starts next to him? Orion Stewart and Patrick Levels both saw playing time as freshmen last season. Stewart has the height advantage over Levels. This will be one of the more interesting battles to watch. The winner will live in Dixon's shadow this season.
Jones leaves the Baylor program after having scored 451 points in his career for the Bears. Kyle Peterson did kick in five games last season, but he will be pushed by Chris Callahan. The winner of this job should have the chance to be one of the highest scoring kickers in 2014.