By Jeff Kubiszyn @JeffKubiszyn on May 25, 2014
The 2013 Baylor Bears put the program on the map by winning the Big 12 championship and playing in a BCS bowl game. All eyes will be on Waco to see what the Bears can do for an encore. If Baylor hopes to keep the momentum going in 2014, these players will have to make an impact on the field as they replace key starters from last year.
LaQuan McGowan is as large as a house. He is listed at 6-7 and 375 pounds. McGowan is replacing All-American Cyril Richardson at left guard. He will be tested, not only by Big 12 pass rushers but by the high-octane Baylor offense that races up and down the field. McGowan has a lot pressure on him protecting Bryce Petty's blindside. Can he handle the expectations?
Aiavion Edwards is the favorite to replace tackling machine Eddie Lackey. Edwards played mostly middle linebacker in 2013, but he gets first crack at the weak side backer job while Bryce Hager mans the middle linebacking position. Lackey was all over the field last season. Can Edwards make the same kind of impact?
It's hard to replace an emotional leader like Ahmad Dixon. That's what Orion Stewart will try to do in 2014. Expect Terrell Burt to take on more of a leadership role to take the pressure of off Stewart. Still, will a missed big play here or there have Bears' fans reminiscing about Dixon? Stewart hopes to make them forget number six.
Robbie Rhodes has some big shoes to fill. Rhodes is trying to replace Tevin Reese, again. Reese missed five games with an injury late in the season, but still had 38 catches. Rhodes had a chance to step up and separate himself from the other receivers on the team. Instead, he was pretty much a no-show. Rhodes is a gifted receiver who needs to make Baylor fans forget Reese.
Briles believes his defensive line matches up with any in the country. That's quite a proclamation. Part of the reason Briles made the statement is Shawn Oakman. Oakman was pretty much unblockable on passing downs in 2013. He was unstoppable in spring practice. Oakman will line up at right defensive end to show he is a complete player. All eyes will be on the six-foot-seven Oakman this fall.
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