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College Football Preview: 19. Baylor Bears

19. Baylor Bears

At the end of 2012, Baylor could have beat anybody. After some post-RG3 issues the Bears beat number one Kansas State and UCLA and ended up with an 8-5 mark. Their star quarterback Nick Florence is gone after filling in nicely for RG3 last season. With the return of two dangerous backs, some dangerous receivers and a greatly improved defense anything could happen for Baylor in 2013.

Glasco Martin
Backfield: Baylor may have the best backfield in the Big 12. That may be crazy to think without Florence or RG3, but it is true. Junior Bryce Petty will likely be the next quarterback in Waco and he has the experience to have a big year. Petty only threw 10 passes well but knows the system and will have a plethora of targets to throw too. Petty is huge standing at 6-3, 230 pounds and can make plays with his legs like the way the two quarterbacks did before him. Oregon transfer Lache Seastrunk has the ability for a big 2013. Seastrunk proved to be a big play threat last season averaging 7.7 yards per carry. He has breakaway speed but is also durable and is a force between the tackles. Senior Glasco Martin also is back. Martin is riding a wave of momentum after a three touchdown performance in the Holiday Bowl win over UCLA. If both play like they finished last year, both could be All-Americans.

Receivers: Game-changing senior Tevin Reese returns and gives Petty an immediate threat. Reese recorded 957 yards last season and averaged nearly 20 yards a catch. He is fast and agile and is just plain difficult to cover. Also returning is junior Levi Norwood who also had a fantastic '12. Norwood also proved to be a game-changer with his blend of speed and great leaping ability. Norwood and Reese combined for 93 receptions and give Petty two targets that should help him feel more comfortable from the start. Five-star commit Robbie Rhodes should also make an impact in 2013. Rhodes has the speed to have a big freshman year and was a huge find for coach Art Briles and his staff. Senior tight end Jordan Najvar should give the Bears a big, imposing threat in the passing game. Well Reese, Norwood and Rhodes make plays down the field Najvar should do damage close to the line of scrimmage.

Offensive Line: In order for this ground game to be as dangerous as it has the potential to be this line needs to be strong. Senior Cyril Richardson anchors the solid unit. Richardson will start at left guard and has the great mix of athleticism and strength that All-American guards have. Also sure to dominate on the left side will be massive left tackle Spencer Drango, who enters his sophomore year. Drango isn't very athletic but he uses his gigantic frame to push away the great pass rushers of the Big 12. This line is very experienced with talents like senior center Stephan Huber, right tackle Kelvin Palmer and sophomore Desmine Hilliard. 6-7 sophomore LaQuan McGowen will be stuck behind Richardson this year but is considered the future at the position. Briles and staff also brought in a Texas talent in raw but high-potential tackle Maurice Porter.

Defensive Line: This line is talented and experienced and could become a quality unit. Senior end Chris McAllister is sure to be a force on the left side after recording 6 sacks a year ago. McAllister isn't huge but he is extremely athletic and uses his speed off the edge to constantly disrupt opponents. On the other edge Terrance Lloyd uses his athleticism to due much the same thing. With Lloyd and McAllister dominating on the perimeter and demanding double teams, it should make things easier for the interior linemen. Nose tackle Beau Blackshear is like the rest of the line; a little undersized but has the psychical tools to be a force. Three-star prospect K.J. Smith is likely to get some snaps especially if Lloyd or McAllister struggle. Smith isn't great in any one category but can contribute as a pass rusher immediately.

Linebackers: Junior middle linebacker Bryce Hager led the Big 12 in tackles, recording 124 in 2012. Hager has fantastic instincts and really matured a lot through the course of last season. Hager also proved he could be a strong coverage linebacker which we know is important in the pass happy Big 12. With McAllister a beast on the end, Hager should also help in blitzing. The other linebacker in this 4-2-5 aggressive defense is senior Eddie Lackey who took big
steps last year. Like the rest of this Baylor team Lackey was on fire a year ago, as he won two straight Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week awards to end 2012. Briles really worked hard to bring in a great class full of linebackers who can be future stars. Four-star commit Brian Nance is a great pass rushing outside linebacker who can make some big plays. Also coming in is Raaquan Davis and Travon Blanchard, two Texas products who were great finds.

Secondary: In order for the Bears to reach their full potential this secondary must take some major steps in 2013. Opposing teams averaged 323.5 yards per game through the air, a startling number. Senior Sam Holl has the talent to have a strong finale in Waco. Holl has a nose for the ball and has proven that he can rack up the tackles. Another senior, Ahmad Dixon, can also be a big-play threat even though he is a little bit small. Baylor also brought back a number of impact defensive backs including tiny but quick sophomore Terrell Burt, senior Joe Williams and senior K.J. Morton. Both cornerbacks, Williams and Morton, are also small and get pushed around a bit. But both are athletic and can hang with even the quickest receivers. This unit got a huge lift when senior Demetri Goodson was granted a medical hardship and able to return. Goodson broke his arm against West Virginia but has the talent and smarts to be a force.

With Oklahoma and Texas still weaker than they have been in a while Baylor has the opportunity to threaten for the Big 12 title. If this defense improves from 504 yards allowed per game in 2012 and Seastrunk and Martin play to their potential anything is possible.

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