Originally Posted by ftblbob5
With so many starters sitting out the Spring (Shawn Oakman, Jamal Palmer, Orion Stewart, and now Xavien Howard and Ryan Reid) and with two linebacker positions needing to be filled, it has become apparent that Coach Bennett and Coach Briles have decided to make it an important point to do everything they can to develop more depth heading into the Fall of 2015. Having seen that Coach Bennett has tended to go with the starters “come hell or high water,” here’s hoping that this signals a willingness to extend the “ready to play” list two included 2nd teamers. Because some athletes are being given chances with the first group against the offensive first group, it is possible that these young men will be able to develop enough trust in Coach Bennett’s mind that they will be able to see the field for quality minutes in the fall. One thing is certain, for the last week, the defense has had the upper hand against the offense (and it’s not even close). In yesterday’s (March 28th) scrimmage, the offense was able to score only one touchdown (a pass from Russell to Armstead) in over an hour and a half’s worth of work.
Here are some thoughts about the defense this spring:
Andrew Billings (75) looks quicker at the 1 technique (NT) than he was last fall – and he was pretty quick then. Billings is an incredible run stopper that is developing quality pass rush skills. He will be more than most guards or centers can handle one-on-one. This will require a double team, leaving a linebacker free or all of the other defensive linemen in one-on-one’s. Beau Blackshear (95) is a very tough defensive tackle (3 technique). Like Andrew Billings, Beau appears to be quicker this spring. His stance continues to improve, which allows him to come of lower. This means that it is very difficult to get under his pads. When Beau comes on a stunt, he usually caves the guard into the hole, stuffing pulls, traps, and dives up in the process. Beau has never been a great pass rusher, but he appears to have improved in that important area. He is tall and very good at getting his hands up when he can’t quite get to the QB. Byron Bonds (96) is continuing to backup Blackshear. Byron seems to be stronger this spring. Bonds is a quality player, but he appears to be obviously second at the DT. He’s just not quite as powerful or as physical as Beau. Suleiman Masumbuko (93) continues to be a very quick pass rusher. He does a very good job of getting his hips by the blocker. Suleiman has to become better at maintaining leverage against the run.
The biggest surprise for me this spring has to be the outstanding play of Brian Nance (15). Brian was a highly respected linebacker coming out of Euless Trinity High School. He was converted to a defensive end and for most of 2014 looked like a fish out of water. With Oakman and Palmer sitting out Spring Training, Nance has taken full advantage of the playing time. His 4 sacks in the Friday Night Lights scrimmage had to get the attention of many observers. This production is not a one-time thing. Brian has been very productive in his pass rush all spring. So much so, that Nance might have built himself some quality playing time in passing situations next fall (moving Oakman inside). Brian needs to improve against the run. He is still playing a little high, which gives the offensive lineman too much leverage. Nance needs to add some strength to become a more complete player. KJ Smith (56), coming off of a surprisingly productive 2014 season, has been very solid. Smith is excellent on working flat down the line of scrimmage. He appears to have improved his pass rush and containing of the quarterback quite a bit this spring. Smith seemed to need more strength last fall. KJ must have done some good work this off-season, because he appears much stronger. This has helped him in defending the run this spring. Jamie Jacobs (43), the red-shirt freshman local product defensive end from Midway High School, has had some quality moments this spring.
Replacing two linebackers of the quality of Collin Brence and Bryce Hager is a difficult task. These two were very heady players that were very effective within the Bennett scheme of defense. The young men attempting to replace these two fellows appear to be faster and slightly more athletic than last year’s starters, but it will be difficult to replace the understanding of the scheme, especially that of Bryce Hager.
Travon Blanchard (48) appears to be a clear leader at the nickel linebacker position. Blanchard got some quality playing time last fall as the additional nickel when Baylor went to the 3-man front. In addition, he got a lot of playing time late in the games where the Bears had put the point differential out of reach. This playing time appears to have paid dividends, because Travon is being very solid in coverage and has always been a quality tackler. Patrick Levels (21) is competing very hard to develop playing time for himself at the NLB. Patrick looks significantly stronger this fall. He is being very aggressive, almost fearless in his play. Levels is only 5’11” (if that) and 195, but he has no problem when asked to take on much larger offensive players.
Grant Campbell (5) was the linebacker working as the number one middle linebacker by the end of this week. Campbell appears to be much more comfortable at MLB this spring, as compared to last fall. His coverage has been very good and he’s getting downhill against the run fairly well. Campbell still needs work. He’s obviously not quite up to the level of the 3-time 2nd team all-conference MLB, Bryce Hager. The biggest difference appears to be that Grant continues to need more leg strength. On the other hand, Campbell appears to be slightly better than the two young men trying to unseat Campbell at the MLB1 spot. Aiavion Edwards (20) is really competing to get back a starting spot at one of the linebacker positions. He’s currently running 2nd at the MLB, but has worked at both the MLB and the WLB positions. The ankle injury that put Edwards on the bench appears to be fully healed (I’m not sure that Aiavion was ever completely healthy after the injury last fall). This has allowed the Stephenville product to play quicker. Edwards continues to have those periods of hanging back rather than playing downhill, but sometimes he’s fast enough to make up for some slight hesitancy. With two linebackers like this fighting it out for the MLB position, you might be thinking it is a two-man race. Not so fast. Raaquan Davis (19) has looked very good late in this year’s Spring Training. Davis is a 6’1”, 220 linebacker with quality speed and strength. It will be interesting to see if Davis can insert himself into the contest for playing time in the Fall of 2015.
All-conference performer, Taylor Young (11) continues to be the best linebacker on the field. Despite being vertically challenged, Taylor is very effective in pass coverage. His is quick as a hiccup on his blitzes. He goes from zero-to-sixty as fast as anyone I’ve seen in a while. Young is a quality tackler that rarely misses. He will be a real leader this fall, despite the fact that he is just going into his sophomore year. Kendall Ehrlich (16) continues to struggle to measure up to the level of play set by those other linebackers. Kendall appears to be weaker and a little slower to recognize what is happening. He needs to get back into the weight room and get in the film room to allow himself to play without thinking quite so much.
I know that many are concerned about this group. I can only say that I believe their performance this spring as been much improved. Part of it might be with the familiarity of these defensive backs with what the Baylor receivers are trying to do. It is often difficult for receivers in Spring Training to get separation from defenders that know well what is coming. But given this possibility, I continue to be impressed with the work of the secondary. There were a few coverage problems in the Friday Night Lights scrimmage, but by the end of this week those issues appeared to be ironed out effectively. On Saturday, the Baylor offense got very little underneath and nothing – absolutely nothing – over the top of the secondary.
Terrell Burt (13) continues to nurse slight injuries (of course, the definition of a “slight injury” is an injury that has happened to someone else). This has hampered his consistency. Burt has had a good, but not great spring. He is being pushed by Chance Waz (18). Waz wasn’t able to break into the starting lineup last fall as a true freshman. The extra year of experience might make the Pflugerville Hendrickson High School product a more formidable threat to unseat the two-year starter (Burt). If nothing else, Waz appears to be giving Coach Bennett more comfort in placing a less than full speed Burt on the sidelines for a healthy Chance Waz.
Taion Sells (26) has been another real surprise this spring. Sells is getting the bulk of the starting time at the short side safety position (playing behind injured Orion Stewart). Sells has really competed hard this spring. He has been physical (despite his 5’10, 185 frame) and aggressive. He has played with a big chip on his shoulder and, for the most part, has backed it up with quality performance. He has been very good at overlapping the deep balls down the rail. His individual coverage skills could improve some, but he’s been making most of the plays and has seldom given up big plays to the offense. Playing behind Taion Sells at the boundary safety position is last year’s backup, Alfred Pullom (12). Alfred is a very physical player that appears to be a step slow this spring. Alfred needs to become much more effective in one-on-one coverage and in overlapping over the top of deep go routes down the rail.
Xavien Howard (4) has had a very good spring. He has continued to improve from his overall good performance last fall. His deep coverage has been much more effective. Last fall, he seemed to lose his footing on the deep ball in 2014. This spring, Xavien has been able to maintain coverage and play the ball effectively most of the time when running on deep passes with quality receivers. This has resulted in fewer penalties (when the officials are on the field) on Howard and made it much more difficult on the offensive receivers and quarterbacks attempting to complete these passes. Xavien has always been tough on intermediate and short passes. He probably leads the secondary in passes broken up this spring. Because of a lower leg injury, he is on the shelf for the remainder of Spring Training. Ryan Reid (9) has seen only limited action this spring. This has given Terrence Singleton (24) a lot of quality playing time. Singleton was thought to have been the go-to-guy at the wide side cornerback position going into last fall. Injuries cause the 2014 season to be pretty much a wash-out for Terrence. If Terrence can return to form (which this spring’s performance causes to appear that is very possible), then the competition for playing time at the wide side cornerback position will be intense in the fall. Singleton is fast, physical player that is very good at redirecting. He competes very well in the intermediate and short range passing game and has shown good ball skills on deep balls. Another big surprise this spring has been the rapid development of feisty cornerback, Verkedric Vaughns (27). The Mesquite Poteet HS product appears to have effectively used his red-shirt season to bring his game up to the level of a Big XII cornerback. Vaughns seems to have no fear. He gets inside the jersey of receivers and matches them step for step. He backs down to no one (remember his altercation in the Friday Night Lights scrimmage?). I really hope Verkedric is able to maintain this work-ethic throughout the summer and early fall, so that Vaughns can be considered quality depth for next fall’s games. Tion Wright (3) has been very competitive, too. The JUCO transfer from Moorpark College has two more years of eligibility to demonstrate he deserves quality playing time.
Originally Posted by ftblbob5
The halfway point in the Baylor Bear Spring Training has been reached and it is time to take stock of the current status of the Bears. The Friday Night Lights program was a huge success, despite the rainy weather. Over 5,600 fans were able to watch the Bears compete against each other in McLane Stadium on the banks of the Brazos (maybe next year will be better weather).
Here are a few thoughts:
Coach Clements is trying to give all of his charges an opportunity to demonstrate their abilities. In addition, he is developing quality flexibility in having several young men work at multiple positions. This will give Coach Clements the ability to get the five best players on the field in the fall and, additionally, will give flexibility if an injury should occur that might force changing positions to get the best available players on the field.
The starting offensive line appears to be Spencer Drango (58) at left tackle, Blake Muir (73) at left guard, Kyle Fuller (55) at center, both Jarell Broxton (61) and Desmine Hilliard (67) at right guard, and Pat Colbert (69) at right tackle. Coach Clements is working Blake Muir at right tackle, too. This might mean that the right guard combination of Broxton and Hilliard might end up being split to play both of the guard positions. In addition, it is possible that Maurice Porter, the 6’7”, 315, JUCO transfer out of Navarro by way of Missouri City, TX, might challenge for the right tackle position when he arrives on campus in the fall.
The second group of offensive linemen appears to be Dom Desouza (64 – the JUCO transfer from City College of San Francisco) at left tackle, Tanner Thrift at left guard, Rami Hammad (52) at center, Ishmael Wilson (68 – the transfer from Texas A&M) at right guard, and Patrick Lawrence (77) at right tackle. Desouza is a very impressive looking player, but his techniques need work. The third group is Devonte Jones (71) at left tackle, Josh Pelzel at left guard, Sean Muir (74) at center, Blake Blackmar (72) at right guard, and Ismael Wilson (68) at right tackle.
The first group (in whatever combination Coach Clements utilizes) appears to be a very good group. Spencer Drango continues to be a powerful force on the blind side. His downfield block on the 50-yard run by Johnny Jefferson in the Friday Night Lights workout was awesome. Drango is so balanced in pass protection. It appears that he has recovered completely from his back injury of a year ago. Spencer is the best leader on the offensive line. He continually looks for opportunities to mentor others and is a vocal leader that will push his teammates to be better. Teams always need leaders like Spencer. If Spencer and Blake Muir stay beside each other in the fall of 2015, that side of the offensive line looks to be very special. It is no small coincidence that the fact that Blake was too sick to play in the Cotton Bowl that Michigan State was able to create confusion in pass protection in the 4th quarter. Muir appears to have improved as a drive blocker and has always been very agile in pulls and traps required at offensive guard. Kyle Fuller has made tremendous improvement. Fuller is going to be a much stronger force for the Bears in 2015. He has started to pound people on the inside. The competition between Broxton and Hilliard is very interesting. It appears that Jarell Broxton is running slightly ahead of Desmine Hilliard, but it is too close to call at this point. The competition at right tackle will be the position to watch in the fall of 2015. With Colbert, Muir, and Porter all competing for this position, eventually that spot at right tackle will probably be held by a very capable player. Pat Colbert appears to be improved from 2014, but it might require even more improvement to maintain his spot. The right tackle position (in my opinion) won’t be solidified until Fall Camp.
Some of the problems the second group of the offensive line had in the Friday Night Lights scrimmage were a direct result of Rami Hammad’s inexperience at center. Rami is athletic and will be a good center, in time. But he has struggled with the snap and with the scheme responsibilities at this position. He is still making mistakes on assignment too often. He has the ability to block the defender, but too often blocks the wrong person. With a center that is making mistakes, the structure of the interior blocking breaks down. I have complete confidence that by the end of spring practice, Coach Clements and Rami will have those mental issues fixed. I, also, believe that the hitch on the snap problems that caused way too many illegal procedure penalties on Friday night will be fixed. Rami just needs more work and he’s going to get it.
The best running back in this spring’s workouts appears to be Devin Chafin (28). Devin is a very fast, big back. He bends the line of scrimmage when he pounds into a stacked up pile and has the ability to gap people when he breaks into the clear. He is an intimidating back for defensive backs to have to tackle. Devin is a very fast “power back.” You don’t see many young men of his size that can run as fast as Devin. If this young man can stay healthy, it will be a real positive factor for a Baylor team that missed his carries much of last fall. Shock Linwood (32) is lighter and quicker. He has demonstrated improved ability to make people miss and appears to be fighting very hard to hold on to his position as the number one running back. Shock continues to be tackled because of a lack of leg strength that might enable him to break angle tackles. Shock is probably the most elusive running back at level two. He leaves tacklers grasping at air with quick vertical cuts. Johnny Jefferson (2) had a terrific night on Friday. His 50 yard carry was just a half of a step from gapping the two closing defensive backs. This kind of break-away ability was missing last fall (a la Lache Seastrunk). Jefferson needs to continue to improve his leg strength. The new member of this imposing group of running backs is Terence Williams (22), the red-shirt freshman out of Ennis. Williams is a very good target coming out of the backfield and will give the Bears increase flexibility in the offensive attack. This young man will be a very good ball carrier in 2015.
The quarterback position continues to be an open competition, but it appears that Seth Russell (17) is winning the job. Seth had a very good night on Friday and has been the most effective quarterback in most of the practices this spring. Seth continues to need to demonstrate that he will protect the ball as well as RGIII, Nick Florence, and Bryce Petty has done in previous years. In addition, Seth is still not quite up to that level as a decision-maker, yet. Russell’s pocket presence has improved, but he still needs to work on this. What Seth does bring is a break-away running ability that Baylor fans have not seen from a quarterback since RGIII left for the Washington Redskins. Seth will make defenses spend an extra defender on the defensive front to account for his ability to keep the football. This will lead to more open areas for the talented group of receivers to exploit. Chris Johnson (13) and Jarrett Stidham (3) are fighting it out with Russell for the number one quarterback position. Overall, it seems that Stidham is running slightly ahead of Johnson at this point. Stidham has been dynamic when he has scrambled. Both Johnson and Stidham are not quite as efficient as Russell in decision-making. Part of this has to do with the fact that most of the reps this duo gets are behind the 2nd and 3rd offensive line throwing to the 2nd and 3rd group of receivers. Stidham has a big upside, but he still needs work to develop into all that he might be able to be. Jarrett has a much longer throwing motion and his release is significantly flatter than either of the other two quarterbacks. It will be interesting to see if Jarrett can modify these techniques (or if he even has to modify them). Johnson has a much quicker release than Stidham and is a bigger body. Johnson is not quite as agile, but I’m not sure that there is much difference between the two in flat-out speed.
Wide Receiver U is alive and well in Waco, Texas. Even with the end of the eligibility of Antwan Goodley, Levi Norwood, and Jeff Fuller, the receiving corps for the Bears might just be better in 2015 than it was in 2014. Corey Coleman (1) is the undisputed leader of this receiving corp. He has become a physical specimen that can make quality adjustments to the ball. He is a strong, thick, fast receiver. His catching skills have become much more reliable. He has demonstrated that he is a threat on every type of pass the Bears ask him to run. In addition, he seems to really be interested in helping the young receivers that are looking to him for leadership. He is going to be very good in 2015. KD Cannon (9) might just be faster in 2015 than he was in 2014. Look for the Bears to utilize his vertical ability often in 2015. KD is on the verge of becoming a receiver that is a multiple threat at various routes. He needs to continue to improve his strength. Both of these young men need to work on catching the deep ball at its highest point. The guy that is attracting a lot of attention this spring is Ishmael Zamora (8). Ishmael is 6’4” and 220 and can run real well. Zamora has a physical quality to his receiving that indicates he might become one of those Kevin White or Josh Gordon-type receivers. Ishmael is one of the better receivers at going up and catching the ball at its highest point. Right now, he is just a little inconsistent at catching the ball, but I believe that Zamora will get those issues corrected. Jay Lee (4), Lynx Hawthorne (7), Davion Hall (16), and Quan Jones (12) all appear to have improved. Jay Lee needs to continue to be willing to go up and get the jump balls down the rail. Jay is a big body that can run. He can make phenomenal catches, but he can drop the easy ones, too. Lynx Hawthorne has carved out spot for himself as a guy that can run the slant in traffic. He needs to be able to expand his repertoire to build more playing time for himself. Look for Lynx to be a real factor in the return game, too. Davion Hall and Quan Jones need to become more consistent at catching the ball. Both of these guys are big, physical receivers that could really help if they would just catch the ball cleanly all of the time. Davion is a devastating blocker. He could really make a big move this fall if he can become a reliable pass catcher. The other two receivers to keep an eye on are Chris Platt (18) and Blake Lynch (5). These two guys are young receivers that have special abilities. Platt is being compared quite often to Tevin Reese. Platt has terrific speed and can make quick, vertical cuts that beat slower safety coverage. As a true freshman that should be in his senior year in high school, Blake Lynch (at 6’3” and 200) has the size and speed combination to be another outstanding receiver in the line of Josh Gordon and Ishmael Zamora. If Blake is going to make his way into the lineup, he has a lot of improving to do.
At tight end, the combination of Tre’Von Armstead (41), Jordan Feuerbacher (85), Gus Penning (15), and the monstrous LaQuan McGowan (80 - 6’7”, 410) will give Coach Briles as much flexibility to speed, quickness, size, and blocking ability as any group of tight ends in the country. Tre’Von is the best combination of all of these abilities, but he was not as focused on finishing the play as he should have been last fall. If Tre’Von can improve on finishing, he could be an outstanding tight end. Jordan Feuerbacher and Gus Penning are solid receivers that need to improve on their blocking. Feuerbacher is young (a rising true sophomore) and can probably develop into a multiple tools tight end. Penning is very quick in his pass routes. He is tough to defend on the intermediate routes. LaQuan is a work-in-progress. He is devastating in short yardage situations, especially when he kicks out the end man on the line of scrimmage. Blocking inside, LaQuan needs a little cleaner hole than you usually see in short yardage. If LaQuan improves on picking up his feet and getting through the trash on inside isolation blocks on the linebackers, he will be a real force with which to be reckoned. One of the surprising things about LaQuan is that he can really catch the ball. He has very good hands (and they are huge, too). LaQuan needs to be mindful of protecting the ball after the catch (as was obvious on his reception on Friday night).
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Originally Posted by cinque
When the amicable separatists get to Heaven and find that some they found it necessary to separate from are there as well, will it dawn on them what a colossal waste of time separating was?