Baylor Bears Should Not Miss a Beat in 2015, Even with a New QB

The Baylor Bears have had four starting quarterbacks in the last five seasons, and they have gotten progressively better every season, including two consecutive Big 12 championships.

Before head coach Art Briles and Heisman Trophy-winner Robert Griffin III arrived on the scene in 2008, Baylor has gone from the perennial doormat of the Big 12 in football to the league’s penthouse. And much of that has been due to outstanding quarterback play.

In the five seasons before Briles arrived in Waco, the Bears compiled on overall mark of 11-40 (.270), they were a dreadful 7-33 (.180) against Big 12 opponents. Flash forward, however, to the last five seasons (2010-2014) and Baylor has risen to become one of the best teams in the conference, with a combined record of 47-17 (.730) overall and 30-15 (.667) in the Big 12. That’s an improvement of 23 games in the conference alone.

Nov 29, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Baylor Bears quarterback Seth Russell (17) passes against the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the second half at AT&T Stadium. The Bears defeated the Red Raiders 48-46. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

You can attribute that remarkable turnaround in Baylor football to coach Briles and, more importantly, his innate ability to find and develop exceptional quarterback and wide-receiver talent. A longtime Texas high school coach,

Briles has strong relationships and is well known in the high school ranks throughout the Lone Star State. And in the past couple of years, his Baylor program has been the best in the state of Texas, which, believe me, is a wound that cuts very deep in football strongholds like Austin (home of the Texas Longhorns), Ft. Worth (TCU) and College Station (Texas A&M).

From the quarterback perspective, Baylor’s turnaround began with RG3 (now with the NFL Washington Redskins). RG3 was followed by Nick Florence, who came in and set new passing records in just a single season as a starter. Then it was Bryce Petty’s turn at the QB controls.

In two seasons as the Bears’ starting quarterback, Petty led Baylor to a couple of Big 12 championships, won 21 of 24 games and set 31 school, 2 Big 12 and one NCAA record.

In 2015, another new starter takes over at the Baylor QB position. Seth Russell, a junior, will get the call, and the Baylor coaching staff is high on what he can do. He appeared in just seven games last season as a backup to Petty. For the season, he completed 26 of 43 passes for 427 yards and 3 touchdowns.

In Baylor’s spring scrimmage, which it calls “Friday Night Lights, Russell was impressive, completing 18 of 27 passes for 354 yards and 4 touchdown tosses. Three of those TD throws went for 54 or more yards.

Junior wide receivers Corey Coleman and Lynx Hawthorne and sophomore KD Cannon each caught a touchdown catch.  All three caught TD passes greater than 50 yards, and Hawthorne had another for 10 yards.  Coleman is the top returning receiver in the Big 12 in terms of receiving yards per game (107.7).

Shock Linwood, No. 2 in the Big 12 last season in rushing yardage, returns for his junior season next fall. Linwood gained 37 yards on 10 carries in the Bears’ 90-minute spring scrimmage. The star of the evening, however, among the running backs was sophomore Johnny Jefferson, who rambled for 113 yards on 10 rushing attempts.

“All in all, a pretty good scrimmage,” Briles said in an article published on the school’s athletic website.

“We’re not where we need to be or where we’re going to be, but we’re getting a better feel for how we need to get there,” the Baylor head coach said.

“We’re learning, particularly from an offensive standpoint, what some of these guys’ strengths are. We’ve got to make sure we get our right people in the right place to give us the right results.”