Levi Norwood

Quarterbacks

Case McCoy bounced back against Texas Tech, throwing for 139 yards and two touchdowns while running for another score. It was the first time since early October that McCoy had not thrown an interception. McCoy’s performance has been heavily reliant on the success of his running backs. Baylor’s No. 26 rush defense may force McCoy to step into a role he has not handled well this season. Heisman candidate Bryce Petty, who has rushed for 11 touchdowns this season, has fewer pass attempts than the Texas starters and averages 11.2 yards per attempt, the most in the country. McCoy hasn’t averaged 11.2 yards per pass attempt in any single game this year. Petty threw for 206 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in worst performance this season against TCU last week.

Advantage: Baylor

 

Running Backs

Joe Bergeron proved he could fill in for the injured Johnathan Gray with a 102-yard, one-touchdown performance in the 41-16 win over Texas Tech. Malcolm Brown supplemented Bergeron’s play with a 128-yard game, his third time topping the century mark this season. Baylor gave up 122 yards to a struggling TCU backfield and have struggled against the leading rushing teams in the Big 12, giving up 327 yards to Kansas State and 154 to Oklahoma State. Lache Seastrunk returned from a groin injury with a 92-yard first half in the 41-38 win over TCU. Seastrunk had rushed for 869 yards in just seven weeks when he went down in the first half against Oklahoma. Freshman Shock Linwood picked up the slack with back-to-back 180-yard games against the Sooners and Texas Tech. Seastrunk is healthy and again the featured back and, along with Linwood, will present the Texas defense their toughest backfield this season.

Advantage: Baylor

 

Wide Receivers

Since catching just nine passes in October, Mike Davis has totaled 315 yards and three touchdowns, two of them for more than 45 yards, in the last three games. Jaxon Shipley had been consistent before not recording a catch for the first time in his career against Texas Tech. Daje Johnson returns after serving a one-game suspension. Antwan Goodley already has more than 1,000 yards and 12 touchdown receptions on the season, averaging 20.4 yards per catch. Tevin Reese averaged 25 yards per catch before suffering a season-ending wrist injury but Levi Norwood has stepped up with 400 yards and five touchdowns in Reese’s four-week absence. Petty has plenty of explosive options with four receivers that have caught touchdown passes of more than 50 yards.

Advantage: Baylor

 

Offensive Line

Baylor, who gave up three sacks to TCU last week, has an offensive line that includes Outland Trophy finalist Cyril Richardson and that will face a Texas team that has a Big 12-best 35 sacks this year, nine of them against Texas Tech. The Longhorns have allowed the 20th-fewest sacks in the nation this year, giving up just two in their last two games. Their main concern will be establishing a run game against a defense that allows just 133 rush yards per game. Texas needs to protect McCoy well to do that.

Advantage: Texas

 

Defensive Line:

Baylor has six sacks in the last three games, three of them coming against Texas Tech. Chris McAllister leads them with 6.5 sacks this season. The Bears have the nation’s No. 26 run defense and rank No. 30 in sacks. Stopping the Texas run game will be Baylor’s main concern. The Texas defensive line provided six of the nine sacks by the Longhorn defense against Texas Tech. Senior Jackson Jeffcoat had a career-high three sacks and junior Cedric Reed tied his career-high with two. The Longhorns have mixed performances against the Big 12’s top pass protectors as Oklahoma State shut them out while Texas had three sacks against Oklahoma. Jeffcoat and Co. also face the country’s No. 11 run offense, their stiffest test since playing BYU.

Advantage: Texas

 

Linebackers

Texas held Texas Tech to its second-fewest yards this season, with Dalton Santos making six tackles, most among linebackers. 51 of the Red Raiders’ 94 rushing yards came on a 51-yard fake punt for a touchdown. Seastrunk and Linwood make for the best backfield the Longhorns have faced this year. Eddie Lackey leads the Baylor linebackers with 84 tackles on the season and has 18 tackles and 1.5 sacks in the last two games, and scored on a 54-yard interception return against TCU. Brody Trahan tied a career high with seven tackles last week against TCU. The Bears have allowed 414 rushing yards in their last three games but haven’t faced a team reliant on the run since playing Oklahoma, who ran for only 87 yards. Baylor’s linebackers will need a similar performance to keep Texas from pulling off the upset.

Advantage: Baylor

 

Defensive Backs

Texas held Texas Tech’s top-ranked pass offense to 302, almost 100 yards under their average, boosting its confidence heading into its game against Baylor, who has the nation’s No. 4 pass offense. Duke Thomas picked off his third pass of the year against the Red Raiders and will help Texas try to slow down Petty, who has thrown just two interceptions all season. Reese’s absence works in the Longhorns’ favor but Goodley will be the most dominant receiver the Longhorns have faced this year. Baylor safety Orion Stewart broke out with an 82-yard interception return for a touchdown against TCU. The Bears picked Casey Pachall off twice, increasing their season’s interception total to 15, nine of them coming in the last six games. McCoy has been turnover-prone recently, meaning a successful Baylor pass rush and rush defense could force him into uncomfortable throws and more turnovers.

Advantage: Baylor

 

Special Teams

The special teams struggles continue to pile on for Texas as Texas Tech punter Ryan Erxleben turned a fake punt into a 51-yard rushing touchdown. The Longhorns allowed a 33-yard kick return to the Red Raiders’ Jordan Davis and are now fifth-worst in the country in average kickoff return yards allowed — an improvement from the a week ago. Anthony Fera provided a silver lining, making a 49-yard field goal. Baylor’s Corey Coleman has a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and Norwood has two punt return touchdowns on the season. Both will give a struggling Texas coverage team issues and could provide the difference in the game.

Advantage: Baylor

 

Baylor head coach Art Briles addresses media members at Big 12 Media Days in Dallas. Briles and the Bears are looking to improve on a 10-3 record from a year ago.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

The Baylor Bears may have lost their top three offensive threats from a year ago to the NFL Draft, but head coach Art Briles doesn’t see that being an issue as his team prepares for the start of a new season.

“We’ve got some holes to fill. We understand that,” Briles said. “In general I think our brand is probably as good as it’s ever been on a national level. What we have to do now is maintain it, and that’s where my inspiration, passion and drive is going to come from.”

The Bears are coming out of their best season in more than 30 years after a 10-3 finish in 2011, which included the team’s first bowl victory since 1992. But the loss of Heisman-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III as well as leading wide receiver Kendall Wright and running back Terrance Ganaway have many wondering if the Bears can duplicate their success from a season ago.

“We have to fill in the gaps because Robert created a lot of gaps,” Briles said. “We have to fill that in with a variety of different methods, schematically and personnel-wise, that will give us an opportunity to stay at the level we finished at last year.”

One of the players who will attempt to fill the massive hole left by Griffin III and others is senior quarterback Nick Florence. Florence would have two remaining years of eligibility, but he was forced to relinquish his redshirt late last season after Griffin III suffered a concussion against Texas Tech. In that game, Florence threw for 151 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another score, eventually leading the Bears to a 66-42 win over the Red Raiders.

It was then that Briles knew Florence would do anything to see the Bears win.

“That’s where his drive is — being a good football player that contributes to Baylor being successful,” Briles said. “I have a tremendous amount of confidence in the passion, energy and fearlessness he’s going to bring to the table.”

Briles isn’t the only one confident in Florence’s ability to lead the Bears. Senior center Ivory Wade feels the Bears are right where they left off at the end of last season.

“We’re going to be the same offense we were last year,” Wade said. “Very explosive and hopefully rack up a lot of yards.”

Those yards will have to come from somewhere, and that’s precisely where fifth-year senior wide receiver Terrance Williams comes in.

Williams played in all 13 games last season, including 11 at receiver on his way to 957 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. His receiving totals were second on the team, trailing only Wright, who is now a Tennessee Titan. At 6-foot-2, Williams provides a big target for Florence and should emerge as this year’s most reliable downfield threat.

“He’s going to blow up this year,” Wade said.

The Bears also return Tevin Reese, Lanear Sampson and Levi Norwood at receiver in addition to recent Michigan transfer Darryl Stonum. The loss of Wright hurts, but there are several players who are capable of working as a unit in order to replicate Wright’s receiving totals from last year.

With all the attention paid to Griffin III and Wright a year ago, it’s easy to forget that the Bears also had a 1,500 yard rusher, Ganaway, who is now a member of the New York Jets.

Ganaway found the endzone 21 times on the ground in 2011, and his production will be greatly missed as well.

At the moment, senior Jarred Salubi is listed as the Bears’ No. 1 running back. He’s played in 38 career games, tied for the most on the team.

“Jarred is an outstanding back. He’s able to make guys miss in space and he’s big and strong enough to be powerful inside,” Briles said.

Someone will have to step up in order to replace Ganaway, and that someone could be Lache Seastrunk. A graduate of nearby Temple High School and former Oregon Duck, Seastrunk joined the Bears in 2011 but was forced to sit out the entire season per NCAA transfer regulations.

“Lache is a very dynamic player that has three years left and we’re anxious to see what he can do when there’s people in the stands hollering, because he’s got ability and that’s something that’s hard to hide,” Briles said. “We’re going to have him open up the jacket and let it show.”

It won’t be an easy task replacing the drafted players on the offensive side of the ball, but the pieces are there.

“Perceptions change and there’s still people who are going to write us off, and that’s the way it’s always going to be,” Florence said. “We want to earn some respect. We’ve won a bowl game and got to 10 wins, so now we want to win a Big 12 Championship.”

 The Baylor Bears may have lost their top three offensive threats from a year ago to the NFL Draft, but head coach Art Briles doesn’t see that being an issue as his team prepares for the start of a new season.

“We’ve got some holes to fill. We understand that,” Briles said. “In general I think our brand is probably as good as it’s ever been on a national level. What we have to do now is maintain it, and that’s where my inspiration, passion and drive is going to come from.”

The Bears are coming out of their best season in more than 30 years after a 10-3 finish in 2011, which included the team’s first bowl victory since 1992. But the loss of Heisman-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III as well as leading wide receiver Kendall Wright and running back Terrance Ganaway have many wondering if the Bears can duplicate their success from a season ago.

“We have to fill in the gaps because Robert created a lot of gaps,” Briles said. “We have to fill that in with a variety of different methods, schematically and personnel-wise, that will give us an opportunity to stay at the level we finished at last year.”

One of the players who will attempt to fill the massive hole left by Griffin III and others is senior quarterback Nick Florence. Florence would have two remaining years of eligibility, but he was forced to relinquish his redshirt late last season after Griffin III suffered a concussion against Texas Tech. In that game, Florence threw for 151 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another score, eventually leading the Bears to a 66-42 win over the Red Raiders.

It was then that Briles knew Florence would do anything to see the Bears win.

“That’s where his drive is — being a good football player that contributes to Baylor being successful,” Briles said. “I have a tremendous amount of confidence in the passion, energy and fearlessness he’s going to bring to the table.”

Briles isn’t the only one confident in Florence’s ability to lead the Bears. Senior center Ivory Wade feels the Bears are right where they left off at the end of last season.

“We’re going to be the same offense we were last year,” Wade said. “Very explosive and hopefully rack up a lot of yards.”

Those yards will have to come from somewhere, and that’s precisely where fifth-year senior wide receiver Terrance Williams comes in.

Williams played in all 13 games last season, including 11 at receiver on his way to 957 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. His receiving totals were second on the team, trailing only Wright, who is now a Tennessee Titan. At 6-foot-2, Williams provides a big target for Florence and should emerge as this year’s most reliable downfield threat.

“He’s going to blow up this year,” Wade said.

The Bears also return Tevin Reese, Lanear Sampson and Levi Norwood at receiver in addition to recent Michigan transfer Darryl Stonum. The loss of Wright hurts, but there are several players who are capable of working as a unit in order to replicate Wright’s receiving totals from last year.

With all the attention paid to Griffin III and Wright a year ago, it’s easy to forget that the Bears also had a 1,500 yard rusher, Ganaway, who is now a member of the New York Jets.

Ganaway found the endzone 21 times on the ground in 2011, and his production will be greatly missed as well.

At the moment, senior Jarred Salubi is listed as the Bears’ No. 1 running back. He’s played in 38 career games, tied for the most on the team.

“Jarred is an outstanding back. He’s able to make guys miss in space and he’s big and strong enough to be powerful inside,” Briles said.

Someone will have to step up in order to replace Ganaway, and that someone could be Lache Seastrunk. A graduate of nearby Temple High School and former Oregon Duck, Seastrunk joined the Bears in 2011 but was forced to sit out the entire season per NCAA transfer regulations.

“Lache is a very dynamic player that has three years left and we’re anxious to see what he can do when there’s people in the stands hollering, because he’s got ability and that’s something that’s hard to hide,” Briles said. “We’re going to have him open up the jacket and let it show.”

It won’t be an easy task replacing the drafted players on the offensive side of the ball, but the pieces are there.

“Perceptions change and there’s still people who are going to write us off, and that’s the way it’s always going to be,” Florence said. “We want to earn some respect. We’ve won a bowl game and got to 10 wins, so now we want to win a Big 12 Championship.”