By Shehan Jeyarajah
Baylor football enters spring 2014 as the defending Big 12 Champions for the first time in program history. With a target on their backs, the Bears prepare to display their 2014 squad to the public for Baylor’s annual spring football game at 11 a.m. Saturday.
“Spring ball is always positive,” senior quarterback Bryce Petty said. “It gets kind of hard towards the end because you’re tired of hitting the same people, but it’s all productive and constructive. Especially for us, this is about rejuvenating and getting back to your goals and what you want to do.”
After losing seven defensive starters, including four out of five in the secondary, many of the questions yet to be answered come on the defensive side of the football. Despite the uncertainty, defensive coordinator Phil Bennett is optimistic about the level of talent he has to work with.
In the backfield, Bennett gave rave reviews of 6-foot-2 sophomore cornerback Xavien Howard, a former two-star review per Rivals.
“Xavien is a guy who I think will someday play on Sundays,” Bennett said. “He’s getting a lot of reps against very good players, and is having a great camp.”
Bennett mentioned junior transfers Chris Sanders and Tion Wright as possible starters.
Baylor does return a significant amount of talent on the defensive line. Sophomore defensive tackle Andrew Billings, junior defensive end Shawn Oakman and sophomore defensive end Jamal Palmer all played significant minutes for the Bears in 2013.
“The guys who you expected to be great have been dominant,” Briles said. “Those guys are expected to show up and do their job, and have done it.”
Baylor graduated wide receiver Tevin Reese, and running back Lache Seastrunk left for the NFL; but Briles has brought in a wealth of talent to replenish the offense.
“A lot of the guys are already pretty well known, but Corey Coleman is certainly in line to have a big day at the spring game on Saturday,” Briles said. “[Tight ends] sophomore Tre’Von Armstead and junior Gus Penning should also turn heads a little bit.”
Armstead was listed as an offensive tackle last season before moving to tight end.
Baylor is dealing with a variety of injuries, many of which are on the offensive line. Junior left tackle Spencer Drango has not played yet this spring after surgery on his back in the fall. Junior offensive linemen Blake Muir and Pat Colbert have also missed time.
“It’s been tough,” right tackle Troy Baker said. “It seems like one day we’ll have one guy go out, and then a guy who moved into that spot will go down. We’ll be fine though, we’re filling holes.”
Last year during Baylor’s spring game, Petty took hold of the quarterback position after passing for 181 yards and two touchdowns. This year, multiple players will get an opportunity to show what their skill to the public.
“It’s a new team and a new feel, so it’s fun to see guys who haven’t really been given a chance to play do some things on the field and get some interest,” Petty said.
Baylor will play its 2014 spring game at 11 a.m. Saturday at Highers Athletic Complex next to the Simpson Athletic Center off of University Parks.