“Warming the Bench” blog: Panic time in Waco?

Quarter back Seth Russell looks for an opening in the Iowa State defence during the game on Saturday. During the game Russell suffered an injury resluting in a broken bone in his neck leaving him out for the rest of the season Photo credit: Taylor Griffin

How concerned should Baylor fans be about Seth Russell’s injury?

Well, it’s always bad when the starting quarterback goes down. He is the starter for a reason. He also has the reps, rapport and timing down with the offensive weapons. That is something a backup simply doesn’t have, by no fault of his own.

I do not, however, think Baylor fans should press the panic button quite yet. Art Briles is a masterful coach and he is prepared every year for a situation like this.

Jarrett Stidham is the next man up at quarterback for Baylor. The true freshman was highly desired blue-chip recruit from Stephenville ranked as high as the number 13 overall recruit by 247Sports and the number 2 overall QB by ESPN. It was a big deal for Baylor to land Stidham, and some believe he could become the best QB to ever play for Baylor.

All that is a little premature as Stidham has only taken limited snaps for Baylor in garbage time. Those snaps have been impressive though. He is 23 of 27 for 319 yards, five touchdowns and 0 interceptions.

Some people also look at the history of Briles’ led teams and point out that seemingly every QB to play in Briles system has had success. I do think this is a little misleading however.

After RG3, every Baylor QB had time to sit and develop in Briles’ system. Baylor hasn’t had to start a true freshman QB since RG3, who was good but not spectacular in 2008. Briles was able to groom every QB for the role after RG3, a big reason for their success.

I personally find comfort knowing that this team is better than those 2008-2009 teams, top to bottom. RG3 had to do a lot more than Stidham will be asked to do. Stidham just has to prevent turnovers, get the ball to his spectacular playmakers, buy into the system and have faith that the defense will hold up their end. Those are all things that I believe will happen.

It’s also reasonable to expect that Briles has grown and become a better coach since 2008. I expect both Art and Kendal Briles to adjust their system and ease Stidham into his role.

We also have what should be a relatively easy game against Kansas State after the bye. It’s a great opportunity for Stidham to ease into his role against a team Baylor should cruise past with relative ease.

Don’t get me wrong, Baylor should absolutely not sleep on Kansas State. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Bill Snyder and his program. I just think this Baylor team is further ahead of the Wildcats in 2015. It’s a great opportunity for Stidham to play a smart opponent that he should be able to beat even if he isn’t perfect.

There are also plenty of examples of freshmen quarterbacks coming in and having instant success. Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston are the two most recent examples. Everyone should also remember that Cardale Jones was a third string quarterback that lead Ohio State to a national championship through the playoffs last year.

My main message to Baylor Nation is to keep the faith. We have a head coach who is truly elite and a quarterback who could very well be the next big thing. Even if you have a hard time believing in Stidham before he proves himself, have faith in Art Briles, Corey Coleman, Jay Lee, Shock Linwood, Andrew Billings, Sean Oakman, Taylor Young, Orion Stewart and the other great players on Baylor’s roster. This is a well-coached team with elite talent. Seth Russell will be greatly missed, but the Bears can overcome his loss.

Have any comments? Let me know on Twitter @Trey_Gregory.

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