By Daniel Hill
It’s officially game week for the Baylor Bears football team. Fall camp has wrapped up and head coach Art Briles and the players have been working feverishly to game plan for the home season opener versus the Wofford Terriers at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
Originally the Bears were scheduled to open up against Southern Methodist University, but SMU recently changed conferences from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference. As a result, the Mustangs replaced the Baylor matchup with a game against Montana State. This forced the Bears to search for an opponent.
Defensively, the Bears struggled mightily last season, finishing 113th in scoring defense. Despite the early season swoon, the Bears turned the defense around late in the season by dominating No. 1 Kansas State and by wrecking shop against UCLA in the Holiday Bowl with six sacks.
The Bears’ defense should continue to build upon its late season 2012 successes to lead into 2013.
Key returning defensive members are senior safety Ahmad Dixon, senior safety Sam Holl, senior defensive end Chris McAllister, senior defensive end Terrence Lloyd, junior linebacker Bryce Hager and senior linebacker Eddie Lackey.
The Bears return seven starters to a defense that should be one of the better unit’s in the Big 12. The Bears defense’s hopes for this season are to start fast and find consistency early in the season.
“We’re way more advanced,” senior safety Ahmad Dixon said. “We have the knowledge of the game and we have the knowledge of the defense. We know the ins and outs of our defense that will help us succeed. That’s the plan and everything has been leading up to that plan so far. We’ve been doing a great job. We’ve been working hard and studying the film. We’ve been doing whatever it takes to come out the same way that we left out.”
The offensive line should have a major advantage against Wofford’s defense. This should allow the offensive line to dominate the trenches and dictate the tempo of the game.
“This offense is really good,” senior running back Glasco Martin said. “It is an explosive offense. I honestly believe that if we execute to our best ability that no defense can really stop us. That’s just my opinion.”
Last season, Seastrunk broke the 1,000 yard rushing barrier and Martin ran for 889 yards. The two backs were not featured in the Baylor offense until late in the season. Once Seastrunk and Martin started to become the unquestioned go-to backs for Baylor, the offense ignited. It’s no coincidence that the Bears won six of their last seven games down the stretch in 2012.
With the offensive line taking care of business, that will free up junior quarterback Bryce Petty, junior running back Lache Seastrunk and senior wide receiver Tevin Reese to electrify the Floyd Casey Stadium crowd and light up the scoreboard.
Wofford is located in Spartanburg, S.C. and is a NCAA Division I FCS football program.
Terriers head coach Mike Ayers is going into his 26th season at Wofford and has built the program into a perennial winner with nine winning seasons in the last ten years. Ayers has a 171-115-1 record in the last quarter century at Wofford.
Last season, the Terriers shared the Southern Conference title with a 9-4 record. Wofford went to the NCAA Playoffs for the third consecutive season but fell to North Dakota State who eventually went on to win the national championship in the quarterfinal round.
Wofford expects to have another winning season with 12 starters and 42 lettermen returning. The Terriers new starting quarterback will be junior James Lawson. Laswon saw action in seven games a year ago and even started two games at quarterback. On the season, Lawson completed 20 of 31 passes for 233 yards and did not throw a single interception.
In the backfield, the Terriers lose All-American fullback Eric Breitenstein.
Senior Donovan Johnson, who played halfback in 2012 and rushed for 473 yards will move to fullback. Three sophomores in Will Gay, Cam Flowers and Octavious Harden will share playing time at the halfback position.
Wofford returns two starters on the defensive line, two starters at linebacker and senior James Zotto returns at free safety.
Wofford is a FCS football program and Baylor plays at the more competitive FBS level. The reaility is that on paper at least, Baylor’s talent is far superior to Wofford’s.
Wofford presents Baylor with a chance to tune up against lesser competition before the grueling Big 12 schedule begins.
“We’ve got a lot of momentum coming off the bowl game win last year and the way we finished the season,” Briles said. “It’s a new year. That was 2012, this is 2013. We’ve got new faces and new places in some areas, and those guys have to respond and perform. Everything else will fall into place.”