By Jeffrey Swindoll
After losing senior offensive tackle Troy Baker to an ACL injury and another injury to junior right guard Desmine Hilliard, concerns surround the Bears’ offensive line. The offensive line was already under fire after a poor performance against West Virginia, and with the two injuries, even more repairing had to be done with the personnel.
The Bears’ 60-14 victory over Kansas moves the offensive line one step closer to where it needs to be for important games coming in the next few weeks, such as the Oklahoma game on Saturday, junior offensive tackle Spencer Drango said. Drango and the offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, running the ball at will and protecting the quarterback. Kansas ended the day with zero sacks on Bryce Petty.
Sophomore running backs Shock Linwood and Devin Chafin totalled 14 carries each and pounded the ball through the holes created by the Bears’ line. Baylor accumulated 326 rushing yards against the Jayhawks and three rushing touchdowns.
“Troy and I shared the leadership role, and now guys have stepped up and filled his spot,” Drango said. “[Junior center Kyle Fuller] has stepped up and has done a really good job for us leading, and Pat’s stepping up and leading too.”
For Drango, the Kansas game was a flash-forward to his senior year role in the Bears’ offensive line. Drango said his responsibility as a leader to the line is now even greater with Baker out. With no seniors left in the line’s starting lineup, this combination of players can expect to be the same unit going into next season, Drango said, making the chemistry of the line even better.
“Anytime you can get experience with the same line, it’s always good,” Drango said. “Out of those five [linemen] that are starting, we all have at least one more year left. It’ll be good to bond early and continue into next year.”
Fuller said he also looks forward to getting more experience with this set of linemen.
“It just helps us grow that much closer, knowing that we’re going to have a lot more time together,” Fuller said. “That’s really the main thing about offensive linemen – the more we spend time together, the more we become a unit, the better we perform.”
Junior right tackle Pat Colbert and junior right guard Jarell Broxton stepped in for Baker and Hilliard against Kansas, and will remain the starters while their injured teammates are out. Colbert and Broxton each earned playing time in the previous season, but Broxton had his first collegiate start against the Jayhawks on Saturday. This wasn’t Colbert’s first time replacing a leader on the line. Last season, Colbert filled in at tackle when Drango fell to an injury.
“For the Kansas game, I was stepping in for someone [Baker] who had been doing it for three years,” Colbert said. “I had big shoes to fill, so I felt I had a little pressure, but other that, I was good stepping into that role. It’s a good start right now. I plan on getting better every week, like ripping my inside hand, working on my pass set, staying square and different things like that.”
There were some personality differences between Baker and Drango that helped them lead the offensive line together. Baker was older and more verbal with his leadership. Drango was more about putting his head down and going to work every day. The two meshed well together as the torchbearers of the line.
“Troy was always the more vocal one and I was always more by example, or by effort or whatever you want to call it,” Drango said. “I spoke, but [Baker] had the “senior leadership” position. I suppose that’s fallen on to me now. I have to step up and be more vocal here and there, but definitely bring other guys with me. It’s a lot easier when everyone’s on board.”
Fuller shares the same sentiment as Drango. Baker’s injury is a mission bell, calling for everyone on the offensive line to assume responsibility and leadership now, Fuller said.
“It’s always kind of been Troy and Spencer as the leaders of the offensive line,” Fuller said. “Troy going down was a huge hit in leadership, but all of us are leaders. It’s really become a thing where we all have to pick it up and step up to the plate.”