By Cody Soto
The first day of spring brought cloudy skies and rain to the Waco area, but head coach Art Briles and the reigning two-time Big 12 champion Baylor football team didn’t let the weather bother them as the Bears played their spring scrimmage Friday night at McLane Stadium.
Fans were able to get a glimpse of the 2015 Baylor squad under the lights of the stadium on the Brazos River. Junior quarterback Seth Russell debuted on the first string offense and went 18-for-27 for 345 yards and four touchdowns in the first “Friday Night Lights” spring scrimmage at McLane Stadium.
Russell said he really enjoyed the atmosphere that the night carried.
“You can’t be in any better atmosphere than here with the fans we have,” he said. “It’s exciting to have all the fans come out and support. If you think about it, this is just a practice and all these people came out to watch us practice.”
Russell’s four touchdown passes came to three different wide receivers, the first coming only four plays into the 90-minute scrimmage. The 6-foot-3 junior fired a 65-yard catch to junior wide receiver Corey Coleman for the easy score early in the scrimmage.
Junior wide receiver Lynx Hawthorne also made some waves on the offensive end. Hawthorne had three catches for 78 yards and accounted for two touchdowns: one 64-yard touchdown catch and a 10-yard score. With Russell at the helm, there are some changes that has him on his toes, he said.
“ It could be a pass route to the left side and Seth might run it to the right side, so you really can’t sit around and wait because more than likely, he’s already running by you,” Hawthorne said. “It’s all about trying to get a block for him when he’s scrambling, which he does best.”
Another big player who turned some head and put smiles on fan’s faces was senior LaQuan McGowan who played the game as a tight end. Fans may remember McGowan as the poster moment for the Bears at the 2015 Cotton Bowl where former quarterback Bryce Petty connected with him for the score. Briles plans on keeping him there, and he isn’t just doing it to gain attention.
“It’s not for the notoriety, it’s for the benefits to our football team,” Briles said. “He can be beneficial to our team in ways that really nobody else has because no one else has a four hundred and ten pound person on their team.”
There were a lot of new faces on the field Friday night. Redshirt freshmen wide receivers Ishmael Zamora and Chris Platt received several targets, including a few looks with the first-string group.
Friday also marked the Baylor debut of 2015 early enrollee quarterback Jarrett Stidham. The five-star recruit showed off a big arm and great athleticism for the position. Several other players who redshirted in 2014 got in as well, including several linemen and defensive backs.
One problem that seemed to keep making its appearance throughout the scrimmage was penalties from offensive false starts and defensive pass interference. The Bears will have to work out the kinks before coming back in the fall.
Baylor made several mistakes during the Cotton Bowl which kept them from many scoring opportunities. The team still has a long way to go, Briles said.
“I still think we’re not where we need to be or where we’re going to be, but we’re getting a little better feel of how we need to handle to get there,” Briles said. “We’re learning what their strengths are and how to deal with them, and we just have to make sure we have the right people in the right places to get the right result.”
Baylor will conclude spring practice on April 2, and the Bears will look to defend their Big 12 title as they open their season on Sept. 4 at SMU.