Better Than Ever: Baylor football reaches new heights in 2015

Head coach Art Briles walks to the sideline after a timeout discussion with his team during the game between West Virginia and Baylor on Saturday at McLane Stadium. Photo credit: Sarah Pyo

At the midway point in the season, Baylor has shown themselves that they are one of the best programs in the nation. After going 6-0, securing bowl-eligibility, and soaring to the number 2 ranking in the bowls, spirits are high for the Bears.

Offensively, the Bears are the nation’s top offense in both points scored per game and yards per game. A major factor of that success is the play of the offensive line, led by 2014 All-American left tackle Spencer Drango.

“As an offensive line, we’ve reached one of our goals – six wins after six games. We’re bowl eligible, which is great, but we know we still have a lot of work to go,” said Drango.

For Drango individually, his season has been terrific up to this point. A preseason candidate for the Outland Trophy and Wuerffel Trophy, Drango has not disappointed on and off the field.

Earlier this week, the Outland Trophy announced their top 25 rankings and Drango led the pack with a score almost 18 points higher than second place.

Individual accomplishments have come across the board for Baylor players this season. One huge standout for the Bears is junior wide receiver Corey Coleman. Coleman has already broken the school record for touchdown catches in a single season, previously set by Kendall Wright. It took Coleman only 6 games to catch 16 touchdowns, an astounding feat.

“[The record] means a lot. Like I’ve said time and time again, [Kendall] is a great football player, arguably one of the best receivers that came through Baylor. It’s exciting to be mentioned with his name,” said Coleman.

With his play this season, Coleman has received high praise from numerous coaches and analysts, most recently West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen. Holgorsen called Coleman the best player in the country.

“Let’s talk after 12 games. We knew he’s a special player. It’s not earth-shattering news to us, we’ve been around him for four years, so we know what he brings to the table,” said head coach Art Briles.

It’s only been six games and people have been talking an awful lot. While Coleman gets a ton of praise for his performances, junior quarterback Seth Russell has also performed at an extremely high level.

After initially looking a bit rusty against SMU and Lamar, Russell has settled into his own, leading the nation in passer efficiency. The dual-threat Garland native recently had a record setting performance of his own. Against West Virginia last weekend, Russell become only the second Baylor quarterback to throw for 300 yards and run for 100 yard. Russell torched the Mountaineers for 380 yards and five touchdowns through the air while also running for a team high 160 yards and another score. Russell’s performance earned him numerous player of the week awards but Russell’s mindset is clear.

“It’s nothing [winning awards] really right now. It’s not until we get the national championship, and then we can look back and reminisce. We have that focus and we have that goal, and that’s win another Big 12 championship, and then have an opportunity to hopefully play for a national championship,” said Russell.

The Bears also have huge players on defense that have been in the national spotlight. Defensive linemen Shawn Oakman and Andrew Billings were billed as top NFL draft prospects coming into the season and they have not disappointed so far.

Oakman, who became an Internet sensation for his imposing stature, has recorded 17 tackles, 7.5 of which are for a loss. He has also recorded 3 sacks on the season bringing his career total to 16, which is the most in Baylor school history.

Billings in the interior has been as equally dominant, recording 21 tackles and eight tackles for loss, including a sack. Billings has been the victim of numerous double and triple teams but that has not stopped the junior defensive tackle.

“You can’t double team me all the time, you have to worry about what he’s [Billings] doing. He’s just as capable of making plays in the backfield as I am. If he does things the right way, it makes it 10 times easier,” said Oakman of Billings’ ability. The duo was the Big 12’s best statistical defensive line tandem last season and that success has continued on to 2015.

The Bears have earned their number 2 rank in the nation without a doubt and with dominant play across the board, Baylor should continue to rise in the rankings. Respect is something that is earned not given in today’s college game and Baylor has had perhaps one of the greatest turnarounds in NCAA football history.

With the second place rank a school high, continue to watch the Bears this season. With their game against Iowa State, the Bears start one of the toughest remaining schedules in the nation. The Bears will begin by travelling to Manhattan, Kansas to face the Kansas State Wildcats. They then will host 17th ranked Oklahoma Sooners before heading on a two game road streak, facing 14th Oklahoma State in Stillwater.

After their game against the Cowboys, the Bears will play the game we have all been waiting for in the rematch against fourth ranked TCU. The Horned Frogs have had to endure an entire year of 61-58 chants after the Bears pulled off an improbable comeback last season. The Bears will then end the season against Texas at McLane Stadium.

If the Bears can come out of that stretch unscathed, they should not only have secured a playoff spot but also the number one seed in the playoffs. Make sure an tune into any Baylor game you can for the remainder of the season because it’s sure to be a run that we may never forget.