Baylor junior quarterback Seth Russell will undergo season-ending surgery to his neck after visiting with a specialist on Monday. Based on similar procedures, the typical recovery period for the injury is six months.
Russell appeared to strain his neck late in the fourth quarter of Baylor’s win over Iowa State on Saturday. Later, the injury was determined to be a neck fracture, causing damage to the cervical vertebra.
This comes as devastating news to a program that reached its highest ranking in school history (No. 2) with Russell at the helm and seemed poised for a College Football Playoff berth. Despite the heartbreak, head coach Art Briles is confident that the team will keep up its good run of form.
“Seth exemplifies the spirit and will of our football team,” head coach Art Briles said, “and through this our team will keep that spirit alive and well for him.”
The Garland native was off to one of the most impressive seasons by a Baylor quarterback, amassing 2,104 yards and 29 touchdowns, while running for 402 yards and six TDs in seven games. He led Baylor’s NCAA-best offense to 686.1 yards per game and 61.1 points per contest. This was Russell’s first year as a starter.
Upon hearing the unfortunate news about Russell, Jarrett Stidham, the new Baylor starter, tweeted well wishes to Russell on Monday.
The freshman has big shoes to fill after Russell was viewed as one of the best quarterbacks in the country.
Individually, Russell leads the FBS in passing efficiency (189.7), passing TDs (29), passing yards per completion (17.68), points responsible for per game (30.0) and passing yards per attempt (10.52). The junior is 15th in passing yards per game (300.6) and his total offensive output of 358.0 yards per game is seventh-best nationally.
Russell guided the Bears to a 7-0 start for the third time in program history (1980, 2013) and 4-0 in Big 12 conference play for the second-time ever (2013).
His performance in a win over West Virginia (540 yards of total offense and 6 TDs) won him the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week, the Athlon Offensive Player of the Week, the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week, the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback of the Week and the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose National Player of the Week honors.
Briles said Monday, he has confidence in the true freshman from Stephenville, Stidham, citing his maturity, accuracy and polish.
“Seth has been masterful,” Briles said. “Jarrett is a guy who is as polished as anyone we have had as a freshman. He is very, very accurate and has great instincts.”
Baylor will roll the dice with the young quarterback, Stidham, who has appeared in all seven games for the No. 2 ranked Bears. The task ahead for Stidham is daunting, as Baylor owns the seventh toughest remaining schedule in the nation, with games at Oklahoma State and at TCU looming.
Stidham has been effective in limited work this year, as he owns a 255.7 passer efficiency rating, having thrown for 331 yards and six touchdowns on 24-of-28 passes (86 percent completion percentage). Third-year sophomore Chris Johnson, who had moved to receiver this season, will be No. 2 at the position.
The second-ranked Bears will look to take advantage of the extra time in the bye week to get Stidham acclimated in the starter’s role before heading to Kansas State for a Thursday night game on Nov. 5.