Rebuild. Reload. Redeem: Football retains several key players for 2016-17 season

Oct. 17, Baylor defeats West Virgina 62-38. Jay Lee and Davion Hall celebrating after Jay Lee matches a touchdown catch verses West Virginia. Trey Honeycutt | Lariat Photographer Photo credit: Trey Honeycutt

After ending the 2015-2016 season on a high note with a Russell Athletic Bowl win over North Carolina, the Bears look to continue with the momentum in the upcoming 2016-2017 season, but will be faced by new challenges.

“I’m just thankful and privileged to be able to be here and be ready to go,” said head coach Art Briles who has led his team to two conference championships. “I think we are playing pretty fast, pretty fearless and very intelligently.”

The Bears open their regular season on Sept. 3 against Northwestern State at McLane Stadium, which will be followed by another home game the following weekend versus Southern Methodist University.

With Rice in the Bears’ schedule again this year, the Bears should be able to ease their way past them once again in week three.

In week four, the Bears will be taking on Oklahoma State at home, a team they beat 45-35 in a gut-wrenching game in Stillwater, Okla., last season. The Bears will then face Iowa State on the road, and, return home for homecoming weekend on Oct. 15 to take on Kansas after a bye week.

In the eighth week of the season, the Bears will have a chance to redeem themselves on the road against Texas, a team they struggled against last season at home in a 23-17 loss during which they produced four turnovers and failed to convert on a pair of field goals.

Third-string quarterback Chris Johnson also went out that game early in the first quarter with concussion-like symptoms.

“That’s the crazy part, this is probably the best Baylor team since I’ve been here,” wide receiver Corey Coleman said after the loss. “The record doesn’t say it. We have such great talent and such great leadership. But stuff happens. We just have to roll with it.”

In week nine, with hopes that junior Seth Russell will be healthy this time around, the Bears will have a chance at revenge against rival TCU, followed by hopes to do the same in week 10 against Oklahoma on the road.

With Kansas State coming in week 11 at home, followed by Texas Tech and West Virginia to finish the regular season off, the Bear’s schedule to end things off shouldn’t be too much to handle.

However, with go-to junior wide receiver Corey Coleman entering the draft, new Bears will have big shoes to fill. Coleman set several school records which included first in career receiving yards per game at 85.97, first in career kick return average at 26.04, and most single-game TD receptions. With Coleman gone, junior wide receiver K.D. Cannon and sophomore wide receiver Ishmael Zamora will have a chance to show their true potential. On the defensive end sophomore weak-side linebacker Taylor Young will continue to get the opportunity to shine.

Russell will be back in action after his season-ending neck injury, and according to Briles said his team looks very good offensively, although there is still work to be done.

“Offense is still quite a little bit of work in progress. I mean especially with our old like and a couple of our receivers,” Briles said. “I think Seth will be released to do a little more now, we will have a lot of refining going on. It just takes a little bit for our offense to click together, but they will get there.”

Students, faculty and fans alike should all be in for a treat as the Bears look to dominate regular season play with the hope of making it to a national championship this time around.