Sports Take: Zeno should get opportunity to start at quarterback for Baylor football

Redshirt freshman quarterback Jacob Zeno avoids a tackle after making a throw in the 2019 Big 12 Championship game on Dec. 12, 2019 against Oklahoma at At&T Stadium. Zeno played in three games during the 2019 season, compiling 214 total yards of offense, which included 223 passing yards and negative nine rushing yards and a touchdown. Lariat File Photo

By Will Chamblee | Sports Writer

Baylor football has struggled this season. Sitting at 1-3, the Bears are no longer in contention for a Big 12 title and are searching for enough wins to earn a bowl bid.

The key catalyst for Baylor’s struggles has been from the offensive side of the ball and specifically at quarterback.

Senior starting quarterback Charlie Brewer has been an incredible player for Baylor the last three years and his legacy at Baylor will never be forgotten, but it’s time for Baylor head coach Dave Aranda to look toward the future for the quarterback position and start redshirt freshman Jacob Zeno.

Baylor sits second-to-last in total offensive yards per game, total passing yards per game and eighth in points per game in the Big 12. While the defense has excelled under Aranda, the offense has sputtered.

Since the Kansas game, against arguably the worst defense in the Big 12, Baylor has failed to generate much offense, only averaging a dismal 283 yards per game.

One of the main reasons behind the struggles has been the quarterback play, and in particular, Brewer’s inability to throw the ball deep or accurately.

Through four games, Brewer has had the worst season of his career. He is averaging career lows on yards per pass attempt, adjusted yards per pass attempt and completion percentage. Brewer has had the most inaccurate and least explosive season of his career.

Brewer’s inability to throw the ball deep has affected Baylor’s entire offense. The lack of deep threat has allowed opposing defenses to stack the box with seven or eight defenders, stifling the running game and resulting in numerous quarterback pressures and sacks.

Until Baylor and Brewer are able to prove that they can effectively and consistently throw the ball deep, the Bears will continue to not have a run game.

The lack of big plays has also resulted in Baylor being “behind schedule” on numerous occasions. It only takes one penalty or negative play to end an offensive drive for the Bears, and the lack of big-play ability at quarterback makes it hard to make up the lost yardage.

The options behind Brewer are promising. Sophomore Gerry Bohanon has shown elite athleticism and a big arm during the games he played in 2019. However, Bohanon has had trouble throwing the ball accurately when he has played. Bohanon had a poor 47% completion rate last season, albeit on only 36 total attempts.

But Zeno remains the best option to replace Brewer if Baylor wants to be successful this season. Zeno showed flashes of his potential against Oklahoma, where he showed poise and maturity against a Sooner defense that could be deceiving at times.

Former Baylor linebacker Jordan Williams, who played with Zeno last season, said as much after the Big 12 championship game.

“As a young guy he’s really mature,” Williams said. “I mean, just seeing how he throws the ball on scout team and how he throws to receivers and they’re just running made-up plays, their plays, not running our plays but to see him how he carries himself and throws the ball, he’s going to be a pro.”

During his limited time on the field, Zeno has made it obvious that he is a talented quarterback with great intangibles. Furthermore, the Bears have little to lose by putting him in. Baylor is no longer in contention for the Big 12 title this season, so giving Zeno experience to build off of for next season is a good idea.

People would also do well to remember the circumstances under which Brewer himself became starting quarterback for the Bears. During his freshman year, Brewer replaced Anu Solomon and Zach Smith at quarterback, both of whom had spent longer at the program and had more starting experience.

Who’s to say the Zeno couldn’t have a similar impact on the Baylor football program if given the chance?