By Michael Haag | Sports Writer, Video by Pierson Luscy | Broadcast Reporter
Baylor football gave a little taste of what’s to come this fall in the 2022 Green and Gold Game Saturday afternoon at McLane Stadium. Team Green came away with the 28-16 win over Gold, highlighted by a pair of touchdowns from junior running back Craig “Sqwirl” Williams.
Now complete with their fifth week of spring practice, the 2022 Sugar Bowl champs – minus a few players – were able to put their talents on display in front of a public crowd. Head coach Dave Aranda liked what he saw, but knows the group has some growth to do.
“I’m proud of the team, there’s a lot of growth still to take place,” Aranda said. “We’re on the right track and I think we have identified the right fights to fight. I thought the O-lines [and] D-lines really were the big takeaway for me. Offensively, the push and the finish of some drives [were good] and [they] had some plays in them. And I thought defensively, there were some big plays.”
For some athletes, it was their first time playing in the annual spring game. This is even the case for sixth-year senior wide receiver Gavin Holmes, who became a Bear in 2017 but has battled multiple injuries.
Holmes loved being able to play and thought the performance was “pretty crisp.” He echoed Aranda’s preach about necessary growth, something offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes told the offense.
“Coach Grimes just reiterated to us [and] said, ‘We still got a lot of work to do,’ and I completely agree with him,” Holmes said. “But it was cool to come out and see guys make plays.”
The focal point of the contest was seeing the quarterback battle between fifth-year senior Gerry Bohanon and sophomore Blake Shapen. Both were under center for the Green team and alternated drives, each showcasing their abilities.
While both have played well the last five weeks, the 2021 Associated Press Big 12 Coach of the Year is not ready to make a decision on the starter yet, but does want to before the end of spring.
“I do want to be able to make a decision,” Aranda said. “We’ve got one-on-one meetings, I’ll meet with everyone on the team starting Monday. When we get to the quarterbacks, we’ll review this film and talk with coaches and Grimes and Shawn [Bell]. Then we’d like to make a decision.”
The coach in his third offseason with the Bears has seen this clash all spring and said “it has been a back-and-forth one.” Aranda welcomes the competition they bring and thought they showed good things on Saturday.
“There’s a fair amount of layers today,” Aranda said. “I thought they were able to kind of go back-and-forth with all of that and then compete within the series and I was impressed with that.”
From a wideout perspective, Holmes relishes having two starting-caliber guys to receive throws from.
“It’s just cool because they’re both ballin’. They were both ballin’ all spring,” Holmes said. “It’s a good problem to have, two quarterbacks who are top-tier quarterbacks like that just going at it. You can send one in and you’re not going to lose a step when you send the other in.”
Jackson moved into a rotational piece last year and saw the impact guys like Terrel Bernard and Jalen Pitre made on the defense. He said this team still has strides to make, but the hunger is evident among the bunch.
“Those guys set a standard and I feel like everybody wants to be what they were,” Jackson said. “I find there’s a lot of guys on the team now, especially young guys, that are trying and that’s great to see.”
Playing behind the future pros last year had its benefits, but Aranda said it’s hard to live up to that, especially when you haven’t been in the spotlight.
“I think it’s just human nature when you’re playing but you’re not looked at as ‘the guy,’” Aranda said. “The guys in front of you, the light is on him, so now there’s a shadow on you. Maybe you’re less seen and we’re winning and you’re having success, but you’re not the face of it and you don’t have the accountability of it … Now, to get out of the shadow and get into the light, where you’re accountable for everything, I think that’s human nature and it’s just hard to do. We’ll have guys that will say it and nod their head and want to be ‘that guy’ but to be ‘that guy’, that’s still in progress for sure.”
While clearly not easy to do, the squad will look to emulate the success from the 2021-22 season, and it all starts with building that foundation through leadership and optimism.
“It’s really just about forging the culture,” Jackson said. “When it comes down to it, last year was last year’s team and this year’s this year’s team. So we have to do the best that we can to reimplement everything that we were taught last year in the same position. So it’s really a process and I feel like we’re in a position right now to where I think we’re a little better than we were last year at this point.”