Dequan Finn, Sawyer Robertson headline spring football quarterback competition

Redshirt junior quarterback Sawyer Robertson (13) started four games for the Bears in 2023, and he totaled 864 passing yards on 66 of 117 attempts. Robertson also had two touchdowns and four interceptions. Camie Jobe | Photographer

By Michael Haag | Sports Editor

When Baylor football hit the field for its first spring practice on Tuesday, one thing was clear: The starting quarterback job is there for the taking, and the competition is unsurprisingly between fifth-year senior Toledo transfer Dequan Finn and redshirt junior Sawyer Robertson.

Blake Shapen — the Bears’ starting quarterback over the last two seasons — transferred to Mississippi State over the offseason, leaving Robertson as the next man up. But head coach Dave Aranda and his staff went and grabbed Finn out of the portal.

The 2023 MAC Player of the Year led the Rockets to an 11-2 record and has one year of eligibility remaining. Aranda said Finn and Robertson will be duking it out all spring.

“Sawyer doesn’t want to lose to Dequan. Dequan doesn’t want to lose to Sawyer,” Aranda said. “ And those guys are pushing each other, and I think it’s a good competition, and I think everyone knows kind of where it’s at and what needs to come out of it.”

Aranda added that he would like to name a starter by the end of spring camp. The head coach, who is entering his fifth season with Baylor, said he will only announce a starter if Finn or Robertson separates himself as the clear No. 1 option.

Their passion on the field has made them stand out, according to Aranda.

“Dequan has an energy about him that is real, and I think guys are attracted to it. I think they’re pulled in by it,” Aranda said. “Sawyer, same thing.”

During his introductory press conference on Dec. 4, 2023, new offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said arm strength is the No. 1 thing he looks for in a quarterback.

“That kind of eliminates a lot from there, but it’s more about the arm angles and the off-platform throws,” Spavital said. “They have to be able to be creative. You’ve seen the [Patrick] Mahomes throws where he’s eye-drilling, looking one way [and] throwing it the other way. It’s all about arm angles [and] how you can get the ball out. And I look for mobility too, if you can just extend the play.”

Baylor is coming off a 3-9 season in which it went 1-7 at McLane Stadium, the worst home record in the FBS. Aranda — despite being on the hot seat following his third losing season in four years — was retained shortly after the 2023 season, and he quickly retooled his staff by firing offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes.

Spavital was named the new OC in December 2023, and Aranda finalized the rest of his staff over the following months, capped off by the addition of defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield.

Aranda said those new faces — on both the staff and the athlete side — brought energy to the first day of spring practice. He said he’s seeing “a way positive mix.”

“Guys were competing in the cleanest, probably the fastest first day that I’ve been around,” Aranda said.

One of those new faces is longtime TCU head coach Gary Patterson, who joined Baylor’s staff as a senior-level strategic consultant. Patterson coached the Horned Frogs from 2000 to 2021 and saw firsthand how the rivalry with the Bears intensified in the early 2010s.

Aranda said he has a strong relationship with Patterson and that he will contribute to the team in a big way.

“Gary brings just a love of ball,” Aranda said. “I feel like I know him and in his heart is a great person. There’s a giddiness that comes with him when the defense makes a play, and there’s great communication. … I mean, he gets excited as much as any of us would get excited.”

On top of the Spavital and Patterson additions, Aranda will take over playcalling on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive coordinator Matt Powledge will still hold that role, but he will have more assistance from Aranda, who was the DC at LSU when it won the 2019 national championship.

Aranda said he has seen a positive response from Powledge despite the lessened role.

“I think it’s always hard when you were something and then now you’re something else,” Aranda said. “I think if there’s one guy that can go through all that and grow and really take all of it to a whole other level, it’s Pow. I think he has the ability to be a super, super coach, and [I] so much believe in him and [am] excited for just his growth.”

The Bears have 12 more spring practices and will wrap up the slate with the annual Baylor Green & Gold Game on April 20 at McLane Stadium.

Injury room

  • Aranda said defensive linemen Tre Emory (edge) and Jerrell Boykins Jr. (interior) medically retired from football. He added that it’s “way unfortunate” to lose those athletes and that the staff will look to make the most out of who they have, as well as seek replacements in the transfer portal.
Michael Haag is a third year Journalism student from Floresville, a small town about 30 miles south of San Antonio. Haag is entering his third year at the Lariat and is hoping to continue developing his sports reporting skill set. After graduation, he plans to work on a Master’s degree in Journalism in order to one day teach at the college level. He does, however, plan on becoming a sports reporter for a publication after grad school.