Baylor football finishes spring strong with Green & Gold practice

Baylor's annual Green & Gold Game was changed to a practice, and it was scheduled for fans to watch at McLane Stadium. However, head coach Dave Aranda and his staff moved it indoor earlier this week and closed it off to fans due to inclement weather in Central Texas. Kassidy Tsikitas | Photo Editor

By Foster Nicholas | Sports Writer, Claire-Marie Scott | LTVN Sports Reporter

As Baylor football finished its spring camp with a Green & Gold practice, the walls within the Allison Indoor Facility echoed with excitement and optimism on Saturday.

 LTVN’s Claire-Marie Scott gives insight into Baylor Football’s closed practice “Spring Game.”

Head coach Dave Aranda formatted a 1-hour, 25-minute practice that allowed for high-energy competition filled with one-on-one drills and hard-hitting sessions. The Bears focused on having players make plays in a fun manner by letting the athletes show off their skills, something Aranda said they’ll look to continue in the future.

“I think we can add a little bit more competition periods than what we did [in the future],” Aranda said. “Kids had fun today, and I think the one-on-one stuff gives guys an opportunity to kind of — whether it’s their family or their coaches — kind of see us perform the spotlight.”

Fans were originally going to be allowed to watch the practice, as it was scheduled to take place at McLane Stadium. But Aranda and his staff decided to move it to the indoor facility due to inclement weather in Central Texas.

The decision to switch from the traditional scrimmage to a practice stemmed from the fifth-year head coach wanting to avoid injuries, keep the new offensive and defensive schemes under wraps and prevent players from adding film that could land them in the transfer portal. The change allowed offensive skill players and defensive backs to challenge each other throughout the practice and reward players with the opportunity to make highlight reel plays, according to junior wide receiver Josh Cameron.

“I thought it was really interesting for sure,” Cameron said of the practice. “But intensity-wise, I think it was really just the same, if not even better [than last year], honestly. There’s a whole lot of energy, everybody flying around making plays. So I think the way we handled this last day just kind of shows what the spring is about.”

With spring camp officially in the rearview mirror, Baylor will now look to summer workouts ahead of the fall. While Aranda and the coaching staff attack the transfer portal in search of potential roster holes like pass rushers, offensive linemen and defensive linemen, the current roster will take a few weeks off before getting into the weight room on their own.

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Keaton Thomas said the Bears can develop into “the best, if not one of the best,” defenses in the Big 12 next season.

“I think our potential is limitless,” the Northeast Mississippi CC transfer said. “Across this spring, I think everybody has shown flashes, even the young bucks. I think that’s been great, and I’m just excited to see how much strength we can develop this summer.”

Of note, Aranda mentioned the “edge” and “competition” being on another level at the end of this spring compared to a season ago. With multiple changes to the formatting, the team hopes it better prepares them for the 2024 regular season.

“I thought this was a way productive spring,” Aranda said. “And the energy and battle part of spring was very strong. There would be some pretty intense competition periods, more competition periods this spring than in the past, a lot of call-it periods.

“I thought there was a lot of growth with the offense all throughout, and defensively, the fight and the scrimmages that we had were very emotional and very intense.”

During the practice, fifth-year senior wide receiver Ashtyn Hawkins and redshirt freshman tight end Hawkins Polley hauled in a bevy of athletic catches. However, the men throwing them the ball couldn’t find enough separation for Aranda to name a starting quarterback. Both fifth-year senior quarterback Dequan Finn and redshirt junior quarterback Sawyer Robertson will see their duel extend past the conclusion of camp.

“I anticipate that competition to continue, but we’ll study the tape and go through all of it and have our individual meetings with those guys here coming up,” Aranda said. “After that honest talk, if guys want to stay and fight it out, or after that talk guys want to leave, then it is what it is.

“I think the honest part of it is reviewing the film and reviewing the wins and losses of the day or the throw or the play. And the film don’t lie. I think going about it that way is the best option.”

Aranda has named the last two starting quarterbacks before the start of the summer. Former Bears slinger Blake Shapen won the job in April 2022 and May 2023. Gerry Bohanon, the 2021 starter, entered the transfer portal following the decision in the spring of 2022, but Robertson stayed as Shapen’s backup in 2023.

Bohanon didn’t win the 2021 job until a few weeks before Baylor’s season opener.

But with no more football on the docket, eyes shift to the transfer portal, which opened on April 16 and will remain open until April 30 for teams to add more talent.