In the spotlight: Baylor QB Seth Russell

Teams across the Big 12 will be counting on players with plenty to prove this fall.

Baylor is set to hand the reins to Seth Russell, Oklahoma State's destiny is tied to Mason Rudolph, and Skyler Howard is looking to carry West Virginia to new heights.

In this summer series, we'll take a look at Big 12 players in the spotlight heading into 2015, including a closer look at five plays they made in 2014 that give their team reason for hope or cause for concern.

Today, we continue the series with Russell:

Reasons for hope

Scenario: First-and-10 at the Baylor 19-yard line with Baylor leading Northwestern State (La.) 14-0 with 7:14 left in the first quarter.

What happened: Russell found a wide-open KD Cannon streaking down the sideline on a perfect 31-yard throw which the freshman receiver took the remaining 50 yards for an 81-yard touchdown connection. Russell could not have made a better throw as it dropped right into Cannon’s hands allowing him to keep running away from the defense without breaking stride.

Reason for hope: Sometimes seeing a wide-open receiver can be the toughest throw as quarterbacks worry about overthrowing a sure touchdown, but Russell made it look easy. In addition, Russell recognized the blown coverage almost immediately, which is a good sign. True enough, it wasn’t against Big 12-caliber defenders but perfect connections like this with Cannon won’t be easy for anyone to stop. Bryce Petty’s accuracy on deep balls was a major asset during the past two seasons, so if Russell can match it, expect BU’s offense to remain high powered.


Scenario: Second-and-28 on Buffalo’s 31-yard line with BU leading Buffalo, 49-14, with 13:05 left in the fourth quarter.

What happened: On a called quarterback draw, Russell blazed down the middle of the field for a 31-yard touchdown gallop. His athleticism, acceleration and speed were on full display.

Reason for hope: Russell’s running has the potential to add an element to the Bears' offense with defenses spreading out to cover every inch of the field due to the Bears' explosive receivers and Russell having the speed to make them pay for leaving running lanes in the middle of the field. Petty was a good runner, but Russell’s running ability could make this version of BU’s offense a different animal. It also could help him create plays when nothing is there.


Scenario: Third-and-10 at Texas Tech's 27-yard line with BU holding a 35-17 lead with 6:46 left in the third quarter.

What happened: With Petty shaken up on the sideline after taking a blow to the head a few plays earlier, Russell came in to replace him. He promptly found Levi Norwood for a 27-yard touchdown to help extend the Bears' lead. It was a very good throw from Russell, placed where a well-covered Norwood would either reach up to make the catch or the ball would sail out of bounds.

Reason for hope: Another good, accurate throw from Russell that was, most importantly, put in a position that limited the risk of a turnover and losing the opportunity for a field goal at the very least. The quickest way for questions to arise about Russell would be if he began to consistently turn the ball over. While BU’s big-play offense has been second to none in recent years, it also leads the Big 12 with a 9.8 turnover percentage during the past five seasons. It’s explosive, yet takes great care of the ball, so Russell (128 plays, 1 turnover in 2014) needs to continue that trend.

Reasons for concern

Scenario: Third-and-12 at SMU 37-yard line with the Bears leading 31-0 with 13:30 left in the third quarter.

What happened: After escaping pressure in the pocket, Russell threw late across the middle to Cannon but was intercepted by SMU safety Hayden Greenbauer. Immediate pressure from his left caused Russell to leave the pocket then reset and try to find Cannon between three defenders. Cannon shoulders part of the blame for the interception as he essentially stopped running his route.

Reason for concern: Even though Cannon did him no favors on the play, Russell’s better option was probably to simply run or drop the ball off instead of trying to force the ball in the hope of converting on third down. It’s not a major concern as it is a mistake Russell is unlikely to keep repeating with added experience.


Scenario: First-and-10 at Buffalo's 13-yard line with the Bears cruising, 49-14, with 13:48 in the fourth quarter.

What happened: Russell fumbled the ball then chased back to recover his fumble, losing 18 yards on the play. The Bears quarterback had the ball knocked out of his arms by running back Johnny Jefferson as he tried to throw quickly. Then, to make matters worse, he tried to pick the ball up instead of falling on it. To top it all off, Russell didn’t even recover the ball but a quick whistle saved him and kept the ball in BU’s possession because Russell appeared to have secured it when the whistles blew to stop the play.

Reason for concern: Again, another thing that game experience should eliminate. However, it is these types of growing pains from inexperience that could create an unexpected roadblock at some point in the season for a BU team with no room for error if it plans to call itself a College Football Playoff participant.

Previous posts:

June 11: Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph