WACO, Texas — Heavy rain couldn’t stop the Baylor Bears from holding their annual spring game under the lights last Friday night.
My thoughts from attending the scrimmage inside McLane Stadium:
1. Russell is the man: Any lingering doubts as to whether Seth Russell would open the 2015 season as Baylor’s starting quarterback were put to rest. The backup to Bryce Petty the last two years, Russell threw for 345 yards and four touchdowns in a solid showing Friday. Russell, who completed 18 of 27 passes, was far from perfect, missing a couple of reads and underthrowing a couple of receivers. But he outperformed Chris Johnson and true freshman Jarrett Stidham while exclusively operating the first-team offense. “He would probably tell you the same thing, but I thought Seth was just OK,” coach Art Briles said afterward. “And that’s good. It’s good that he’s not where he’s going to be. We expect a whole lot; he expects a whole lot. But you still have to go through a whole lot to get where you want to get to, and he hasn’t been through a whole lot yet. I think he did an admirable job. I wouldn’t classify it as great, but it was productive with a lot of room for improvement.” After struggling a bit at the beginning of spring drills, Russell had begun to surge last few days in practice. The spring game was another encouraging building block for the heir-apparent.
2. Coleman, Cannon set to carry WR tradition: Beginning with Kendall Wright and Josh Gordon five years ago, the Bears have been blessed with many dynamic receiving duos under Briles. This season, junior Corey Coleman and sophomore K.D. Cannon appear primed to carry on Baylor’s budding wide-receiver tradition. On the first drive Friday, Coleman went up and snagged a jump ball, then coasted 65 yards for a touchdown. Cannon followed that up with a 54-yard scoring reception. Coleman, who was a first-team All-Big 12 selection last year, possesses a lethal combination of strength and speed; Cannon, meanwhile, can flat-out fly and blow the top off a defense. As college football’s only returning 1,000-yard receiving tandem, Coleman and Cannon have a chance to become as prolific as any receiver duo that Baylor has ever had.
3. Platt, Zamora the next WR wave: While Coleman and Cannon are Baylor’s impact pass-catchers of the present, redshirt freshmen Chris Platt and Ishmael Zamora appear to be the future at the position. In the spring game, both showcased the tools that have had insiders raving this spring about their potential. Platt, who could win a starting job in the slot this fall, flashed the speed that made him a three-time state sprinting champ in high school. Zamora dropped a couple of passes in the spring game, but at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, he has the size to be a bully downfield on the outside. Coleman, Cannon and veteran Jay Lee are going to be the primary receivers this season. But Platt and Zamora have a chance to make a splash, too.
4. McGowan at TE no longer experimental: Three months ago in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl, guard LaQuan McGowan stunned everyone -- including the Michigan State defense -- when he lined up as an eligible receiver, then went out for a pass. The trick play touchdown fueled the experiment of auditioning the soft-handed 400-pounder at tight end this spring. Consider the audition over. And the move to be permanent. Reminiscent of the Cotton Bowl, McGowan hauled in a 21-yard pass down the seam of the field Friday before burying the free safety that dared to attempt to tackle him. The Bears loves McGowan’s potential as a run-blocker at the edge. But considering he can also get off the line and haul in passes, defenses will be forced to play him honest, which should make him a nightmare matchup for the safeties of the Big 12.
5. Secondary remains team’s biggest concern: Returning starters Ryan Reid, Terrell Burt and Orion Stewart were all held out Friday with various minor injuries. And the only returning starter to participate in the scrimmage, cornerback Xavien Howard, actually knocked got out with an Achilles injury. Baylor's makeshift secondary was comprised mostly of inexperienced underclassmen. However, they actually held up pretty well for much of the night. But the big plays they did surrender were a reminder that if Baylor is to contend for a playoff spot again, this unit has to improve. The Bears are hopeful that can happen, especially with four starters back. Young players such as Chance Waz, Taion Sells and Verkedric Vaughns have also gotten a bunch of work this spring, which could make the group deeper in the fall. But with most other areas of the squad solidified, the secondary could be the determining factor whether the Bears can pull off securing a third straight Big 12 title.