Coming off a record setting year in 2011, the Baylor offense will have a four-year starter at center, a senior quarterback, a senior running back that rushed for over 100 yards and two touchdowns in the Alamo Bowl, two senior receivers with a combined career 2,761 yards receiving and 20 touchdowns, and senior three-year starter at tight-end. A recipe for success? For many schools coming off a 10-win season that would be.
The Baylor offense looks to exceed expectations in 2012.
The Bears Truth staff answers five questions about Baylor's 2012 offense that will be veteran-laden.
Also answering the five questions will be guest Jay Lockett.
Along with Derek Smith and Shaun Rochon, Jay hosts Central National Bank Post-Game Fan Forum, the post-game call in show following all Baylor football games. This is the third year of the show.
You can listen to the post-game forum on ESPN Central Texas (1660). It is also easy to listen online or call in on your way home from the game. You can also stream them online. Game responses can also be submitted via Twitter to @bufanforum.
1. What schematically will be the biggest change in the offense?
Brenden: Schematically it won't come as a surprise that the deep ball won't be as consistent a weapon in the 2012 campaign. RG3 and Kendall had a video game-estic efficiency last season. While Briles will continue to run BU's receivers deep, it is hard to expect Florence to match last season's effectiveness.
Baylor's receiving group has never had this type of depth. Look for the tempo of the offense and the receiving corps to exploit matchups at the linebacker level.
Brian: The biggest difference will be the ability of Nick Florence to run the read and get 7-8 yards each time. His ball deception is above Robert's, in my opinion.
Colt: Schematically the offense will still be the same, but I'm not sure results will be much different. With great blocking receivers and speed at every position, I can see long plays still being a common occurrence, just in different forms. While Ganaway was light on his feet for 240 pounds, all three running backs have equal to or much greater speed and agility. The 50 yard bombs might turn into 50 yard scampers.
Ashley: Last year Baylor was 60% passing vs. 40% rushing in total yards. But closer to 50/50 in terms of touchdowns passing/rushing. I expect 2012, we will see more of a 50/50 split in total yards between rushing/passing and 60% of the touchdowns will come on the ground.
Jay: If you look at it from what's changed from 2011, you'd have to say just one thing: The quarterback position (obviously). Replacing a Heisman Trophy winner is always a tall task. There's no other way to spin that. However, we're in a good position in that we're not replacing him with an unproven sophomore. We have a tremendous leader and a smart quarterback in Nick Florence who's tasked with just one objective: Don't turn the ball over. This isn't a coaching staff who would ever 'dumb-down' the playbook, nor is this a quarterback who would ever need the Cliff's Notes version. But if Nick can lead the offense down the field without turning the ball over, or relying on long third down conversions, this offense will still be more than capable of putting points on the board.
Core group of receivers? Even though you lost the best receiver in school history, numbers 2-7 are better than 2-7 last year. Not too much of a drop off. Backs? Same song, different verse: Even though you lost the single season rushing leader, you return a good group with extreme potential, and a running back who piled up over 100 yards in the Alamo Bowl. Tight Ends are back. Offensive line has a few questions, but we'll address that in a minute.
Schematically, I don't believe you'll see Briles/Montgomery call for the deep ball as much as they did last year, until proven they can. RGIII was the best deep ball passer in college football last year. ANYONE is going to be a drop off in that realm, so that's not a shot at Nick. Likewise, I believe you'll see a few more running plays and screens on first and second down. This offense will still take their shots, but they'll be more strategic in when they do so.
I believe one of the biggest stats for this years team will be how it does on third down. Last year's team was 27th in the nation in 3rd down efficiency at 45.34%. This years team will be successful offensively if they can keep it above 40%. That means not putting yourself in many 3 & 6+ situations. It was easy to ask RGIII to get you 6 yards when you needed it. It may prove a little more difficult this season.
2. Of the new faces on offense, which do you believe will make the biggest impact in 2012?
Brenden: I believe Lache Seastrunk will have the biggest impact. Seastrunk may not be the every down back fans had envisioned last August when he transferred from Oregon, but Lache will provide a change of pace from Salubi. If Seastrunk gets in space in the passing game, he will be deadly.
Brian: You could almost call Martin a newcomer as he has seen the field as much in the past, but I will go with Stonum as he could move to kick returner and really provide a boost there.
Colt: I will say Seastrunk and I wouldn't have said this a week ago. But after watching a few of his runs during the scrimmages, his stop and start ability, and watching him outrun a speedy Ahmad Dixon that had a corner on him during the Spring, I have bought into the hype of the former top 5 running back. His speed will be something that Art Briles will have fun using.
Ashley: I will go with Lache Seastrunk. The odds are much more in Lache's favor to have a big impact.
Jay: To answer that question, pack a cooler with me and let's head down to Lache Seastrunk to see what's biting. Hopefully it's linebackers this season. (We'll do the Lache Seastrunk fishing report each week on the post-game call-in show: The Central National Bank Post-Game Fan Forum, or as we call it, The CNBPGFF. I know, I know. I can hear Annie from Bull Durham telling Ebby Calvin Laloosh, "You, son, need a nickname," but like America under Obama, I digress. KIDDING!!! Let's keep it about football.
While Stonum may prove to be a pretty good little receiver for the Bears this year, none of those have the ability to turn the game upside down in one play like Lache does. Lee is going to be a great wide-receiver, but he may be a little further off than Lache is right now.
3. Which veteran player will have a break out year?
Brenden: Kendall Wright and Terrance Williams received a lot of the attention in 2011. This season Tevin Reese will start to receive the national recognition he deserves. With 4.3 speed and a 46 inch vertical, Reese is a threat to score at any point. It's not often a guy with 17 yards per catch is overlooked, but I look for him to finally break double digits in touchdowns this season and finish with over 1,000 yards.
Brian: Lanear Sampson. Coach Briles has said he's going to feature him more.
Colt : Even though they aren't premier offensive players, I am going with Jerod Monk and Jordan Najvar at the tight end position. Without the ability of Florence to avoid defenders, extend plays, and look downfield for busted coverage like Griffin was able to go, Florence will go through his progressions quickly and hit the tight ends for safety nets. Monk and Najvar are both athletic for their size and have soft hands. I see them potentially combining for 600 yards and 10 touchdowns this year.
Ashley: Nick Florence. I would not be shocked to see Nick have 10 rushing touchdowns. He reads the option very well and he has the strength to run people over. A much better runner than opponents will expect. I also expect him to be very efficient- not turning the ball over. With the explosive combination of strength and speed that Baylor has at WR, a lot of short passes will turn into touchdowns which will make Nick's numbers look strong. I would project 25 TDs; 9 int; 3500 passing yards and 8 rushing touchdowns for Nick.
Jay: A breakout year? You lose the Heisman Trophy QB, the best single season by any running back in school history, and the best receiver in school history- there are going to be plenty of guys who 'breakout.' and have their best statistical season. There's going to be opportunities handed out left and right this season.
Obviously we need it to be Florence, and I think he'll get the job done. But I'm interested in seeing what Terrence Williams can do without Kendall Wright lined up on the field beside him. The secret is out, and teams know how good he is. Can he continue to be a dynamic receiver with all of the attention on him? My money is on yes. He's going to have a breakout season and a handful of plays that will come at big times for this offense.
4. Will the offensive line be able to be effective in the run after losing two starters to the NFL?
Brenden: If there is one position Baylor fans have become spoiled with its the offensive line. Every year the question is asked "Can ____ be replaced?" and every year another Baylor lineman steps up, and turns himself into an NFL draft pick. My biggest concern would be replacing center Phillip Blake, but the most experienced lineman on the squad in Ivory Wade slides over to play center. Wade has excelled in various spots on the line the past few seasons. I don't expect 2012 to be any different.
The blocking scheme hasn't changed, and I expect Baylor will be able to run effectively between the tackles this season.
Brian: The offensive line could be better. They're bigger and stronger after another year under Coach Kazadi.
Colt: There is a reason that the coaches had the options to bring two starting tackles inside to start at center and guard; Spencer Drango and Troy Baker are good offensive lineman. Another reason? The coaches have two great blocking tight ends to aid when needed. I expect the push between the tackles on short yardage situations to be outstanding and the emphasis by the coaches for Nick to get the ball out of his hands in less than three seconds makes me feel very confident this offense line group can be as good or better than 2011.
Ashley: The last 3 games, the offensive line was very physical. I am hopeful that this year's version will be a lot more consistent with their physicality which will lead to continued excellence in the running game.
Jay: If we've learned anything about the Briles/Montgomery offense while they've been at Baylor, it's that they know how to recruit and develop top-notch lineman. If this was the first time we've had to replace a lineman who left for the NFL, I may have a little hesitation. However, we've replaced Jason Smith, J.D. Walton, and Danny Watkins. I think we'll be fine in replacing RG350, but I'm a little nervous to see how we fill in for Philip Blake.
Much of this is going to fall on Ivory Wade. Replacing a center the caliber of Blake is a difficult task, but it's even more difficult in this offense that relies on runs up the middle as much as this offense does. In baseball terms, rushing the ball up the middle in this offense is like having good off-speed stuff. It will make the defense respect your fastball that much more. Having a center that can get the ball to the QB accurately, fill the A-gaps, and lead the way for the backs is a big deal. That's why we've seen some of our better lineman make the position change over the past couple of years and move inside on the line.
I think Wade will be fine. Baker, Jackson, Wade, Richardson, Drango....big, mean, and the next in line in a position that is more responsible for the resurgence of Baylor football than any of the other position groups.
5. Predict the PPG total by the 2012 offense
Brenden: 38.5 ppg
Brian: 38 ppg
Terrance Williams is primed for a national break out year.
Colt: I will go with 5 touchdowns and one field goal a game as well.
Ashley: 35 points per game. I hesitate to predict that many points per game after losing RG3, but I think the Big12 will still be a high scoring league.
Jay: We'll fall a little here to no one's surprise. We'll go from 45.3 ppg last year to 37 ppg this year.