5 questions for one of the top two quarterbacks from Baylor in the last 25 years!
1. What do you see as the keys for Baylor in this game? What 2 or 3 things do they have to do well to win?
JJ: First games are always tricky and special teams always play a big part but outside of that --- the SMU game will be a tough game because defensively they are used to our type of offense/tempo and offensively they have a runner (Zach Line) that may be a 2012 version of Terrance Ganaway. He’s strong with deceptive speed and is bigger than all of our linebackers. To beat SMU we 1) Need to find a runner or combination of runners that can find the creases and produce 125+ yards; 2) Defensively—we will need to find a way to rattle Gilbert—I still believe he will throw INTs but you have to hit/pressure him.. If we do not pressure him often this will be a nail biter; and 3) I know this is what everyone says.. but (protect the rock)-- we can not turn the ball over—we can not give SMU and the June Jones offense any extra possessions or short fields.
2. Baylor seems to have a big advantage over SMU in three areas: offensive line; speed and depth. Do you see this being a close game until the 2nd half and then those three aspects providing separation for the Bears late?
JJ: I’m always afraid of 1st games- they seemingly are always tough. I see this as being a close game all the way through. SMU players see this as an opportunity game against a Big 12 team that in their hearts they feel they are equal too. They “Shot The Ghost” i.e. didn’t show up-- last year against Texas A&M ---playing well early but eventually lost in a lopsided affair because they couldn’t stop the run. Unless one of the teams turns the ball over a lot –I feel that this will be a hard fought 4th quarter game within 7 points. I hope I’m wrong and that we get out front early and win by 3 TDs.
3. What kind of performance do you expect from Garrett Gilbert? New team and system for him and he hasn't taken a snap since 2011 in week 2 for Texas against BYU where he had a dreadful 1st quarter: 2-8 for 8 yards and 2 interceptions. Texas pulled him for freshman David Ash and Gilbert decided to transfer to SMU shortly after that. How important will it be for Baylor to try and destroy his confidence early?
JJ: Texas didn’t have any offensive playmakers on the outside last season. They found runners (young runners) but by that time Garrett already had his transfer paperwork in to Coach Brown. If we hit Garrett, he will give us an opportunity at INTs. If we do not hit or put decent/consistent pressure on Garrett – in this offense--- I would expect he will show us why he was one of the top QB recruits in the nation a few years ago. Coach Bennett has forgotten more football than I know—but I believe pressure has to be part of the plan against Gilbert—that’s when he’s made his mistakes in the past.
4. SMU returns a strong front 7. There were some games last year where Baylor could not move the ball effectively on the ground- especially in the redzone: KSU, OSU, A&M and Kansas for 3 quarters. But the last 3 games, something clicked in the running game. Ganaway 598 rushing yards and 9 TDs in the last 3 games against Texas Tech, Texas and Washington. Do you believe this year's offensive line will be more like the late season version than the version that struggled to create holes earlier in the year?
JJ: I believe the 2012 version of the Baylor line has the chance to be just as good or better than the 2011 version. Of course losing Phil Blake – to me- was the biggest loss. Our tackles are promising but still pretty wet behind the ears (Spencer Drango (RFR) / Troy Baker (SO.)--- I think it will take a few games for them to find their cohesiveness but if Coach Clements doesn’t have to shuffle due to poor performance or injuries-- all we’ll need to do is find a runner or runners that can find the creases like Ganaway did in 2011 and Jay Finley did in 2010.
5. Who's the offensive player or players that most people are overlooking that you believe will be huge contributors this year?
JJ: In this offense the ball gets spread around quite a bit, but before its all said and done I believe that Levi Norwood is one of the least talked about players that I’m expecting to have a big impact this season (both on offense (IR) and as a returner); He’s got great body control and should benefit from a lot of attention going to T. Williams, L. Sampson, and T. Reese—if he’s not making an impact coach will put someone in that slot position that will.
Also, while he’s not overlooked Jordan Navar- will and can play a big role this year depending on how much Coach decides to put size in the middle of the field to help out Nick who is 6’0 to 6’1. Short throwers like big targets and with the way Briles usually plays it I don’t think he’ll get 50+ catches but I expect first downs and red zone touchdowns from Jordan in addition to him being a big asset in the running game as a blocker. He can be an NFL tight end but unfortunately we just don’t get our TE’s the ball much.
Those 2 guys are known and have played but when we talk about BU offense we don’t mention them very often. We’ll see.