September 2, 2006

5 Qs: Baylor Bears

The official kickoff for the opening of the 2006 Horned Frogs football season is one day away when they take on an old rival from the SWC in the Baylor Bears. TCU is coming off an 11-1 record and a No. 9 AP ranking in 2005 and looking to do more in '06. Baylor is coming into the game with high expectations itself so we asked insider Jason Howell some questions on keys for Baylor to have success.

1. What are the strengths and weaknesses for Baylor this year?

The strengths of this years Baylor squads are the receivers and defensive backs. The Baylor receiving corp includes two seniors, Trent Shelton and Dominique Zeigler that have a shot to re-write the Baylor record books this fall. David Gettis is another name that has been thrown around as a freshman to watch but Mikail Baker, Carl Sims, and Trey Payne are also a few guys that can step on the field and contribute. I'm also throwing what used to be the tight end position into the mix. Last season's back-up quarterback Terrance Parks has the size, speed, athleticism, and hands to really be a freak on the field.
At defensive back Baylor returns senior corners Anthony Arline and C.J. Wilson. Wilson has gotten most of the early pub after leading the Big 12 in interceptions last fall, but Arline is a big corner that causes offenses problems of his own. To help them out are an experienced group that will see the field to keep fresh bodies on the field. James Todd and Alton Widemon are working second string right now and have both had success playing significant minutes. Braelon Davis is another to keep an eye on. He missed all of 2005 but in 2004 was a Freshman All-Big 12 selection.
At safety the Bears may seem vulnerable but the free safety spot vacated by Maurice Lane will be filled by Dwain Crawford. He plays the ball well and has been known to pack a punch at the point of contact. Jordan Lake will back him up and he has shown well too. At rover Baylor lost Willie Andrews but Brandon Stiggers has been a playmaker in his own right during fall camp. Throw in returning senior Maurice Linguist at outside safety and it's a pretty nice crew patrolling the defensive backfield.
The weaknesses are the offensive line and the linebackers. Up front the Bears have a solid group of starters but depth will be an issue. Jason Smith, Will Blaylock, Yancy Boatner, Chad Smith, and Travis Farst will be tested Sunday.
At linebacker Baylor is replacing two senior starters for the second year in a row. Antonio Jones and Nick Moore have been solid and Joe Pawelek and Ben Hixson look like they're ready to go. However, Nick Moore is the only one with much experience and Jones and Pawelek spent 2005 on the practice squad so they will have to learn fast.

2. What unit will give TCU the most problems on the defensive and offensive side of the ball?
The receivers working against those corners could be trouble for TCU. I'm not sure who's starting but with two redshirt freshmen, Nick Sanders and Rafael Priest, expected to see quality minutes that could be trouble. Priest and Sanders both have speed and athleticism but Shelton and Zeigler could be in for a very good day.
On the defensive side of the ball I would say the Bears

3. What player(s) do you expect to have a big game?

Dominique Zeigler is a player I could see stepping up and having a good one. Also look out for running back Brandon Whitaker

4. How has the new offensive scheme come along with a new coordinator?

The new offense has come along surprisingly well. Shawn Bell is a senior known for his decision making and has taken hold of the playbook. I also think having some senior leadership at least on the first string has helped things out.
I expect their to be some bumps and Baylor has not played well in openers recently so it wouldn't surprise me if things are a little slow at first. That said I do think the offense is already in a better spot than it was all of last season so it's in good shape.

5. What must Baylor do to have a successful game against TCU and what is your official prediction?
Baylor has to avoid the normal stuff like turnovers and penalties. They have to keep the d-line off of Shawn Bell. They have to create some turnovers and can't forget about the running ability of Ballard and the TCU ground game.

I think Baylor can pull it out and will but it will be a close game. I'll go 28-24 Baylor in a nail biter.

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