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Baylor Football

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly from Baylor's Week of Football

August 14, 2023
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Baylor Football wrapped its second week of practices with the team's first scrimmage over the weekend. Afterward, Dave Aranda addressed the media, producing a plethora of notables and quotables, as only two more Saturdays remain before these Bears debut against Texas State. 

From here on, this weekly column will focus strictly on football-related news, including extra seasoning as it warrants courtesy of Bears repping in the NFL and beyond.

Here's The Good, The Bad & The Ugly from the past week, and, most of all, Aranda's post-scrimmage musings. 

 


THE GOOD 

The Mike Smith Show: The Liberty transfer continues to receive an immense amount of praise. He wasn't the most heralded off-season pickup, but he's easily been among the most talked about additions. 

"Defensively, it was The Mike Smith Show. There was one intermission where it just seemed like Mike was in on every tackle," Aranda said of the scrimmage.  

"He's a dynamic dude." 

That dynamic ability includes tackles for loss, blitzing, pass breakups, etc. A propensity for playmaking they started seeing within the first three days of spring practice. 

Scrimmage Standouts: Aranda was pleased to report Smith and some other off-season standouts carried that play over into their first scrimmage. That's an encouraging sign, and it does appear there's a usual suspects list emerging when it comes to leaders and playmakers. 

Jack Mackenzie - SicEm365
Mike Smith (40) and TJ Franklin (9) 

Defense: Aranda highlighted a trio of names, including Smith, TJ Franklin, and Corey Gordon. And from the sounds of things, that's the group shaping up to lead the way this upcoming season. 

"I think from the beginning those three have kind of been the guys, and it was cool to see them show up here."

On Franklin: "I thought he really played well, his pursuit, and his pass rush showed up. His improvement in the run game, just fighting pressure, is helping us a bunch and is way appreciated."

On Gordon: "Showed up a lot in terms of coverage, and third down and rushing the passer and setting edges."

Aranda later went more in-depth on Gordon's multi-layered skill set and flexibility. The makings are there for a huge year ... IF he can continue maturing off the field. 

Offense: The usual suspects include Blake Shapen, WR Ketron Jackson, and running backs Dominic Richardson and Richard Reese. He also added that the tight ends got more involved to their liking. 

On Shapen: Shapen continues taking necessary positive steps. 

"I thought Blake was real decisive. There's some big scrambles that he had, he was able to convert some big third downs."

In 2022, some of Shapen's indecisiveness resulted from his emotions, supporting cast, and coaching. As for the latter, Aranda continues learning lessons himself, and clearly, the handling of Shapen last year was a big point of reflection and, hopefully, improvement. 

 "And I feel like we probably coached him to be perfect. And you know, shame on me with that. And then, we didn't have the weapons that we have now. And so I just think when it's framed in that way, it was a real high uphill climb."

With all those issues seemingly addressed, along with Shapen making it a point to improve his leadership skills, there are your reasons for optimism. 

Backfield Confidence: Despite being down an expected man thanks to Qualan Jones' departure, Aranda voiced complete confidence in the RB room, telling reporters he anticipates Richard Reese to take hold of some of Qualan's responsibilities in the passing game and blocking game. He also mentioned Dawson Pendergrass' physical running in a positive light and said Jordan Jenkins continues to come along. The same goes for Bryson Washington, who's on track to return soon from an undisclosed injury that's kept him from practicing of late. The more I heard, the better I felt about the state of things. 

Bryson Washington: The RB group looked noticeably smaller number-wise at practice with Jones gone and Washington out of action with an undisclosed injury. The good news here is Aranda expects 'B-Wash' to return in time for their second scrimmage. So, good to hear confirmation it was nothing serious. As we saw last year, the health of a room can cascade downhill quickly. But I'm excited about the prospects of the group mentioned above. 

Jack Mackenzie - SicEm365
Richard Reese (29), Dawson Pendergrass (35) and Bryson Washington (30)

THE BAD 

Marshall Loss: Aranda confirmed Jackie Marshall will miss the season with a torn ACL. They prepared to offset his loss the past few months, and that's essentially why they added Maine's Justin Sambu this summer. But regardless of preparation, Marshall is a player with fun potential that we won't see for some time now, and the grind of rehab awaits. So, best of luck to him in his recovery.

Well, Bye: Aranda addressed the dismissal of Qualan Jones for the first and last time, chalking it up to off-the-field issues without getting specific. The program worked alongside Jones to no avail. So, they finally moved on. The team will be fine, and it was a necessary move. As for Jones, I hope he got the wake-up call. They only sometimes register the first time around, and you're never guaranteed more than one. 


THE UGLY 

Death of the Pac-12: I understand the lack of sympathy around Big 12 territory for the "death" of the Pac-12. Even though the league's outcome remains unresolved as of press time, it is forever changed, and if they continue operating, it will be in name only for many. 

West Coast football means something to Baylor's head coach, the California native who grew up watching USC games and Rose Bowls with his late father. On the one hand, he understands the positive spin and knows it means good things for the Big 12. 

"I remember when Washington went to the Rose Bowl. And I remember when the Badgers beat the Bruins, so it's sad knowing what happened." 

The demise of the Pac and its weakened ties with the Rose Bowl is just another sign of the colossal changes in college football, for better or worse. 

"I think it's kind of a melancholy thing."

**Bonus**

James Lynch: I erred in not including this last week, so this technically shouldn't qualify, but I wanted to mention it anyway. And that is the news Baylor's all-time sacks leader and Vikings DL James Lynch will miss the entire 2023 season because of a torn ACL. Adding insult is that this was a contract year, and he was in an intense competition for playing time under a new defensive coordinator. Instead, the focus is now on getting healthy. 

It's awful any way you slice it, so let's all send our positive vibes and support in Lynch's direction and hope for a quick and successful recovery. 

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The Good, The Bad & The Ugly from Baylor's Week of Football

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