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Baylor Football

The Players Club: Maturation and Grounded Confidence

October 4, 2023
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Welcome to the Players Club. This week's lineup featured WR Monaray Baldwin, DL Cooper Lanz, and RB Richard Reese. All of whom played critical roles in the Bears' incredible comeback win over UCF. 

For the second time this season, Baylor Football celebrated a win —  and it was historic. But now the mission is to ride that momentum to sustainability and more fun victories, starting with Texas Tech. 


JENKINS EMERGING 

Safety Caden Jenkins earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week and Bronko Nagurski National Player of the Week honors for his performance against UCF. A game where Jenkins was a natural playmaker, nabbing an interception and a 72-yard fumble return TD, both plays crucial in aiding the Bears' historic victory. 

Successfully navigating the Big 12 will require plenty more where that came from, but Jenkins deserved the brief spotlight, and despite his youth, it's not a surprise for his teammates. 

"Oh, Caden's a dog. He brings it every day. He has a lot of fun out at practice. I think when guys see Caden going off every day, it gives them a lot of motivation and energy to do their part as well," Cooper Lanz said. 

While Lanz has Jenkins maneuvering behind him on defense, Monaray Baldwin gets the opposing view but remains equally impressed by the young safety. 

"I think with Caden, his confidence is really high and it's not cockiness. He's gonna execute, but he's gonna do it how he knows best," Baldwin said. 

Confidence is critical, but Jenkins also strikes the right balance of not getting too high or low at any moment, per Baldwin. 

"He's kind of always neutral. But he keeps that confidence to where he knows what he's capable of. And he just takes advantage of that."

There is a long way to go here, but Jenkins is off to a promising start in a promising young secondary. 

MONARAY's MATURATION 

In a sea of shining stars last Saturday, Monaray Baldwin's big play bursts were just what the offense ordered and more of what this team desperately needed. 

After a solid showing against Texas, Baldwin carried that spirit over to last weekend and broke out against the Knights, catching seven passes for 150 yards and a touchdown. That included multiple season firsts, including his first touchdown, 100-yard game, and contest with four or more catches. 

As for the slow start and what's working the last couple of games, Baldwin credits and cites the same theme we've heard from Dave Aranda when asked about the former Shoemaker star. 

"It's kind of just more like off the field stuff, like leadership, things like learning how to grow as a leader, learning how to help my teammates," Baldwin said. 

"So now I'm learning how to be a leader on a team and just help people out. And then that growing off the field helped me grow on the field and help more opportunities come my way."

Amid the Texas blowout, Baldwin's reemergence was a positive development, as much on the sidelines as on the field. Despite the scoreboard, he saw players buying in and loosening up as he roamed the sidelines with encouragement throughout the contest. 

"So, when I took that over to the UCF game, like I knew we had a chance to win that game. So I just kept doing it, kept doing it and people bought in. And then at one point, everybody bought in. If I have that type of impact, then it makes me feel good, it makes the team feel good. So I'll keep doing it."

In another first, Baldwin was a first-time team captain for the UCF game. 

"It felt good for me. It helped me feel like my hard work is paying off in a way because the coaches see me, and everybody else sees me. So it felt good to go out there and be out there with the captains.

STAYING GROUNDED

The focus is no longer on UCF but firmly on Texas Tech, as best we can tell. However, it's easy to be concerned about how this team might handle the intoxicating thrill of last Saturday. 

"I think we just have to think of it as another game. Control what we can control, prepare all week, get our bodies and minds right for the game, and just treat it like a normal game," said Lanz. 

The sophomore from Denton Guyer notched his first career sack last week, along with five total tackles and an important blocked field goal, given the final score. 

Lanz had a day, as did Baldwin, Jenkins, and many others, including RB Richard Reese. After a slower start to the year, he notched his first 100-yard game in 2023 on a season-high 16 carries vs. the Knights. 

The sophomore from Bellville was quick to give credit and praise to the up-tempo tempo offensive style, his offensive line, and lessons learned from banged-up RB teammate Dominic Richardson. 

"I knew that Dom, he going through injuries and he's pushing through it which is making me a better player seeing him push through it and I know that I gotta push to be the best that I can be. So, I'd say it's keeping me going." 

As for the challenge that awaits, last week's comeback was a magic carpet ride. But the reality now is the rival Red Raiders are headed riverside to Waco, looking to obtain bragging rights and a leg up in stature and the standings.

So, what's the key for these Bears to win a second consecutive game and thwart any threats?

"I'll just say staying grounded," Reese said. "Just keeping trust in our teammates and to keep us going, keeping our faith in God, knowing we got each other's back."

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The Players Club: Maturation and Grounded Confidence

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