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Baylor Football

Spring Breakdown: The QB Competition

March 25, 2024
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Newness is a persistent and consistent theme throughout Baylor Football this spring, but perhaps nowhere more than on the offensive side of the ball, where only WR coach Dallas Baker returns from last year's staff. 

Taking over as OC and QB coach, Jake Spavital headlines the changes on offense as the Bears move back towards an up-tempo spread style of play. 

As for who will eventually lead the charge as QB1, that competition is now fully underway. 

This spring, the quarterback room is freshly replenished and remodeled after signing veteran transfer Dequan Finn and true freshman early enrollee Nate Bennett, who join returners Sawyer Robertson and RJ Martinez. 

Spavital is in no rush to crown a winner, but he was quick to offer up his early thoughts on the contenders as spring practices opened last week. 

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Redshirt-Junior SAWYER ROBERTSON

In week one of last season, Robertson was thrust into action due to injury and turned the ball over twice late in a shocking loss to Texas State. He started the next three weeks against Long Island, Utah, and Texas and in the season finale against West Virginia.  

There were a few highs and plenty of lows during those stretch of games, but the experience was invaluable for Robertson, the Mike Leach protege. He needs to knock some rust off but is well-versed in some of Spavital's concepts thanks to his high school days at Lubbock Coronado and two years at Mississippi State.  

"I think there's an experience factor with him. He's a big, strong guy. He's been in these Air Raid systems before. He's kind of getting back to used to throwing it around a little bit more," Spavital said. "But the team loves him. He's a hardworking guy. I really enjoy being in that room with him."

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Redshirt-Junior RJ MARTINEZ 

Martinez is back for year two in Waco after appearing in three games a year ago. That included mop-up duty vs. LIU, a bunch of snaps vs. Texas after Robertson's injury, and a failed Hail Mary attempt on the final play of the season-ending loss against West Virginia. 

From his time at Austin Westwood High School to Northern Arizona, Martinez was a prolific and high-volume passer who could benefit from a change in offensive philosophy. 

And he's making some good early impressions.

"RJ can spin it now. I'm really impressed with RJ right now and I like how the ball comes out of his hand. He can stretch the field vertically, he's fun to watch. He's got that gunslinger mentality," Spavital said. 

"He's a pure pocket guy, but he has some mobility that was shown today that was pretty impressive to see at times. He can extend it and eyes downfield and make some good throws." 

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Super-Senior DEQUAN FINN 

And then there's the odds-on favorite to eventually win the race, in former portal addition and reigning MAC MVP, Dequan Finn. 

A multi-year starter at Toledo, Finn's athleticism and playmaking ability were a draw, but so was the number of games played, which makes sense, particularly after a year in which inexperience rocked the Bears from all sides. 

"Dequan has got a lot of experience under his belt right now. You can see how calm he is in the pocket. He's really trying to work the ins and outs of our offense right now. He hit probably a 40-50 yard run today in practice on the scramble, which I thought was pretty impressive," the Bears' new OC said last week. 

While the entire offense, particularly the offensive line, might find their heads spinning at times with all of the changes and learning, Finn is providing a steady hand as the staff had hoped. 

And as a true dual-threat, having run for nearly 1,700 yards and 25 scores over the past three seasons, he's seasoned enough not to default to using his feet when things get heavy. One of many valuable lessons you hope trickles down throughout the room. 

"You can just tell he's kind of seen it all, he doesn't get rattled or phased … He's just got a calming factor with it and he's getting through his progressions and he's making throws still," Spavital explained.  

"Instead of if the first reads not open, going ahead and scrambling, you see him really trying to get through the progression and then use his ability to go, because he's got a lot of experience under his belt, like I was saying. We just got to keep trying to polish him up as a true quarterback."

Spavital didn't speak about true freshman Nate Bennett specifically, but there was no cause for concern. Bennett is young and starting from scratch at the moment. Nothing more than that, in my eyes. 

As for the QB1 decision, Dave Aranda told reporters last week he'd prefer to name a starter coming out of spring, but only if there was a clear-cut choice. The competition rages on for now, and the teaching takes precedence as Spavital installs his new offense. 

"It's still real early to tell ... But for the most part, this entire unit's working. They're doing a great job. All I ask them to do is just be consistent, show up every day and get better. And that's what they're doing. So, I really enjoy coaching these guys right now."

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Spring Breakdown: The QB Competition

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