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Baylor Football

Getting to Know Baylor's Big 12 Media Days Representatives

July 9, 2024

LAS VEGAS – With Big 12 Media Days slated for July 9-10, head coach Dave Aranda and Co. will make their first public appearance since the end of spring football in April.

The Bears, who are looking to rebound after a beyond-disappointing 3-9 campaign in 2023, will have to answer a multitude of questions on Wednesday at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

First things first, however, let’s get to know Baylor’s player representatives: Keaton Thomas (RSo.), Matt Jones (6Sr.), Carl Williams IV (So.), Richard Reese (Jr.) and Ketron Jackson (Sr.).

Keaton Thomas: Redshirt Sophomore Linebacker

Linebacker Keaton Thomas (RSo.) landed in Waco this December after putting together an All-American season at Northeast Mississippi Community College, where he collected 107 tackles, 10 for a loss and 1.5 sacks this past fall.

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LB Keaton Thomas (RSo.) committed to Baylor because of Dave Aranda’s reputation for developing linebackers.

Thomas, the third-ranked junior college linebacker in the country, chose Baylor over several other Power Four programs, most notably Mississippi State, because of Aranda’s reputation for developing linebackers.

“Coach Aranda is one of the best defensive minds you’ll ever see in football, so it made sense, and I knew [Baylor] was the right place for me,” Thomas said in April after a spring practice.

Currently, Thomas is slated to start at WILL linebacker and is clearly looked upon as a team leader if Aranda selected him as one of the five players to represent Baylor at Big 12 Media Days. Thomas, however, is still trying to find the balance of proving he belongs at the Division I level yet not trying to do too much on the field.

“That’s something I struggle with every day,” Thomas said. “I’m trying to grow as a leader, but at the same time, I’m trying to prove myself. I feel like I’m starting to do that well and starting to make plays; things are clicking, and I’m talking with the guys. But my goal is to handle business, and as time goes on, I’ll start meshing more, which will give me more of a chance to be a vocal leader.”

Matt Jones: Sixth-Year Senior Linebacker

After much consideration about his future, All-Big 12 honorable mention linebacker Matt Jones (6Sr.) elected to return to Baylor for a sixth and final season.

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LB Matt Jones (6Sr.) elected to return to Baylor for a sixth and final season.

“When the season ended, I was 90-to-95 percent sure I was either going to declare or transfer out after how things went,” Jones said in April after a spring practice. “Once [Aranda] said he was taking over [coaching] the linebackers, I knew it was a great opportunity from looking at the past and looking at all the linebackers he put in the [NFL].”

Jones played in all 12 games and led the Bears in tackles (82) and tackles for loss (11.5) during the disappointing 2023 season.

“When I’m getting tired or doing the wrong thing [in practice], I think of last year,” Jones said. “Nobody wants to go through that again. It was one of the worst feelings I’ve had.”

With Thomas next to him as his new linebacker running mate, Jones will look to unlock his full potential this fall in his sixth and final season in the green and gold.

Carl Williams IV: Sophomore Defensive Back

Defensive back Carl Williams IV (So.) played in all 12 games, finished with 20 tackles, broke up two passes and was graded as the third-highest freshman cornerback in the nation (83.5), per Pro Football Focus. With Aranda, Matthew Powledge and Gary Patterson pouring into Williams IV on the field, he’s looking to improve upon his breakout freshman campaign.

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DB Carl Williams IV (So.) was graded as the third-highest freshman cornerback in the nation (83.5), per PFF.

“I’m learning from all of the greats and taking everything in for what it is,” Williams IV said in April.

After playing half of the 2023 season at cornerback, Williams IV started five games at STAR and is poised to be a swiss-army knife in Baylor’s defense this fall. Williams IV believes the safeties can make a big impact as the Bears get back to playing winning football.

“We most definitely have a chip on our shoulder,” Williams IV said. “Coming from a 3-9 season, that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I feel like the safety group can be huge difference makers [this fall].”

Richard Reese: Junior Running Back

In 2022, running back Richard Reese (Jr.) rushed for over 1,000 yards, won the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year award and was named to the First-Team Freshman All-American squad. 

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RB Richard Reese (Jr.) didn’t see the field nearly as much in 2023 and totaled 306 rushing yards on only 66 attempts – 132 fewer carries than the previous year.

Last fall, Reese didn’t see the field nearly as much and totaled 306 rushing yards on only 66 attempts – 132 fewer carries than the previous year. Whether Reese’s limited action was because of the emergence of freshman running back Dawson Pendergrass, the fault of the struggling offensive line or the decision of former offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes is up for debate. 

What’s clear now, however, is that Reese will once again have a prominent role under new offensive coordinator Jake Spavital.

“[Spavital’s offense] fits me good,” Reese said in April. “Last year, the offense was about going downhill really fast, but this year, you have to slow things up and read your keys to get downhill.”

With a new system in place, Reese seems to be regaining the swagger he had in 2022. When asked who was the toughest person to guard in practice, Thomas, without hesitation, said, “Definitely Richard Reese. He’s quick, agile and smooth. Being able to go against a running back like that is going to get me better.”

Ketron Jackson: Senior Wide Receiver

After transferring from Arkansas last offseason, Ketron Jackson (Sr.) was supposed to be Baylor’s alpha at wide receiver in 2023. Instead, he finished third on the Bears in catches (28) and receiving yards (489). With a new offensive system designed to throw the ball more, Jackson could bounce back and have a special senior campaign. 

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WR Ketron Jackson (Sr.) finished third on the Bears in catches (28) and receiving yards (489) in 2023.

“I’m very excited [for this fall],” Jackson said. “The offense is way more explosive and more free; I don’t think as much. I play faster, and it’s going to help the overall offense. We don’t have to think as much, and we can just play.”

As for expectations, Jackson believes the Bears will show massive improvement across the board this season and that the team can return to the likes of the 2021 squad who won the Big 12 Championship and a program-record 12 games.

“This year we’re going to come out a lot more hungrier than we were after not having a great season,” Jackson said. “We have the talent, the motivation and the drive to do what we did [in 2021].”

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Getting to Know Baylor's Big 12 Media Days Representatives

2,430 Views | 3 Replies | Last: 13 days ago by Fre3dombear
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Is this going to be televised? How/where to watch?
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ESPN+ on Wednesday. Aranda's up around 2:40.
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