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Baylor Football

Through the Fire: Former Bears provide insight to Baylor's frustrating start

November 20, 2020

It’s been a wild ride for the Bears. Two games to start an already delayed season, then two weeks off due to COVID, followed by four consecutive games including road trips to Austin, Ames and Lubbock. Now, time for one final breather before the final three games, a stretch that is more important than you might think

Colt Barber
Patrick Lawrence started 38 games on the offensive line at Baylor. 

This week, SicEm365 Radio had the opportunity to talk with former offensive linemen Blake Blackmar and Patrick Lawrence, along with ex-linebacker Jordan Williams, to reflect not only on their careers but also get their thoughts on the struggles this year’s team has faced. 

As the conversations flowed, the trio, which combined to play in well over 100 games as Bears, all pointed to similar causes for the 1-5 record. Their solution to what’s ailed this team? The simplest of solutions but the bane of the impatient: time, work and chemistry. 

Arriving on campus in 2014, Blackmar and Lawrence redshirted as the program went on to win its second Big 12 Championship in two years. The next season was defined by Seth Russell’s injury, dashed National Title hopes, and the surprisingly satisfying finale of the Russell Athletic Bowl. As sophomores the duo played under interim head coach Jim Grobe and as juniors went 1-11 under Matt Rhule, their third head coach in three years. They finally closed out their careers as Texas Bowl Champs in 2018.

To say they know a thing or two about the highs and lows of college football is an understatement. For Blackmar, the combination of no spring ball, a new staff and lineup interruptions is a toxic mix when trying to establish the necessary chemistry upfront. 

“So, they're just getting absolutely beaten down by the lack of preparation and spring ball and not having full guys at practice. Because that's how you build a strong successful offensive line,” Blackmar said on SicEm365 Radio. 

“A lot of these guys are great players individually, but they just haven't been able to come together and operate as a cohesive unit because they haven’t been able to practice as a cohesive unit.” 

According to Lawrence, he wasn’t much a fan of spring ball, but he knew its importance and cited it as imperative to their play the following season. 

“The more that they get to know Coach Aranda and their staff, and just buy-in and just really takeover and make it a team.That's when the light will switch. That's when the fans will be able to see the transition on the field.”
- Former Baylor LB Jordan Williams

“I can speak to the offensive line, in particular, whenever you have so much change, and the starters and young guys kind of come stepping into a veteran role. That's where it happens,” the Waxahachie native said in-studio with SicEm365 Radio. “You learned so much in spring ball, I could not imagine doing a season without it. Especially for guys trying to step into new roles.” 

The same can be said for a majority of Baylor’s other position groups this season as injuries and COVID have thrust many into unexpected action and resulted in different lineups on a near-weekly basis. It’s hard to build chemistry when the formula changes every week. 

Former linebacker Jordan Williams arrived in Waco in 2015 when he redshirted. He closed out his career last January as a member of Baylor’s 11-3 Sugar Bowl squad. In doing so, Williams wrapped up a run where he played in all 52 games over his four seasons of eligibility. 

For a time, the young linebacker was notorious for butting heads with coaches in practice, particularly Matt Rhule. He needed to mature and he needed to fully buy in to the process. 

According to Williams himself, the ill-fated trip to Morgantown in 2018 was what finally did the trick. 

“We got beat really bad. And man, it just clicked for me that like the only way that we're gonna win is if we go out there each and every day and we hold each other accountable,” the former Paris Wildcat said. 

“Because we're not playing for anybody else, you know, than anybody inside that room. And then once you start holding each other's back like that, then the sky's the limit.”

With only three more opportunities in front of them, perhaps last weekend’s loss to Texas Tech spurs the same type of emotions in any current holdouts of Aranda’s own process. But again, it’s another area that will take patience and time. 

“The more that they get to know Coach Aranda and their staff, and just buy-in and just really takeover and make it a team,” Williams said. “That's when the light will switch. That's when the fans will be able to see the transition on the field.”

For Blackmar, much like he bought into Rhule, he’s buying into Aranda and this staff. The former linemen turned grilling standout said, given the circumstances, he’s not making any overall judgments based on this year’s results and has full confidence in his former teammates.

“I feel good about it. You know, I think that there's going to be a lot of growth over the next couple of years. We're going to have spring ball, we're going to have football, we're going to have full-fledged tailgates,” he said with a flicker of excitement. 

Jordan Williams started 26 games during his Baylor career with 208 tackles.

“It's going to be great. People are just so used to complaining and finding something to be angry about right now. It's just so easy to get down.” 

To be fair, the second half last week in Lubbock, and all five losses this year, have given fans ample reasons to focus at times on the downside. But for this football team, their keys to success, according to those who’ve experienced the climb, is simply time, chemistry and more work.  

As the loss column grows, so too does talk about National Signing Day and even next season’s outlook. What matters most however is what happens in the immediate future. So, what’s next? Kansas State at McLane Stadium. 

“Get ready for next season when the season's over, but at this time, they still have to focus one at a time on these games and squeeze as much as they can out of them. Each week's an opportunity to get a win,” Lawrence said. 

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