Baylor football preview for 2016: Can Jim Grobe keep the on-field production going and get the team through the nightmare?
The way the Art Briles era ended and all the off-the-field issues all but destroyed anything positive that happened on the field over the last few years in terms of this legacy of phenomenal performances. And now, after all the missteps, and all the problems going forward, and all the recruiting issues, and all the horrors, bringing in Jim Grobe was a good first step to try getting the program’s reputation back on track. However, everything is in a holding pattern now.
This is still going to be a fantastic team, but what happens if it goes 9-3 or better? Do you keep Grobe around? Going 7-5 makes it easy to go try finding the next star coach, but Grobe did the nearly-impossible by winning an ACC title at Wake Forest. He knows how to coach, but the pressure is on to do it at the highest of levels.
And can he possibly make Baylor a positive story?
From a purely football perspective – obviously football doesn’t matter in any way compared to the human aspect of everything that happened – it’s a shame, since this really has been a special sort of revolution in terms of offensive firepower and what’s possible for a small school to be able to rise up and become a powerhouse.
Baylor used to be next-level bad, going from 1995 to 2009 without a winning season and struggling just to get a Big 12 win, and then everything went crazy.
Not only did Baylor become good; it started doing things that changed the way the sport started to look at how an offense could be run.
Robert Griffin III became the breathtaking Heisman legend, the offense put up numbers college football had never seen before on a consistent basis, and things improved enough and progressed to the point where 60-point games became the norm. The non-conference schedule hasn’t always been the greatest – or anything less than embarrassing – but the Bears were hanging up massive numbers on the Oklahomas and the Michigan States and UCLAs, too.
Again, to be crude and just talk about the football side, considering how good the team has been recently, and knowing that Baylor probably would’ve been in a four-team tournament after 2013, this might just be the most successful program over the last three years to not get into the CFP.
On the field, by the time September rolls around, Baylor should have another tremendous team that’ll be good enough to be in the Big 12 championship and College Football Playoff discussion, but the narrative for the season goes far beyond football – unless Grobe is able to do a phenomenal job for a team used to on-field adversity.
The Bears were down to their third-string quarterback over the final stretch of the season and still finished first in the nation in total offense and scoring offense.
The passing game was kaput, so the running game dominated averaging a ridiculous 327 yards per game, destroying North Carolina in the Orlando Citrus Bowl with 645 rushing yards.
Briles adapted, found ways to create production, and put together one of the greatest offensive machines in a long time, with the resume built up to deserve preseason hype and attention as a true playoff contender – and now it’s up to Grobe to make it all happen.
Starting quarterback Seth Russell is back along with one of the deepest and most dangerous groups of running backs in college football.
It doesn’t matter that the receiving corps lost Corey Coleman – there are plenty of next-level targets ready to step up. For the most part, the line was settled this spring and has plenty of talent, if not a ton of starting experience.
Baylor doesn’t need an elite defense to succeed, but it has one good enough to hold serve when it has to. There’s versatility depending on the matchup, there’s talent in the secondary, size up front, and playmakers at linebacker. It’s not going to be as good as last year’s D that allowed close to 400 yards and around 28 points per game, but again, it doesn’t have to be.
The 2016 Bears can set the tone for a new, better era for the school. They can show that it’s possible to win football games at Baylor, and do it the right way off the field, too.