Baylor football is competent offense away from being Big 12 contender

Going from a New Year’s Six bowl to 2-7 in one year was a tough pill to swallow for Baylor football fans, but their fandom had been tested quite a bit over the past decade.

The roller coaster ride was expected, however, with the departure of Matt Rhule to the NFL and hiring of LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. It was a great hire, but he was also a brand new head coach and he spent his entire career as a position coach or defensive coordinator. Making that jump to head coach is an adjustment and that was obvious in year one.

But he was also not given a ton to work with. Baylor had some talent but most of it left the previous offseason with Rhule.

A 2-7 record wasn’t anything to brag about, but the Bears lost three games by a touchdown or less which goes to show they weren’t far off from being a solid Big 12 squad.

The main problem for the former defensive coordinator’s new team? Offense.

Charlie Brewer played well but didn’t wow anyone with just under 2,000 yards and 14 touchdowns in nine games. The passing game was the bright spot on offense, ranking 72nd in the country and No. 7 in the Big 12. Yes, the bright spot was a bottom-tier college football offense.

Not good.

The defense, however, ranked 48th in total yards allowed, 30th in passing yards allowed, and 63rd in scoring. Those aren’t great numbers, but there are nine quality starters returning to the improving group so it’s almost a lock to see the Bears in the top 50 in every major defensive category, especially with a great mind like Aranda leading the way.

The offense still has plenty of work to do, especially with Brewer transferring out.

But the team is an offense away from Big 12 contention.

Baylor football needs to find an offense — and fast

With Brewer gone, Jacob Zeno or Gerry Bohanon will have to step up and prove to be quality starters capable of leading the offense as well or better than their predecessor. They don’t have to be prolific passers right away, but cutting down turnovers and showing off the ability to pick up yardage with their legs will both be keys to success.

At running back, Trestan Ebner looks like the starter after a forgettable 2020 season and Craig Williams is back after leading the team with 197 yards and two touchdowns on 7.6 yards per touch. Williams is my pick to be the breakout contributor on offense.

The receiving corps brings back its top pass-catchers from a season ago in RJ Sneed, Gavin Holmes, Josh Fleeks, and Tyquan Thornton. They can take that next step as a group.

The offense is set up nicely and even though they finished 118th in yards per game last season and 100th in scoring, a finish in the top-70, or so, in both categories and an improved defense could have Baylor seriously contending for a Big 12 title.

Baylor might not go 10-2 or 11-1, but an eight-win season is possible or even nine wins if the offense improves and the defense lives up to its potential.

What a turnaround that would be for Aranda.