Dec 22, 2022; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Baylor Bears quarterback Blake Shapen (12) walks off the field after the game between the Baylor Bears and the Air Force Falcons in the 2022 Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Baylor Bears football showcases depth in spring game
The Baylor Bears wrapped up spring practice today with a spring game that pitted the defensive side of the program against the offense. Using a modified scoring system, the offense defeated the defense 38-27.
The defense drew first blood as they forced a three-and-out on the first possession of the game when Blake Shapen was unable to connect on a third-down pass attempt. The offense quickly got on track when backup quarterback Sawyer Robertson stepped in and orchestrated a drive that moved quickly down the field behind hard running from Oklahoma State transfer running back Dominic Richardson and a big reception by Hal Presley on play action. Jonathan Davidson capped the drive with a 12-yard touchdown reception from Robertson.
Robertson is a redshirt sophomore transfer from Mississippi State, originally from Lubbock, Texas. He seemed to be in command of the offense and made several plays that showcased his polished ballhandling and grasp of the scheme. Robertson should provide a solid alternative to Shapen, who was the starter last year but struggled at times with turnovers. The offense seemed to operate smoothly with Roberston at the helm, and he certainly made his case to be the starter when fall camp convenes.
Richardson was an impressive addition to the Bears’ offense, he made a good, hard run on the first series and followed that up with powerful gains throughout the scrimmage. Coming to Baylor from Oklahoma State, Richardson should form a dynamic duo with last year’s freshman phenom Richard Resse.
Shapen continues to be the biggest wild card in the Baylor program. At times he flashes brilliance, as he did hitting tight end Drake Dabney on a 29-yard touchdown pass. But other times, he threw into coverage and illustrated the same tendencies that plagued the Bears’ offense as they struggled late last season.
The Baylor offense picked up big plays repeatedly with subtle pick plays that took advantage of the aggressive scheme of new defensive coordinator Matt Powledge who is returning to Waco after spending last year as the co-coordinator at Oregon. Today the Bears’ defense looked much more aggressive, playing tighter coverage than last season, but after a spring of competition, the offense had some answers, converting several fourth-down plays and the first touchdown with switch routes.
RJ Martinez, a transfer from Northern Arizona, showed impressive skills during his time at quarterback. He avoided negative plays and delivered accurate passes on the run. The junior played his high school football at Westwood High School in Austin, but if he can continue his solid play, he could find a new home in Waco.
Monarey Baldwin also had several catches, one he broke for a long touchdown as the offense caught the defense in a blitz. Baldwin showcased his blazing speed as he split the secondary and turned a solid play into a score.
The Bear’s offensive line turned in a strong performance today. Blake Shapen and the other quarterbacks received good protection, and the Baylor running backs benefited from several large holes opened in the run game. This was an area of concern last season as the Bears struggled with protection a year ago.
Carmelo Jones, a redshirt freshman linebacker from West Orange-Stark High School, made several impressive plays for the Baylor defense. He was physical, and on multiple occasions, Jones met running backs in the hole and delivered jarring tackles. He looks like he could be a leader for Baylor on that side of the ball next season.
Overall, Baylor looks like a solid contender in the Big 12 next year. The spring game showcased a wealth of depth, especially at running back and tight end. The defense looked physical and aggressive. With solid quarterback play, the Bears should return to the top of the conference standings in the fall.