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April 6, 2013

Previewing the Baylor spring scrimmage

The Bears conclude their spring practices today with the spring scrimmage at 1 p.m. at the Highers Athletic Complex. While Baylor's offense usually puts on a thrilling show, don't expect too many bells and whistles. Since it's an open practice, Art Briles won't unveil everything the team worked on this spring. But there are several questions to be answered, and the spring game will begin to address them.

Below, SicEmSports breaks down watch to watch for in Baylor's spring scrimmage. And make sure to follow us On the Brazos during the scrimmage for live updates of the action.

Center of attention: For the third straight season, the quarterback-center exchange will be entirely new. Fifth-year senior Stefan Huber, a career backup who got some time at left guard last season, takes over as the center. That was Huber's position in high school, so unlike Ivory Wade (least year's starter), he has some experience. People often say you don't notice offensive linemen until they mess up. The same can be said for snaps. If Saturday's scrimmage ends with nobody noticing errant snaps from Huber to Petty in the shotgun, he'll have done well in at least that aspect of his game.

As for Petty, tomorrow will reveal just how much he's progressed in Briles's system. Petty's size, strength, running ability and strong arm are well documented. But Nick Florence showed last year that impressive physical attributes aren't as important as an understanding of who to get the ball to and when. Petty's timing of the offense will be on display for an extended period for the first time -- at least for the public's view.

Speaking of the line: Huber isn't the only new OL starter under the spotlight. The entire right side of the line is new now that RT Troy Baker is out for the season with a torn ACL. Kelvin Palmer -- like Huber a backup for most of his career -- has filled in for Baker after originally getting a shot at center. Right guard also must be settled. Look for Kyle Fuller and Desmine Hilliard to get time there today, but this position might not be settled until the fall. And also keep an eye out for Jason Osei, the 26-year old Brit who started playing football when he was 20. Originally slated for the defense, Osei should play on the offensive line to help with the lack of depth, something that will be an issue all season.

Walk on: With a nagging injury slowing down Corey Coleman, a guy considered the heir apparent to Kendall Wright, walk-on Clay Fuller has gotten a chance to move up the depth chart. And he has impressed, finishing the previous scrimmage as the second-leading receiver. Fans will get the chance to see if Fuller is a legitimate Big 12 receiver, or if he's getting time because of the lack of depth in the receiving corps. Outside of Coleman, the receiver fans most likely want to see is Jay Lee, the Allen product watched from the sidelines as a redshirt freshman last year while dealing with injuries. While Antwan Goodley has locked down one outside receiver job, we'll get to see if Lee is the top contender for the other starting role.

Trading places: In a move that will boost the speed of the secondary, Ahmad Dixon has moved from nickel back to safety. In his place steps Sam Holl -- vacating the safety job for Dixon. It seems like a natural switch; Holl plays more like a linebacker, and Dixon has better speed to defend the deep secondary. Tomorrow will start to reveal how the players are transitioning. Dixon has said that the biggest adjustment is remaining patient. At nickel back, he had to react quickly, but at safety, he needs to watch things unfold and resist making too quick of a judgment.

The big backups: Nobody from the trio of Shawn Oakman, Javonte Magee and Brian Nance has earned starting roles -- yet -- but no defenders will attract more eyeballs than these three defensive linemen. Oakman, the Penn State transfer, has earned praise from teammates and coaches alike. At 6-8, 250, he'll be hard to miss. Can he be a force on the edge? We'll start to find out tomorrow.

Magee, meanwhile, will play on the interior after playing end last fall. Magee was one of Baylor's highest-rated recruits and showed some promise last year in his true freshman season, especially in the final few games. A full offseason working with Baylor S&C coach Kaz Kazadi has bulked up Magee, enough that defensive coordinator Phil Bennett felt comfortable moving Magee from defensive end.

As for Nance, he's adjusting from a career as a linebacker to the switch to defensive end. Like Magee, he has hit the weight to bulk up for the position change. Right now, he's only five pounds lighter than starting defensive end Terrance Lloyd, so he might be ready. Saturday for Nance will be telling.

Prove it: Baylor has a host of willing and able players in the secondary, but a lot of guys still have something to prove. Terrell Burt got more time than expected as a true freshman, but is he ready to be the full-time replacement for Mike Hicks? Both CB jobs are on the line as well. Demetri Goodson is back thanks to a medical redshirt, while Joe Williams, K.J. Morton and Tyler Stephenson all have experience but have yet to really take hold of the job. Darius Jones, formerly a receiver, has now had one full season and a spring to convert to cornerback, so his progress will be worth watching. And then there's Kianté Griffin, the 2012 signee who enrolled this spring and was moved from WR. Reports have indicated he's adapting quickly.

The specialists: Few people get jazzed up for special teams play, but Baylor will audition at least one new return man, since Daryl Stonum, who had the third-most returns last year, has graduated. Aaron Jones, aka Stork, will also draw some attention. The coaches need to regain trust in Jones after he made less than 60 percent of his FG attempts last year. If he struggles, there's a chance Baylor could bring in some competition this fall.

Running men: Finally, we conclude our breakdown with a running back tandem that could make a case for best in conference. Lache Seastrunk is the lightning to Glaso Martin's thunder. They're both capable of rushing for 1,000 yards this season. Because of that, it will be interesting to see if the running game takes center stage this season. Will Briles rely on the run while he's breaking in both Petty and three offensive linemen? The scrimmage might give us some hints.


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