How Baylor Has Become College Football's Best Big-Play Team
The Baylor Bears clock in second to Johnny Manziel's Texas A&M team in total yards gained by an offense, trailing the Aggies by 155 yards from scrimmage.
Texas A&M has played four games in this young 2013 season; Baylor has only played three.
Art Briles' team is putting up 751.3 yards a contest this year, an increase of 179.1 yards per game over last year's NCAA leading 572.2. In other words, this year's Baylor squad is cooking, pushing the pace, the yardage and the score up from one of college football's most potent offenses from 2012.
For those pointing to Baylor's early slate of Wofford, Buffalo and Louisiana-Monroe, the Bears are also up 182.6 yards from the first three contests of 2012. The murderer's row that held Baylor down a year ago? SMU, Sam Houston State and Louisiana-Monroe. The Bears are better than they were a season ago and have transformed into a team that should be thought of as the nation's best explosive play offense.
Oregon has been the gold standard in recent years, but Baylor has bellied up to the bar next to the Ducks, thanks in part to former Oregon Ducks running back, Lache Seastrunk. Seastrunk is the key, initial cog in the machine of success that powers this high octane Baylor offense.
The reason Seastrunk is among the top backs in the nation is due to his relatively unique blending of styles. The junior from Temple, Texas is built like an every down back, standing 5'10" and weighing 210-pounds. Yet, he possesses the top end speed of smaller, slight of build runners. He also brings great vision and tremendous body control to the position, all things that work in concert to create problems for defenses.
Your Best 11 has hit on the cut-back ability of Seastrunk before, and this dangerous runner has used that ability to put together 14 of Baylor's 31 rushes of over 10 yards in 2013. In addition to the cut-back, thanks to his size and power, Seastrunk is able to turn possible losses and plays that would be short gains into first downs and touchdowns.
To piggyback off of the success of Seastrunk, Briles works the play-action game to perfection. With the threat of Seastrunk gashing teams on the ground, it behooves defenses to focus on the running back. Unfortunately, that focus—keeping eyes in the backfield—leads to safeties and linebackers failing to get to landmarks in coverage and creates space in the defense.
That space turns into touchdowns and big gainers as corners are asked to tackle one-on-one, and safeties are tasked with making up ground after biting on a run fake. Bryce Petty helps sell the run fake, and more importantly, he delivers a ball that his wide receivers can grab and turn into yards after the catch.
Thanks to the ability to run the ball from multiple sets, forcing defenses to keep linebackers in the game because of the threat, Baylor is able to complete the third part of what makes this offense dangerous: exposing underneath defenders.
Briles' offense evolved from the Air Raid of coaches Hal Mumme and Mike Leach. As Kliff Kingsbury and Dana Holgorsen types have risen to success, Briles has quietly perfected his own branch of the system. In the third year of explosive success, with the third different quarterback, Briles is proving he's found a way to continuously get things done.
Finding space has always been the cornerstone of the system. Using short routes to get bodies into space and giving defenders either-or coverage scenarios is the reason the style has become so effective. Briles is no different there, as he truly puts the onus on opponents underneath players to make plays.
If linebackers do not expand into their coverage zones, or nickelbacks miss tackles on quick hitters, there is a lot of daylight for the receivers. And given the athleticism on the roster, Baylor maximizes those runs after the catch.
Baylor is explosive, and as they enter the Big 12 season, they will continue to carve defenses up. Thanks to a plan rooted in Lache Seastrunk, buoyed by play-action, executed by Bryce Petty and orchestrated all by Art Briles, the Bears are a force to be reckoned with.
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