The off-field challenges that await Baylor football coach Jim Grobe are obvious, based on the team’s tumultuous offseason that put him in charge of the program in May after the dismissal of predecessor Art Briles. But it is the on-field issues that capture most of Grobe’s attention heading into Friday’s season opener and those begin in the trenches.
Baylor returns only one starter from last year’s offensive line, center Kyle Fuller. There are no returning starters in the defensive line and the depth is limited in both position groups.
Grobe said Monday that coaches have been “moving six guys around pretty effectively” at the guard and tackle spots surrounding Fuller in the offensive line. But he acknowledged a need for improvement as No. 23 Baylor prepares to face Northwestern (La.) State in Friday’s opener in Waco (6:30 p.m., FSN).
“The key for me up front in the offensive line is consistency,” Grobe said. “We’re not as consistent as I’d like. But if they stay healthy, I feel good about those guys.”
Grobe cited a better depth situation in the defensive trenches, where the Bears will use both three- and four-man fronts. Among the players who have caught his eye in fall drill are defensive end Jamie Jacobs (sophomore), nose tackle Ira Lewis (sophomore) and defensive end K.J. Smith (junior). Grobe said Smith “can be special” if he keeps progressing at his current pace.
“We’re pretty good, two-deep, along the defensive front,” Grobe said. “But we can’t just keep them in one position and have them take on double teams (because of depth issues). We’ll have to move them around.”