The Baylor Bears will be short handed when they take on the North Carolina Tar Heels.
The North Carolina Tar Heels will be taking on a wounded Baylor Bears in a week from today. Baylor announced a couple of days ago that three key players would not be part of the trip to Orlando. Those three injured players were quarterback Jared Stidham, running back Shock Linwood, and Biletnikoff Trophy winning wide receiver Corey Coleman. Baylor starting quarterback Seth Russell will also not be back for the game.
Of the three of these absences, Coleman is probably the biggest. The wideout would have brought more star power and explosion to a matchup that is considered to be one of the most offensively minded bowls on the slate. Coleman could have added an additional test for the North Carolina corners Dez Lawrence and M.J. Stewart.
Baylor will be playing converted wide receiver Chris Johnson at quarterback for the third straight game. Johnson has shown signs of inexperience in his previous starts against Texas and TCU, but he also adds an additional weapon to the Baylor attack. He can run, and anybody who saw the game between Clemson and North Carolina knows how dangerous a quarterback who can make something out of nothing can be.
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It is likely that Baylor will play to this idea and simplify its playbook to simple read and runs. Basically if Johnson does not see his first read, he may be given permission to run instead. This was similar to the philosophy that Texas used with Vince Young to maximize his talents on the field.
Shock Linwood, the running back, was a runner who took advantage of the idea that Baylor was going to pass. He ended up with 1,300 yards rushing in the offense and adding some balance that all offenses need to operate at an optimum level. Without him, Baylor will missing some that dimension, though they try to replace it with Johnson.
The Russell Athletic Bowl will be the last chance for North Carolina’s seniors to show their stuff. It will serve as a send-off for Marquise Williams, Quinshad Davis, Landon Turner, Jeff Shoettmer, Shakeel Rashad, and others. It will be important that they not take Baylor lightly, since they have seen what can happen with the Quick Lane Bowl last year.
A win might give the Tar Heels the ability to finish top ten in the polls for the first time since 1997-8.