Baylor Red Raiders have plenty of game experience up front

Baylor Red Raiders have plenty of game experience up front

August 16th, 2019 by Stephen Hargis in Sports - Preps

Baylor's Mekos Baker runs in a catch for a touchdown during a scrimmage against Brainerd at Central High School's Central Memorial Stadium on Tuesday, Aug. 1, in Harrison, Tenn.

Photo by C.B. Schmelter

Head coach: Phil Massey (92-51 in 13 years here; 154-98 overall)

Returning starters: 7 offensive; 7 defensive

Key players: LB Noah Martin (6-1, 215); DT Seth Johnson (6-1, 280); OL Daniel Oliver (6-3, 305); WR-DB Gabriel Stulce (5-11, 175); WR Mekos Baker (6-4, 175); TE-DL Isaiah Golonka (6-3, 230); FS Riley Jenne (6-0, 170); QB Neyland Jean (6-3, 205); RB-DB Elijah Howard (5-11, 175); OL-DL Sam Christensen (6-1, 280).

Baylor quarterback Neyland Jean takes a break with fellow player Friday during a 7 on 7 receivers workout at Baylor.

Baylor quarterback Neyland Jean takes a break with...

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

Team strengths: The Red Raiders have plenty of game experience up front, led by five offensive linemen who started last season, and the secondary has more depth and speed than in the past few years. Oliver is a three-year starter and Johnson is versatile enough to play any position on the offensive front if needed. If Golonka can avoid the injuries that limited him last season, he could be a big-time contributor on either side of the ball.

Team concerns: With the players who missed significant time last year returning from injury and a handful of transfers and newcomers, finding the team chemistry that will translate into consistency will be key.

Breakout candidate: Mykal Jones suffered a torn ACL during preseason last year but looks healthy again and has great vision and versatility to help in the secondary and offensive backfield.

Baylor player Noah Martin (32) gets caught between Pope John Paul II players Brooks Heagarty (26) and Peyton Knight (50) during the Red Raiders' playoff football game against Pope John Paul II High School at Baylor School on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Baylor player Noah Martin (32) gets caught between...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Season outlook: Coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons has brought a renewed determination to the program. Having seven starters back on both sides — plus a few talented junior transfers — should help the Red Raiders rebound.

Martin has two years' starting experience and was the team's leading tackler last year, while Johnson anchors the defensive line. Jenne, who has great speed, led the team in interceptions last year and was second in tackles.

Quarterback Jean transferred in from Franklin County and has the arm strength and athleticism to have a breakout season. Howard, a University of Tennessee commitment who transferred from Knoxville Webb, brings an absolute burner to both sides of the ball, and Christensen — a transfer from Andrews, North Carolina — gives Baylor another big body up front, where depth is always needed to compete in Division II-AAA.

Also, the schedule is more manageable with nonregion games against Brainerd, Central, Chattanooga Christian and Tyner. The Red Raiders will host three of their last four opponents, including rival McCallie.