Tape It Up: Baylor: Capitalizing on Opportunity

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Baylor: Capitalizing on Opportunity

It is the mantra of most coaches that players will not lose their starting spots on account of injury, but that doesn't stop backup players from doing everything they can to make life very difficult for the starters biding their time on the bench. At Baylor, the number of would-be starters sidelined by injury in steadily growing, and as expected, backups are taking advantage accordingly.

Six players are down in Waco with injuries of varying severity, and several more are being kept out of certain portions of workouts as a precautionary measure.

Wide receivers Mikail Baker, Thomas White and David Gettis are all being kept off the field during team situations due to sore leg muscles (hamstring, quad and hamstring, respectively) and freshman wide out Krys Buerck's hammy kept him out of the entirety of Friday's workout. White is the only returning starter in the receiving corps, so there was already plenty of competition among the younger guys for the three remaining starting spots. WIth four wide outs now left to look on from the bench, some of the pressure is lifted from the younger pass catchers still healthy on the field, as they are getting more reps in team situations and more time to show coaches what they've got.

But they know their time in the limelight won't last forever.

"With all the wide outs down we may just work on the run game," head coach Guy Morriss said regarding Saturday's practice. "We'll talk about that tomorrow and what exactly we are going to do once we see what the personnel situation is. We'll see who can go and adjust it according to that."

At quarterback, one man's injury is another man's elation. Sophomore quarterback Blake Szymanski missed practice on Friday with a right ankle sprain, giving juco transfer John David Weed an opportunity to shine. Weed took most of the snaps during the team practice and Morriss was pleased with the junior's production.

"He did a good job, that was good to see," Morriss said. "He's got a wing, hasn't he?"

Senior Michael Machen, who transfered to Baylor as the fourth stop on his tour de college, was equally pleased to have Szymanski off his feet. As this will be Machen's final elibile season (pending any gifts from the NCAA), the heat is on for him to beat out Weed and Szymanski and earn the starting spot on this rebuilding Bears' team.

As for Szymanski, he is used to the rollercoaster ride on which injuries often send quarterbacks, wilingly or otherwise. When starting quarterback Shawn Bell was lost for the final three games of last season with a knee injury, Szymanski was called in to take over under center. The problem was, he didn't do so hot. His struggles last season made him the underdog coming into this year's competition for the starting spot, so he can't really afford to lose any more time off of his feet. Once he gets back to practice, Szymanski's going to have to step up his game, and quickly, if he hopes to be in the huddle on September 1.

The offensive line was also missing two key contributors on Friday with tackle Thad Boatner out with a strained right knee and center Ricky Hasoon out with a back injury. A left ankle sprain kept senior defensive end Geoff Nelson off the field and freshman linebacker Chris Francis sat out with a strained left knee.

Given the tough competition Baylor faces on a yearly basis as a member of the Big 12 South, the Bears need as many healthy bodies as possible if they are to continue to make progress toward a winning season (Baylor has increased its conference win total by one game in each of the last three seasons, culminating in a 3-5 mark in 2006). However minor these dings may be, having any number of eligible players off the field and on the bench is bad news for these Bears.

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