As the Baylor Bears prepped for their “Friday Night Lights” spring game this past Friday, the focus often seemed singular. Seth Russell had been tabbed by most as the heir to the Art Briles quarterbacking throne, but skeptics still wanted to see if Russell could truly separate himself from the competition.
So as Russell took every single repetition with the first-team offense en route to 345 yards and four touchdowns on 18-of-27 passing, it’s no surprise that the rising junior’s performance drew the bulk of the attention. However, as wide receivers KD Cannon and Corey Coleman quietly–and their version of quietly includes a 65-yard touchdown on a jump-ball Coleman snagged before racing away and a 54-yard score for Cannon–went about their business, it may be safe to say that with these kinds of weapons on the outside, whether it was Russell, Jarret Stidham or Chris Johnson replacing Bryce Petty, the Baylor offense was going to be in good shape.
Briles has a history of prolific passing offenses, and quarterbacks and wide receivers in his system are often the benefactors of the gaudy numbers that come as a byproduct of playing in said system. But KD Cannon and Corey Coleman are a helluva lot more than system receivers.
Cannon was a five-star recruit according to the 247Sports composite ratings, and he has been arguably the most high-profile signing of the Art Briles era at Baylor. Slightly undersized at 6 feet tall and 170 pounds, Cannon makes up for it with speed to take the top off a secondary and exceptional body control.
Meanwhile, Coleman was a highly-touted four-star prospect with offers from across the country before settling on Baylor. Built like a running back at 5’11” and 190 pounds, he’s difficult to bring down in the open field, and he has plenty of speed to pull away from a defense after making a man miss.
What the pair lacks in size, it makes up for in gumption. The wideouts give Baylor the nation’s only returning pair of 1,000-yard receivers. With Coleman and Cannon entering their junior and sophomore years, respectively, there’s reason to believe that the next two seasons (assuming the NFL doesn’t beckon) with Russell at the helm and the pair on his flanks could be better than ever for Baylor’s offense.
That’s saying something when you think about how incredible Petty’s career was in Waco, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Art Briles’ offense as Baylor rises to national prominence (from Robert Griffin III to Nick Florence to Bryce Petty and beyond), it’s that the quarterback is almost interchangeable. Or, at the very least, Briles is such a competent talent evaluator and his system is so adaptable that it just seems that way.
Either way, we seemed fixated on the quarterback battle at Baylor because the position’s prominence adds significant heft to a headline, but every time I see a highlight of Corey Coleman and KD Cannon, I can’t help but think it wouldn’t have mattered either way.
Baylor’s quarterbacks might be the byproduct of a system designed to simplify the decision-making process and put them in a position to be successful, but Baylor’s wide receivers… well… they’re just studs.