Dec 1, 2012; Waco, TX, USA; Baylor Bears offensive tackle Cyril Richardson (68) defends against the Oklahoma State Cowboys defensive rush during the game at Floyd Casey Stadium. The Bears defeated the Cowboys 41-34. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Players to Watch – Baylor Bears

The past three seasons the Bears have been the darling much of the season in large part to the Robert Griffith III legacy but the Bears proved last year they are not just a flash in the pan. Art Briles has built a program that is now at the top third of the Big 12 and looking to take the next step with the addition of two good recruiting classes and explosive players on both sides of the ball. The Bears are once again moving to another quarterback to run their explosive offense but return a strong core of players up front as well as Lache Sestrunk in the backfield.

#68 – Cyril Richardson – OG
6’5” – 335 lbs. – SR

The Bears offense ranked second nationally in total offense with 572 yards per game with 231 yards per game on the ground. Richardson is a returning Second Team All American and Big 12 Lineman of the Year for the Bears upfront. He has played in 38 career games at Baylor with 29 of those starts which in the 2011 season started all 13 games at left tackle.

Strengths – Richardson is a downhill blocker with plenty of power behind his massive punch. He can dominate the inside once his hands are on a defensive player. He has good feet for his size that allow him to pull and turn up field where he displays good awareness by keeping his head up while turning to find the second level. He comes off the ball very well and explodes with his hands and feet at the same time using his thick frame and power.

Weaknesses – Richardson played left tackle in the 2011 season and his weaknesses showed during this season. He was a formidable player but is very stiff in the hips with very little ability to bend versus edge rushers. When attacking the second level, he has a tendency to lunge before contact allowing smaller defenders the ability to avoid the block. He needs to work on keeping in his pass drop with his head up and arms extended.

Overall – Richardson has one thing that you can’t teach and that is size. He is a massive man at 6’5” and 335 lbs. with the power to go along with the size. During workouts, Richardson has put up 32 reps on the 225 pound bench as well as squatting 665 pounds. Richardson needs to loosen his hips and become better in pass protection but will be a great fit in a power blocking scheme at the next level.

#44 – Bryce Hager – MLB
6’2” – 235 lbs. – JR

In Hager’s first year as a starter, he led the Big 12 in tackles with 9.5 per game finishing with 124 tackles, four sacks, and two forced fumbles. He was named First Team All-Big 12 by the coaches. Looking to build on a successful sophomore year, Hager is the quarterback of the Bears defense and has good genetics as his Dad was an All-American at Texas and played with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Strengths – Hager has a high football IQ and is in the right position on each play. He does a great job of reading the play and reacting with great feet to come forward or backwards in pass coverage. Hager tackles through the ball carrier where he sinks his hips, wraps up, and drives missing very few tackles. He does a great job of dropping into pass coverage with his head on a swivel and picking up potential receivers that are coming into his area.

Weakness – Even though Hager is at 235 lbs., he tends to be blown back at point of contact by running backs when attacking downhill. He needs to add upper body strength to go with his powerful lower body. At times in pass coverage, he will get caught flat footed after initial drop which slows down his reaction once the ball is thrown.

Overall – Hager is a year away from coming out, but if he has another big year he could make the jump. He is the catalyst of the Bears defense that plays an aggressive style of play leaving Hager on an island in the middle of the field often. He displayed great lower body strength by squatting 610 pounds and timed at a 4.49 40-yard dash. Expect Hager to build on his successful 2012 campaign and be in National talks as top linebacker in the nation.

Tags: Baylor Bears Football Big 12 Bryce Hager Cyril Richardson Featured Middle Linebackers Offensive Lineman Popular