There was an element of surprise when the Baylor Bears’ 2021 starting QB, Gerry Bohannon, entered the transfer portal earlier this year. Whilst the QB battle in Waco was well publicised, Bohannon had led Dave Aranda’s men to the Big 12 Championship for the first time since 2014.

Bohannon’s departure is testament to just how highly Aranda and the Bears’ coaching staff rate new starter, Blake Shapen. 

A former three-star recruit from Louisiana, Shapen saw meaningful action in three games in 2021 as he filled in for the injured Bohannon in the Bears’ final games of the season. The most impressive of those performances came in the Big 12 Championship game, as Baylor beat Oklahoma State 28-23 thanks to Shapen’s 82% completion rate, three touchdowns and 171.5 passer rating.

In a conference that is currently going through a transition period, the 2021 Bears did well to establish themselves as one of the teams to beat. They’ll be desperate to continue that in 2022 with a new-look offense. Gone are Bohannon, star receiver Tyquan Thornton and running back tandem Trestan Ebner and Abram Smith. That shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as a bad thing by Baylor fans, with Shapen supported by former four-star RB, Taye McWilliams, and a hell of a lot of speed in WRs Monaray Baldwin and Javon Gipson.

So what does Shapen bring to the table?

When asked about the decision to go with Shreveport native as his starter, Aranda didn’t hold back on the praise:

“When I think of Blake and just his ability as a thrower to read coverages, to anticipate looks, maybe it’s off of fronts, that this is the corresponding coverage, maybe it’s off personnel or alignments, I think he’s talented in that manner. I think his arm is strong. I think his delivery can be unique. And I think he creates openings for himself that maybe others don’t.”

Obviously his Head Coach is going to be nothing but positive, but it’s a huge testament to Shapen’s progress in two years (one blighted by COVID restrictions) that he’s gone from the 747th rated player in the nation to the starting QB of the reigning Big 12 Champions.

Despite the good performance against Oklahoma State, it is perhaps Baylor’s win over Texas Tech that showcases the young QB’s talents. Shapen looked calm in the pocket, throwing with anticipation and showing off impressive accuracy at all levels. There is clearly a little improvement needed when it comes to making reads, once every couple of drives the young signal caller tends to lock onto a receiver and force it – against the Red Raiders this almost cost him with Rayshad Williams dropping a simple interception opportunity.

The most helpful thing that Baylor could have done for their new starter was cement his position long before the season started. Evidently the Bears have done this, and if Shapen continues to develop on the same trajectory he may just repay that faith and then some.

By Andy Moore – @ajmoore21  

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