One of the most popular traditions former Baylor head coach Matt Rhule started was the awarding of single digits to, as my favorite Jerry Hill reported, the “toughest, hardest-working, most-competitive players,” during preseason. Thankfully, second year head coach Dave Aranda ensured that the practice would continue under his reign. The single digits are given based on team votes and aren’t limited to upperclassmen or certain position groups. Last year, the digits from 0-9 were given to WR R.J. Sneed, RB Trestan Ebner, LB Terrel Bernard, CB Raleigh Texada, S Christian Morgan, former QB Charlie Brewer, WR Gavin Holmes, former RB John Lovett, S/LB Jalen Pitre, and WR Tyquan Thornton (I wrote about the distribution here!). This season, we’re seeing many of the same athletes earning single digits yet again and a few new additions working diligently and fervently to receive the honor. The jersey numbers were assigned to No. 0 senior Sneed, No. 1 senior Ebner, No. 2 senior LB Bernard, No. 3 senior Texada, No. 4 senior Morgan, No. 5 Jr. LB Dillon Doyle, No. 6 Jr. Holmes, No. 7 senior RB Abram Smith, No. 8 senior Pitre, and No. 9 senior Thornton. It’s unsurprising to me that the majority of the digits were earned by seniors as this group has stuck around and fought valiantly for victories during some of the most difficult seasons in Baylor Football’s existence. Through many coaching and staff changes, this core saw both great successes and devastating heartbreaks especially within the past few years.
Over the past 4 years Sneed has been one of, if not the most reliable receiver(s), recording 87 catches for 991 yards and 6 TDs, most of which were absolutely improbable and yet somehow ended in completions. Ebner is like a WR/RB hybrid who has been successful playing both roles all four years. He’s had 195 carries for 891 yards and 7 TDs and 99 catches for 1,231 yards and 9 TDs. Ebner added 24 kick returns for 676 yards and 2 TDs and 9 punt returns for 36 yards and 1 TD. When it was unexpectedly his time to step up, Bernard shined and is one of two preseason All-Big 12 selections for the Bears. He’s notched 214 tackles with 19 for a loss of 78 yards, 9 sacks for a loss of 60 yards, 3 interceptions, 7 passes deflected, and 3 fumble recoveries. Texada is another one of the Bears’ returning digit earners and for good reason. In the past 4 seasons he’s listed 108 tackles with 4.5 for a loss of 21 yards, 1 sack for a loss of 9 yards, 3 interceptions, 15 passes deflected, and 2 forced fumbles. Morgan has only played for the last 3 years, but in that time he’s gotten 84 tackles with 3.5 for a loss of 12 yards, 1 sack for a loss of 9 yards, 4 interceptions, 6 passes deflected, 1 forced fumble, and 2 blocks. Doyle is the youngest of the single digit selections and he’s one of 2 new honorees. The transfer made an impact last year with 56 tackles and 2 for a loss of 8 yards, 1 sack for a loss of 3 yards, 1 pass deflected, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery. Although sporadic season-ending injuries stopped him from appearing on the field, Holmes is spending his fifth season with the Bears. In 3 seasons he’s recorded 46 catches for 410 yards and 3 TDs and 2 carries for 1 yard and 1 TD. Smith is the second of the 2 new additions to the single digit squad after his flexibility and versatility has seen him on both ends of the ball. Playing both RB and LB, Smith has 12 carries for 46 yards and 1 TD and 56 tackles with 5 for a loss of 7 yards, 1 sack for a loss of 1 yard, and 1 forced fumble. Pitre is and forever will be Baylor Football’s sweetheart as the one who stayed when all of the other original recruits in his class chose to go elsewhere. Joining Bernard as a preseason All-Big 12, Pitre’s notched 120 tackles with 19.5 for a loss of 72 yards, 4.5 sacks for a loss of 32 yards, 2 interceptions, 5 passes deflected, and 1 forced fumble. Last up of the single digits awardees is my personal favorite Thornton whose sophomore season was stellar though his production has dropped a bit. In the past 3 years, Thornton’s had 81 catches for 1,294 yards and 9 TDs. I’m hoping for an excellent season for all of Baylor Football, but especially for these 10 phenomenal athletes!