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, new 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. The first five jerseys were handed to No. 0 junior WR R.J. Sneed, No. 1 senior RB Trestan Ebner, No. 2 junior LB Terrel Bernard, No. 3 senior CB Raleigh Texada, No. 5 senior QB Charlie Brewer, and No. 7 senior RB John Lovett (who has earned the same number four years in a row). Shortly after in the second round of voting, No. 4 junior S Christian Morgan, No. 6 sophomore WR Gavin Holmes, No. 8 junior S/LB Jalen Pitre, and No. 9 junior WR Tyquan Thornton completed the list of single digits.
All of the awardees have been or will be essential to Baylor football’s success, which is evident in their season stats (and most were in my 5 essential players post). In the past three seasons, Sneed has greatly increased his receiving production, totaling 48 catches for 494 yards and 3 TDs—all of which were recorded in 2019. Ebner is like a WR/RB hybrid who has been successful playing both roles all three years. He recorded 73 catches for 932 yards and 6 TDs (with his longest being an 81 yard grab last season!) and 145 carries for 784 yards and 6 TDs. Bernard wrecked havoc on every offense last year when he replaced LB Clay Johnston (now of the LA Rams) midway through the season and he’s predicted to do even more damage with his starting role at WLB. Over the past three years, Bernard totaled 159 tackles with 12.5 for a loss of 59 yards, 5.5 sacks for a loss of 45 yards, 2 interceptions, 4 passes deflected, and 3 fumble recoveries. Texada hasn’t had a ton of playing time since he arrived at Baylor in 2017, but he’s already notched 79 tackles with 3 for a loss of 11 yards, 2 interceptions, 11 passes deflected, and 1 forced fumble. Morgan has only played for two seasons, but he had 30 tackles with 1.5 for a loss of 2 yards, 1 interception, 2 passes deflected, 1 forced fumble, and 2 blocks. Despite his inconsistencies, Brewer has been fairly efficient over the years, completing a total of 630 passes of 983 attempts for 7,742 yards (with a long of 72 yards) with 51 TDs and 20 interceptions. He also had 345 carries for 885 yards and 18 TDs. Holmes’ stats are uninteresting, but only because he’s played a total of 10 games in his now four years at Baylor due to multiple leg injuries. However, he had 1 carry for 4 yards and 1 TD and 13 catches for 166 yards and 2 TDs in the 9 games he played in in 2017. He’s arguably one of the most exciting players Baylor’s recruited over the past several years, so his return to the field is greatly anticipated. A 4-time earner of one of the single digits, Lovett has been an invaluable asset to the Bears both on the field and off. Since 2017, he totaled 310 carries for 1,673 yards and 16 TDs as well as 20 catches for 134 yards. I’ll never forget his perseverance being basically the only non-depressing part of the 2017 season. Pitre is a Baylor football legend as the only recruit of his class to stick with his commitment to the Bears once everyone else left. He’s recorded 60 tackles with 6.5 for a loss of 23 yards, 2 sacks for a loss of 11 yards, and 1 pass deflected. The last of the single digit receivers is my all-time favorite and a budding star, Thornton. Only an incoming junior, he’s had 65 catches for 1,136 yards and 8 TDs (with a long catch of 78 yards). Considering how many essential players Baylor lost to graduation or the NFL Draft, these 10 will be vital to the Bears’ success in 2020!