Football

2018 Preseason Preview: Baylor Bears

I’ts the Bears.

1. Quick Facts

TEAM: Baylor
MASCOT: Bears
2017 RECORD: 1-11 (1-8)
HEAD COACH: Matt Rhule
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Jeff Nixon and Glenn Thomas
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Phil Snow
STARTERS LOST: Offense 3; Defense 3
STARTERS RETURNING: Offense 9; Defense 9
LOCATION: AT&T Stadium; Arlington, Texas
GAME ON TEXAS TECH’S SCHEDULE: Twelth game on November 24th

2. Difference Makers

QB Charlie Brewer (6-1/190): Brewer had a really nice season for a true freshman, passing for 1,562 yards with a 68% completion percentage with 11 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Brewer’s biggest drawback is his yards per attempt, 6.6 yards per attempt, which will almost assuredly get better this year and as Brewer is more comfortable with the offense.

WR Jalen Hurd (6-4/217): Hurd is a transfer from Tennessee and he was originally a running back who ran for 451 yards on 122 carries for 3.7 yards per carry and 3 touchdowns. He also caught 10 passes for 81 yards and 2 touchdowns out of the backfield. Hurd was a 4-star recruit for Tennessee and his transfer is supposed to be a huge deal. He’s moved to a receiver spot and from all accounts, he’s supposed to be a dude. I know that I really probably should have included Denzel Mims as he is a 1,000+ yard receiver who had 8 touchdowns last year, and he was very good, but wanted to focus on a guy that maybe you had not heard of.

LB Clay Johnston (6-1/220): The defense was in a rough spot last year and Johnston had 44 tackles, 9 tackles for a loss, 1 sack, 9 run stuffs, and 1 forced fumble. You could also add DT Ira Lewis to one of the top players and he had 11.5 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks, which is great for a defensive tackle.

S Verkedric Vaughns (5-10/193): Vaughns is a little undersized for a safety (not in weight) but had 36.5 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 1 sack, 3 run stuffs, and 2 pass break-ups last year. The tackles for Baylor were very much spread over a handful of folks, there wasn’t one singular dominant player.

3. Coaches Corner

This is Rhule’s second year as the head coach obviously, last year was a real struggle for Baylor. I still tend to think he’s a good coach and I still don’t know about Rhule’s dalliance with the Colts during the offseason and I know he’s explained it as being just something he looked at and honestly, he’d be crazy not to take a look.

Snow is in his second year as the defensive coordinator for Baylor and he’s got a great track record, but last year was rough by just about every metric. The thing you constantly read about Snow is that he likes to be aggressive in his play-calling, but that obviously hasn’t resulted in a terrific defense. Not that this is some sort of 2+2=4 and it won’t ever change, but we just don’t know that Snow’s methodology will work in the Big 12. That book just hasn’t been written yet.

On the offensive side of things, Jeff Nixon is a professional guy for the most part, so it’s odd that he’s come to Baylor after spending in the NFL for so many years. I don’t know that Baylor has a ton of professional concepts, but I also haven’t studied it that closely and thought that it was “spread-ish” for the most part. Glenn Thomas was at Temple before coming along with Rhule and Thomas is the Texas Tech grad on the staff, graduating in 1998 and working as a student assistant for 3 years before embarking on that coaching sojourn. Thomas spent 7 years in the NFL before getting to Temple and that is interesting to see Baylor with guys that are at least quasi-NFL guys.

4. Advanced Stats

I was expecting the offense to be a bit better, or maybe not have such a dramatic drop-off. I get that they had a ton of issues with player retention and it took a while to decide on a quarterback last year. The offense was uneven at best and Texas Tech probably saw the absolute best that the offense was last year at the end of the season. Not that everyone was healthy, but the Bears seemed okay on offense at the end of the year.

Offense Defense
S&P+ 85th 111th
Efficiency 127th 94th
Explosiveness 12th 108th
Field Position 116th 121st
Finishing Drives 109th 74th

5. Game Thoughts

Offensively, Baylor really should improve, they return a handful of guys at receiver and running back and the offensive line last year was a patch-work of pieces that should probably get a reset this year and whatever happened on the line is forgotten. Defensively, I don’t know that Baylor improves like I think the offense will. It’s just difficult to remake a defense and it takes a significant amount of time (Texas Tech fans know this) plus talent. As I wrote earlier in the week, I don’t know what these teams will be by the end of the year and generally, Texas Tech and Baylor are being picked to be at the back-end of the conference predictions, just ahead of Kansas. The question will be if either one of these teams will surprise and be better than what they’ve been predicted to be in the preseason.

Disclaimer: To any Baylor fans, I’m not a Baylor expert, just trying to learn and educate myself as much as I can over the course of writing this post.

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