Head Coach: Matt Rhule (1-11)
2017 Record: 1-11
Offensive Scheme: Spread
Defensive Scheme: 3-4 Base
Key Offensive Losses: QB Zach Smith (Transfer), RB Terence Williams (Transfer)
Key Defensive Losses: Taylor Young
Depth No Longer An Issue
Matt Rhule was handed the most difficult task of any coach in the Big 12. Take a Baylor team that was a year removed from a massive scandal, with a roster decimated by transfers, and win immediately. There’s not a coach in the country who could have guided the Bears to a bowl season in 2017, so most folks are giving Rhule a pass for last year and focusing on 2018 as the year the rebuilding begins.
There are still plenty of obstacles for Rhule to overcome in 2018 but depth won’t be one of them. After throwing multiple underclassmen in the fire the Bears return most of their passing, rushing, and receiving yards from 2017. The offensive line returns 82 career starts and on the defensive side of the ball there’s a ton of returning talent as well.
With the bulk of last year’s production returning again in 2018, Rhule now has the luxury of using this year’s crop of recruits to establish much needed depth.
|2017 Offensive Leaders|
|Charlie Brewer||1,562||John Lovett||445||Denzel Mims||1,087|
Baylor’s offensive line allowed the fourth-most tackles per loss per game of any offense in the country. Not only were the Bears limited in rushing because the line couldn’t generate enough push, they also suffered through 38 quarterback sacks.
Clemson transfer Jake Fruhmorgen could be one of the possible solutions up front. He, along with UCF transfer Christian Beard, and JUCO transfer Johncarlo Valentin will join two-year starters Blake Blackmar and Pat Lawrence to revamp Baylor’s battle effort in the trenches.
|2017 Offensive Stastics|
The Big 12 is known widely as a pass-happy conference but the truth of the matter is that offensive balance is king and in order to achieve that you have to run the football. That was Baylor’s biggest struggle in 2017 and it fixing it has to be the biggest priority as the season approaches.
John Lovett will be the focal point of Baylor’s rushing attack but he’ll also be joined by JaMycal Hasty in the backfield with sophomore Trestan Ebner, redshirt freshmen Dru Dixon and Abram Smith, and true freshman Craig Williams looking for their opportunities as well.
Sophomore quarterback Charlie Brewer took the reigns of the offense last season and, barring a late summer push from NC State transfer Jalan McClendon, he should be the man under center again this fall.
The receiving targets are certainly there and should be just as dangerous as you would expect Big 12 receivers to be. Denzel Mims had a 61-catch sophomore season and Chris Platt was averaging over 25 yards per catch, with five touchdowns, through the first four games before going down with a knee injury. Add former Tennessee running back turned receiver Jalen Hurd and some star power from this year’s recruiting class and you quickly find out that Baylor receiving corps is the strength of the offense.
|2018 Baylor Schedule|
|September 1||Abilene Christian|
|September 8||at UTSA|
|September 29||at Oklahoma|
|October 6||Kansas State|
|October 13||at Texas|
|October 25||at West Virginia|
|November 3||Oklahoma State|
|November 10||at Iowa State|
|November 24||Texas Tech|
|2017 Defensive Leaders|
|Taylor Young||60||Ira Lewis||5.5||Harrison Hand
As bad as Baylor’s rushing attack was on offense last year, their pass rush on defense may have been even worse. The Bears were 11th in the nation in total defense last year and as a team they only nabbed three interceptions. The pass rush wasn’t the only culprit in the defensive woes. The secondary consistently failed to provide adequate coverage…or even tackling for that matter. Opposing quarterbacks completed 70%, or better, of their pass attempts six times against the Bears last season.
|2017 Defensive Stats|
The good news is that defensive coordinator Phil Snow has returning talent to work with, but it’s the same talent that struggled a year ago. The hope that increased, and developed, depth will breed better competition during camp and ultimately produce a better product on the field.
Texas A&M transfer James Lockhart will join Ira Lewis and James Lynch on what is expected to be an improved defensive line.
Much like Baylor’s defensive backs, a slew of underclassmen played big roles in the linebacker position and that’s expected to pay dividends this fall. Jordan Williams, Jalen Pitre, and Clay Johnston are all returning to the position with the expectation of Johnson being the star.
Verkedric Vaughns will lead a secondary unit that must show rapid improvement from a year ago. There’s experience here as the Bears return three players to that position group, but their overall 2017 production was underwhelming.
Like every other position group on the field, Baylor experienced a youth movement on special teams in 2017. Drew Galitz was averaging 45.2 yards per punt last season before being sidelined with a knee injury. He’ll return this fall along with kicker Connor Martin, kickoffs specialists Jay Sedwick.
Look for the effort to improve here to come in the return game.