The Baylor Bears started spring practice on March 15 riding a wave of positive momentum.
For one, despite some reported interest from the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts for their coaching vacancy, Matt Rhule is still roaming the Bears’ practice fields. Additionally, Baylor capped off another solid recruiting class in February that ranked fourth overall in the Big 12, according to 247Sports.
So, despite winning just one game a year ago, this isn’t your typical downtrodden program. The youthful Bears can use their spring practices to prepare for a true comeback campaign in the fall.
5 Storylines to Watch During Baylor’s Spring Practice
1. Brewer’s bum shoulder
Rhule has revealed that quarterback Charlie Brewer, who took over as the starter late in the 2017 season, will be limited in spring practices as he recovers from a shoulder injury. Although the injury probably won’t put Brewer’s status as the starter in jeopardy, it will prevent the QB from building chemistry with his offense.
Brewer’s limited availability will give freshman Gerry Bohanon, an early enrollee from Arkansas, an opportunity to familiarize himself with his new playbook and prepare for the possibility that Brewer stumbles in the fall.
2. Youth movement
Given all of the upheaval around the Baylor program in recent years, it comes as no surprise that the Bears will field an exceedingly green team in 2018. In talking about the squad this spring, Rhule has noted that his depth chart is littered with first- and second-year players who will need to contribute this fall.
From a practical standpoint, that might mean a spring session in Waco heavy on teaching and light on refining schemes on either side of the ball. Fortunately for the Bears, Rhule has earned his reputation for coaching fundamental football.
3. Toughening up against the run
On average, opponents gained a shade less than five yards every time they ran the ball versus the Bears last year. That was the worst mark in the Big 12 and put Baylor in a tie for 99th nationally. It had to drive a defensive-minded coach like Rhule nuts to watch his team get pushed around that way.
While the members of the defensive staff are putting the Bears through their paces this spring, expect that stopping the run will be a major point of emphasis.
4. Ball security
Baylor finished last season with a putrid turnover margin of minus-14. In fact, the Bears won the turnover battle in just one of their 12 contests, and their average deficit of 1.17 giveaways per game ranked 124th nationally.
The Bears threw 14 interceptions last season, so coaching the QBs to make better decisions should be high on the spring to-do list. In general, though, the Bears will probably hear a lot about the importance of holding on to the ball in these 15 practices.
5. Establishing order
The ugliness at the end of the Art Briles era at Baylor sent coaches and players scattering from the program. Jim Grobe’s interim season and Rhule’s first year in Waco were subsequently defined by managing to make it through the day and churning within the roster.
Rhule now has a year under his belt. He has had enough time to set a tone with the young players who will lay the foundation for the program under his watch in the long-term.
As such, spring ball in 2018 should finally bring some measure of order and stability to the Baylor program.
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.
(Top photo courtesy of BaylorBears.com)