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Daily Bears Report 12/8

“The Swat” Baylor Lady Bears’ Lauren Cox makes a monster block. New Baylor Head Football Coach Matt Rhule Press Conference Video. Bryce Petty to start the last four Jets’ games.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Baylor at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The Swat

An Army of One: Baylor's Lone 2017 Commit Jalen Pitre Staying Loyal to Bears

By Damon Sayles, National Recruiting Analyst - Complete story at BleacherReport

He’s seen recruits come and go, coaches depart following scandal and administrators resign. He's been asked frequently what his next steps are, almost as if the inquisitive expect him to change his mind about his college plans.

It's been a sad reality of Jalen Pitre's recruiting process. As the lone 2017 commit to Baylor, much of it is expected. What may be unexpected to some is Pitre, a 3-star safety from Stafford, Texas, is solid with his pledge.

Rock-solid. Regardless of all the outside news.

"It's been a bumpy road, but it has been a good experience for me," said the 5'11", 195-pound Pitre. "I feel like I'm making the right decision with Baylor."

Football Reigned in Under the Rhules

Matt Rhule one on one with John Morris
  • Baylor University began the next chapter of its football program Wednesday at the Ferrell Center with the introduction of Matt Rhule as the school’s 27th head coach. WacoTrib has this story.

Fans were eager to welcome him after a 2016 that saw the team’s coach and athletic director — Art Briles and Ian McCaw — gone after a sexual assault scandal.

"We are truly honored to stand here with you and to stand here as the head coach of Baylor," Rhule said. "I promise to take care of this program that belongs to so many of you, and I’m so grateful that you would trust me with this tremendous team and tremendous group of young men."

Rhule followed interim President David Garland and Athletic Director Mack Rhoades on the podium to address regents, administrators, coaches, student-athletes, fans and media. A crowd of at least 1,500 attended.

Rhoades spoke of meetings he had with the football team’s leadership to discuss qualities they wanted in the next coach.

"We used the L-word. We used love," Rhoades said. "Somebody that was going to love them. Love them as a football player, but love them as a person. Somebody that is extremely demanding, that is going to push our student-athletes — our young men — to be the best that they can be in everything we do."

And he sounded like it at times, too, bringing some of the same passion and fire that I’m sure his dad, Denny, has brought as a minister and coach himself.

Complete with the Golden Wave Band and Baylor spirit squad, the 41-year-old Rhule was introduced as the Bears’ 27th head football coach at a campus celebration Wednesday afternoon at the Ferrell Center that attracted an estimated crowd of 2,000.

"You saw who he is," said Mack Rhoades, Baylor’s Vice President and Director of Athletics. "That’s the real Matt Rhule. He’s as genuine a person as you’re going to meet. That’s why he resonates with people, that’s why he resonates with all walks of life. He’ll resonate with Texas high school football coaches, he’ll resonate with donors, he’ll resonate with people across campus, just all walks of Life. He’s genuine."

Rhule even called his hiring at Baylor a "calling."

  • With three first-team and a second-team selection, Baylor football had four players honored on the All-Big 12 teams. From Baylor Bears dot com.

Wide receiver KD Cannon, center Kyle Fuller, and defensive end K.J. Smith represented Baylor on the 30-member All-Big 12 first team, while defensive back Patrick Levels earned a spot on the 30-member second team.

The Bears have now had four or more selections in nine straight years, including the fourth consecutive season with three or more first-team honorees.

Selections are made by the league's 10 head coaches, who are not permitted to vote for their own players.

A third-year veteran wideout and the team’s most experienced receiver, Cannon carries a Big 12-leading 37-game streak with at least one caught pass, making a reception in every game of his collegiate career. The junior has been the go-to big play threat, hauling in 11 touchdown catches this season and 25 in his career, moving into a tie for fifth on Baylor’s all-time single-season list and sole possession of fourth on the career list. Logging 73 receptions for 989 yards in the 2016 season, Cannon moved into sixth on Baylor’s single-season receptions list. The Mount Pleasant, Texas, product paces the Big 12 in receptions/game (6.6) and is fourth in receiving yards/game (89.9), while his 11 touchdown receptions rank third among the conference’s receivers.

The only returning starter from the 2015 offensive line, Fuller has been the cornerstone of the 2016 unit, starting all 12 games this season and all 38 games over the last three years. Through 11 games, the senior center from Wylie, Texas, led the front line with an average coaches grade of 89.1 and 57 knockdowns. Having already accepted a Senior Bowl invitation and earning a spot on the Sporting News Midseason All-America first team, Fuller additionally earned honorable mention recognition for the 2016 Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year.

A junior defensive end making his first impact as a consistent starter, Smith has started all 12 games for the Bears, logging 63 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, and 6.0 sacks. The Frisco, Texas, native has also logged a forced fumble and seven hurries in the 2016 season. His 0.50 sacks/game rank eighth-most among Big 12 defenders, while his tally of 10.5 tackles for loss are ninth best in the conference.

As a fifth-year senior and an electric playmaker, Levels has taken full advantage of his first opportunity as a starter, with his, what the coaching staff coined as, "destructive" style of play landing the "Bear" linebacker in the No. 2 spot in all of the FBS and Big 12-leading four fumble recoveries, while also leading the conference with 0.27 forced fumbles/game. The Dallas, Texas, product has recorded 84 tackles, including 12.0 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries.

2016 Baylor All-Big 12 First Team
Honorable Mention

Bill Whitaker: Former Baylor AD Ian McCaw’s hiring only bolsters call for independent BU investigation - From WacoTrib.

If anything strongly bolsters the Bears for Leadership Reform case for an independent investigation of Baylor University regents’ handling of the sexual-assault scandal that has sadly come to define the Christian campus for some, it’s Liberty University’s Nov. 28 hiring of former Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw. National media immediately pounced, questioning the prudence of the nation’s largest evangelical university, given that pending litigation questioning McCaw’s department oversight remains to be resolved.Such skepticism is understandable. Liberty’s main press statement highlights the best of McCaw’s 13-year Baylor tenure, including five national titles, 58 Big 12 championships and six consecutive bowl games, while seemingly ignoring serious allegations that he overlooked incidents of sexual violence on his watch. Baylor regents have told The Wall Street Journal that 17 Baylor women reported sexual or domestic assaults involving 19 football players between 2011 and 2015.

But Liberty leadership anticipated the backlash. On Nov. 29, it released answers from its noted president, Jerry Falwell Jr., regarding McCaw’s hiring: "We communicated with people he worked with at Baylor, including regents who heard everything the investigating law firm has to say about what happened at Baylor. We conducted a background investigation and checked with other sources, including former head coach and athletic director Grant Teaff, who is still well connected at Baylor and served as the executive director of the American Football Coaches Association in Waco.

"Of course, we spoke openly and directly with Ian McCaw about the situation at Baylor," Falwell added. "And we reviewed what can be found in the public record. We are completely satisfied that Ian McCaw is a good man and a great athletic director."

Jets to Start Bryce Petty at Quarterback for the Remaining Four Games - From Sporting News dot com.

The New York Jets were officially eliminated from playoff contention Monday and are going to see what they have in second-year quarterback Bryce Petty.

Jets coach Todd Bowles said following Monday's 41-10 home loss to the Indianapolis Colts that Petty would start the remaining four games of the season.

The former Baylor quarterback came out for the Jets' first offensive series of the second half of Monday's game, but the Colts already held a 31-3 lead. Fitzpatrick was just 5 of 12 for 81 yards and an interception. Petty wasn't much better, finishing 11 of 25 for 135 yards with a late touchdown and two interceptions while consistently missing his receivers. He's probably not the answer at quarterback, either, but the Jets are going to see what he can do.

Meanwhile at Saturday’s Men’s Basketball Game

While attending the Xavier Musketeers’ game against Baylor on Saturday in the Ferrell Center, Bill Murray took the time to sing Happy Birthday to a woman turning 94. Here’s a link to the video and the story.