During Baylor’s loss to Liberty, Denzel Mims made a series of brutal mistakes. He dropped good throws. He failed to stay in bounds. And perhaps most troubling, he didn’t fight through press coverage, which led to a pick-six that proved the difference in Baylor’s stunning loss to the Flames.
Four weeks later Mims is one of the country’s best wide receivers. A look through his work on the field and off reveals how he’s pulled this off.
The unnoticed start
Mims really struggled at times against Liberty. Anu Solomon finished just 9-for-20 passing against Liberty. Mims did him no favors with that statistic. He dropped a big opportunity along the sideline:
In the second half, Mims had two plays that hurt the Bears. He failed to bring the ball in along the sidelines:
His second mistake was his biggest of the season. He failed to properly fight through this coverage in the 3rd quarter against Liberty. Liberty ran this interception back for a touchdown:
Although Mims made some rough mistakes against Liberty, one thing was obvious: he was getting open. Mims might have made a few mistakes that cost the Bears, but they were only in the game because he was making plays:
Baylor’s biggest struggle has been on the offensive line. The Bears never expected this collection of players to be playing in 2017. But Mims has been able to get open downfield quickly. That helped Solomon in week one:
Mims seemed to show two things in week one. He was getting open like a madman. But he couldn’t make some easy catches. The Bears needed Mims skill getting open to overwhelm his problems with drops. Somehow he’s gotten better at getting open and become a savant at bringing in passes.
After what seemed like an unfathomable loss against Liberty, the Bears lost the next game to UTSA. The Roadrunners started playing football in 2011. Baylor began in 1899. Those two facts weren't lost on many Baylor fans. The week after the UTSA game was awful.
Even during a team’s worst moments, something positive can emerge. And Mims sure did. He had 129 total yards and two receiving touchdowns against UTSA and Duke. The Bears managed just 10 points against the Roadrunners. As awful as that loss was for the Bears, Mims hauled in a touchdown he seemed unlikely to make a week earlier:
Matt Rhule gave Zach Smith the starting job for the Duke game. Smith wowed during hsi freshman season by firing slants to K.D. Cannon and Chris Platt. Against Duke, Smith made a perfect throw to Mims. The sophomore receiver ran a 21.3 200-meter dash in high school. He’s only gotten faster:
As I went into a wedding reception, Baylor was down 14-0 to Oklahoma. The 0-3 Bears seemed like they were on the way to getting blown out by one of the country’s best teams.
As I tried to convince the band to play the Counting Crows hit “Mr. Jones”, Mims was fighting for every yard:
On his next reception, we found out September 23, 2017, is the day Mims became President:
Mims gained a step on Oklahoma’s defense, and if you give Mims a step, he gives your defense a touchdown:
Oklahoma never quite learned about Mims. He ranks 18th nationally in yards per reception:
Mims dropped some easy passes against Liberty. He’s 20. That will happen. But Mims is a kinesiology major, and he’s figured out how to comport himself to make marvelous catches:
Mims finished the Oklahoma game with 11 receptions for 192 yards and three touchdowns. He should have been spent by the end of the game. But when Smith needed to find somebody on 4th and goal, Mims was there:
Still Looking to Improve
Following the Oklahoma game, Baylor announced Chris Platt would be out of the season with a torn ACL.
With Platt out, Mims was going to face a brutal test. Kansas State’s cornerback, D.J. Reed, was named to the All-Big 12 team last season. And Bill Snyder was coming off a bye week. The Wildcats were ready for Mims and seemed to have the answer to shut him down.
The Wildcats did not have the answer to shut Mims down. He nabbed 7 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown:
With how well Mims has played through five games, it’d be easy for him to think he’s done all he needs to do. But he hasn’t. Jerry Hill noted Rhule’s great story, “Denzel Mims got all the receivers and brought them all into my office and said, ‘Hey Coach, what do we need to do to get better.”
Mims statistics and film are incredible. He’s amassed 25 receptions, 533 receiving yards and lead’s the nation with seven touchdown receptions. Mims and Washington are the only receivers in the top 20 in receiving yards, yards per receptions and touchdowns. And Mims is just a true sohomore.
The season has not gone how Baylor fans imagined. But regardless of what anyone thinks about the future of this team, one thing is obvious: Denzel Mims is one of the country’s best wide receivers.