No matter how bad many of us thought this season would go, none of us saw it starting this way. Fan reaction has ranged the gamut. Many are ready to give up on the new administration. Others are ready to give up on those that want to give up on the season. With takes flying, here are mine.
We underestimated how tough this would be:
How good was Baylor last season? That starts the framework for how good Baylor should be this year. The Bears started 6-0, then they finished the regular season 0-6. The common reaction to the great start and awful finish was that the lame duck coaching staff stopped trying after earning bowl bonuses. Or the staff stopped caring after some of the Friday news dumps. Or maybe the players became overwhelmed by everything and stopped trying as hard.
There could be some truth to everything. But it’s also possible Baylor’s problems last season were caused by the team being a lot worse than they were in 2015. During the 6-0 start, the Bears were tied 6-6 at halftime against SMU. They went scoreless in the first quarter against a Rice team that went 3-9. They trailed by 14 in the fourth quarter in Ames. And of the first six wins, the victory against Oklahoma State was the only one against a team that made a bowl game.
But even if you believe that the team was more talented than their record (and I think they were), the 2017 Bears are missing quite a lot of the 2016 team. Shock Linwood is out of eligibility. Terence Williams and JaMycal Hasty are injured. K.D. Cannon and Ish Zamora decided to leave early, and the Bears didn’t have a consistent third target last year. Byron Bonds retired. Travon Blanchard, Aiavion Edwards, Patrick Levels, Ryan Reid, Orion Stewart and Tion Wright are gone. The line no longer has Kyle Fuller, Josh Pelzel, Sean Muir or Dom Desouza.
Now the Bears are playing several guys early and several guys out of position. The Bears have played fifteen true freshmen, and that includes Ryan Miller as the starting center. There are some talented freshmen, but in a perfect situation many of them would play at 20, not 18. Texas landed Patrick Hudson, who was Baylor’s best 2016 signee. He’s in his second year in the program, and he’s not even starting. But at Baylor he’d play just about every snap. Add in Blake Lynch playing corner, Verkedric Vaughns playing safety, Sam Tecklenburg playing offensive line, and we’ve just started to discuss the lineup changes caused by injuries.
But the Bears are making some bad mistakes:
The defense was bad against Liberty. The Flames converted 10 straight first downs and a man named Buckshot looked like he’d take Sam Darnold’s spot in New York for the Heisman Trophy. Too many players looked like they didn’t know where they were supposed to be on defense. With so many position changes, the Bears should have considered simplifying things in week one.
This week the offense was terrible. The line couldn’t pass block, and Anu Solomon—after playing very well in week one—had his worst college game. The team tried to establish running outside the tackles, but that dream continued to die.
Baylor has also struggled with personnel and connections. The Bears have burned timeouts with players out of position. They’ve had delay of game penalties on kickoffs. And the receivers and Solomon often have differences of opinion over what the route should be.
Two things seem true: We all overestimated how good Baylor should be, but Baylor should be better than this.
The players and coaches deserve support:
Taylor Young graduated and could have transferred. He chose to stay. Brian Nance could have finished his career somewhere else, but he worked hard and is back. Davion Hall can’t catch a break with injuries. He came back in week two and was a monster making solo tackles. Chris Platt gives everything when he’s on the field. He’s also one of the most thoughtful guys off the field. Ish Wainright stayed at Baylor to learn a new game. There may be no better athletic representative for the school than Wainright. All these guys are still here. If you’re a fan of the team, they deserve your support.
Matt Rhule chose Baylor over Oregon. He seems like an excellent man, and his comments have all been encouraging. Other members of the staff gave up the opportunity to coach in the NFL or lead high school teams with great chances to win state championships. After two rough weeks, nobody needs to be discussing buyouts.
It’s fine to criticize or ask questions though:
Nobody is infallible. The staff is trying to implement a new offense and defense. They’ve lost to Liberty and UTSA. Things are not going well.
When anyone is in a tail-spin, and all of us have been, everything should be on the table. Are the Bear’s practicing too hard and is that causing too many injuries? Should the Bears embrace tempo and keep spreading the field? Should the Bears just pick an offense and actually line up in the I-formation and slow it down? Should the defense blitz more and simplify things? Why are the Bears making basic personnel mistakes and burning timeouts?
There are a host of other questions. Some of those could be dismissed easily and may not be big problems. But when a team that won the Big 12 in 2013 and 2014 is now losing to Liberty and UTSA, it’s incumbent to evaluate what’s going wrong and what’s necessary to win.
It might be time for a QB change:
If I made the decision, I would start Zach Smith next week. I said before the season that I thought Smith should be the starter. He played well at the end of last season and has a monster arm. I think he’d give the Bears the best opportunity to take advantage of deep balls to Platt and quick strikes to other receivers.
Plenty of folks thought Anu Solomon should be the starter, and there was an excellent case for him. He was fantastic before getting injured at Arizona. He also moves well, which is a big advantage with an offensive line that has not been good. I also thought he was very good in week one.
The tie-breaker for me is that the Bears need to look toward the future. Solomon will not be here next year. Smith could be the guy the next two years. The Bears should not give up on the season and only play young guys, but when it’s close, I’d start getting younger guys playing time.
Regardless of what happens, Solomon should have everyone’s respect. With the injuries he’s suffered, he could have retired from football. He chose to come to Baylor with no guarantee of playing time and won the job. He had a bad game against UTSA, but he’s giving everything he’s got:
The vast majority of Baylor fans will remind you why you’re a Baylor fan:
This could take a while. I still think Matt Rhule is going to win here. I predicted he’d start 13-13 at Baylor. But I think the next two years are going to feature way more losses than that.
Some Baylor fans are going to react to the next two years in terrible ways. From saying vile things to probably recycling that played out pallbearer joke, there will be some moments that will make us cringe.
But again, it’s okay to have a difference of opinion on something. If you’re convinced Baylor’s new staff can’t win here, it’s fine to say that. If you’re convinced those people are wrong, it’s fine to say that too. It’s easy to get along with everyone when the team is 11-1. Things aren’t so easy if the team finishes 1-11.
Whatever happens, I’m still proud to be a graduate of Baylor and root for this team. There are so many good people that fit either of those categories. That’s the main reason I keep watching. And it’s the main reason that no matter what, I will always say: Sic ‘Em Bears!