Football begins spring practice on a blank slate

THE BOYS ARE BACK AT IT AGAIN Baylor football began practice this past Saturday, marking the first ever practice for newly hired head football coach Matt Rhule and the rest of his staff. Baylor plays their annual spring game on April 22. Photo credit: Liesje Powers

By Ben Everett | Sports Writer

Baylor football opened spring practice on Saturday, ushering in the first year of new head coach Matt Rhule‘s era in the program.

In his opening statement, Rhule said the players have a great attitude so far, but there is still work to be done.

“Everyone had a great attitude,” Rhule said. “Everyone is not where we want them to be mentally, even at this point, but they’re working toward getting there. So, I was excited about that, but I want to see some crispness.”

A key headliner going into spring is the quarterback competition between returning sophomore Zach Smith and graduate transfer Anu Solomon.

Rhule says he’s excited to see them finally throw the ball.

“The one thing we haven’t seen is our guys throw and catch the ball, so it will be nice to see our guys throw and catch. It will be the first time I’ve seen Zach Smith or Anu or Preston (Heard) or any of those guys throw a football. So, it will be a welcome change.”

Rhule also emphasized the importance of practice, saying that the only way to get better is with practice.

“It’s where you learn how to compete,” Rhule said Saturday morning. “People say, `Do your job.’ You have to learn how to do your job, so you have to do it under stress. Practice is where we learn how to do our job under stress. Those techniques, those details we teach them in the meetings-we perfect them on the practice field. I love the process.”

The Bears have seven returning starters on offense from the 7-6 team that won the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl, giving co-offensive coordinators Jeff Nixon and Glenn Thomas plenty to work with.

Nixon says he is pleased with the level of talent and the depth he has seen so far from the offensive players.

“We think we have a lot of talent here at Baylor University on the offensive side of the ball,” Nixon said. “There’s going to be a lot of competition at every position — offensive line, wide receivers, running backs, tight ends. So it’s just going to be good to get them out there, evaluate them, have them compete. Everyone’s jockeying for a starting position or backup position. And like I said, it’s just going to be great to finally get them out there and see what they can do.”

As for defense, new defensive coordinator Phil Snow, who followed Rhule to Baylor from Temple University, will have six returning starters.

Snow says the defense will run with multiple units and that they are trying to get as many players on the field as possible.

“I’ve told them we’re judging them on what they’re doing now. So we’re going to give everybody reps in spring. We play 18 to 25 every game, which is not typical of what they’ve done here. The reason we do that is because you can’t play all the plays we play on defense now with one group. Hopefully, we have two, two and half groups that can play, and we keep them fresh.”

Spring practice will resume until April 22 when the team will play in the annual spring game.