No quarterback? No problem

Senior quarterback Seth Russell takes off a quarterback keeper in 49-7 win over Kansas on Oct. 15. Photo credit: Jessica Hubble

Ben Everett | Sports Writer

Quarterback is arguably the most important position in football. With just a few weeks until its season opener, Baylor has yet to name its starting quarterback.

Three players are vying for the coveted spot: freshman Charlie Brewer, sophomore Zach Smith and senior transfer Anu Solomon.

Co-offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Glenn Thomas said drawing out the competition to the start of the season is positive and forces the players to always be ready.

“I don’t think there’s any negative to that,” Thomas said. “It keeps everybody on their toes every day. You can’t have a day where you’re not your sharpest, where you’re not studying, where you’re not out early preparing.”

Tension and animosity are expected in competition for a job, but Thomas says all three potential quarterbacks are supportive of each other.

“They’re doing well,” Thomas said. “[I’m] extremely proud of them both on and off the field. They’re very supportive of each other. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Solomon, a graduate transfer from Arizona and native of Kalihi, Hawaii, started three straight years for the Wildcats, totaling 6,922 passing yards and 49 touchdowns.

After suffering a knee injury that shortened his season to five games in 2016, Solomon says he is completely healed and ready to compete for the Bears.

“I’m very comfortable,” Solomon said. “I feel like Anu Solomon. I’m healed. I’m 100 percent. I’m ready to go.”

With three years of playing experience in the PAC-12 conference, Solomon brings veteran leadership and a different perspective to the table. Smith said Solomon’s presence has been helpful to the younger quarterbacks.

“I think it helps a lot,” Smith said. “He’s got a lot of wisdom, he’s a great guy and he’s been in a lot of different situations. He’s going to push me and Charlie [Brewer] to be the best quarterbacks we can be.”

Smith started the last four games for the Bears in 2016, following an injury to starter Seth Russell. Smith also led the Bears to a 31-12 victory over Boise State in the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl. However, last season, Baylor ran an entirely different offense than the one planned for this season.

Smith said the changes to head coach Matt Rhule’s pro-style offense was tough at first, but repetition has helped to get it down.

“It was quite the adjustment coming in in the spring,” Smith said. “But now that I’ve got spring under my belt, it’s just kind of rehashing some things that I already learned. I think I’m learning it pretty well.”

Meanwhile, Brewer comes in as a true freshman competing right away with the experienced Smith and Solomon. Solomon says Brewer’s talent isn’t in question; he just needs time to develop.

“He’s very talented,” Solomon said. “There are a few things he’s getting confused with, but there are going to be some hiccups as a freshman. He’s doing great, though. He looks a lot better than I did as a freshman.”

To help ease the process of transitioning to the college level, Brewer arrived in January to assimilate himself with the campus, its practice facilities and to go through spring training with the team. Brewer says being able to learn the playbook in spring helped him immensely.

“It helped a lot,” Brewer said. “To get in here learn the playbook with the new staff, get in the weight room with the guys. Getting to go through spring camp and carry what we learned in the offseason to now.”

Rather than having each quarterback play with a set group of offensive players, each one has been rotating in with the starters, backups and third strings. Thomas says they want to keep the competition fluid so that each potential candidate gets to practice with the starters.

“We’ve been really fluid with the substitution,” Thomas said. “They’ve been receptive of that and I think each of them is striving in their own way.”

Thomas says the most important things he’s looking for in a starting quarterback are the ability make plays and read the defense.

“At the end of the day you have to make plays,” Thomas said. “Leading the offense, converting, recognize what’s happening and taking what the defense gives you.”

Baylor opens the season at 6 p.m. Sept. 9 at McLane Stadium against Liberty University.