By Collin Bryant | Sports Writer
Baylor’s football has struggled in the first half of the season. The Bears are currently 0-5 overall and 0-2 in the Big 12. However, the team and head coach Matt Rhule aren’t giving up on the season.
Rhule said he believes the kids are taking positives out of the season unfolding before them, like the Bears openness to playing young players.
“I think there are a lot of young men that see this isn’t a staff that’s afraid to play young players. We’re not afraid to play a lot of guys on defense,” Rhule said. “We’re playing 22 or 25 out there on defense. And we’re playing a lot of guys on offense, and even though we’re not consistent offensively, we are leading the nation in big plays.”
The Bears have had 16 true freshmen appear in at least one game this season. Baylor has the seventh largest total of true freshmen playing nationally, similar to the position Rhule was in his first year at Temple.
Though inexperienced, the young players have made been crucial in Baylor’s offensive production.
Freshmen and sophomores are responsible for 72.9 percent of Baylor’s 2228 all-purpose yards.
Rhule said this is a learning process for all of the young players that have been forced to step up quickly in their careers.
“Most of us, when mom says don’t do something and you do it anyway, learn from our own experience, and we’re making a lot of mistakes that are causing us to lose,” Rhule said. “The nice thing is, they’re young, so they learn from them and you teach them and you don’t panic. You just keep teaching and hope that when they’re sophomores and juniors and seniors, they win a lot of games, and that’s what happened at Temple.”
When referring to big plays, Rhule is partly referencing sophomore Denzel Mims who has catapulted on to the offensive scene, especially since fellow receiver Chris Platt went down for the season.
Mims leads both the Big 12 and the FBS in receiving yards over 40. He Is second in the Big 12 with seven receiving touchdowns and 10th in the college fooball in yards per game.
Rhule said he feels there is excitement on both sides of the ball with the direction the team is going in.
“We have the nation’s leading touchdown receiver,” Rhule said. “I think there are kids on offense and defense that are excited about where we’re headed, so it was really good to get out on the road recruiting.”
That excitement is being felt on the recruiting trail. Rhule and his staff currently have 18 signed in the class of 2018, which ranks fourth in the Big 12.
On the defensive side, the Bears continue to strive toward improving. Freshman cornerback Harrison Hand and sophomore Blake Lynch rank in the top three of the Big 12 with four passes broken up. Lynch, who is still listed as a wide receiver, has spent this season at the cornerback position.
The defense continues to improve as they have held teams to a 26 percent conversion rate on third down, which ranks 11th nationally.
Though Rhule has not won yet here, he is still a coach noticed throughout the Big 12. In his weekly press conference, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy said Rhule is definitely a coach to be reckoned with.
“I have watched him from a distance. He obviously has done very well for himself and had a history of winning,” Gundy said during the press conference. “He’s obviously a very capable coach, or the administration down there wouldn’t have brought him in.”
Baylor hopes to capture its first victory against the Oklahoma State Cowboys (4-1), at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla.