By Max Calderone | Sports Writer
Though the 2018 season may be months away, for Baylor, football is a year-long sport and changes are always taking place.
Most notably, the NCAA denied defensive end K.J. Smith a sixth year of eligibility, as confirmed by the Baylor athletic department. Smith missed most of the 2017 season due to shin splints, appearing only in the opener against Liberty.
Student-athletes may apply for a medical redshirt when an injury causes them to sit out for extended periods of time. Smith is not expected to appeal the decision.
Smith redshirted in his first year on campus, and then went on to make 139 tackles in 40 career games with the Bears. He forced three fumbles and recovered two.
In an article for Baylor Diehards, a Baylor fan sports blog, writer Shehan Jeyarajah called Smith “one of the most versatile linemen in Baylor history.” Smith was named to the 2016 All-Big 12 First Team after posting 45 tackles and racking up five sacks in his junior season.
Smith’s defensive line coach this year was Elijah Robinson, who had coached under Matt Rhule for four years — three at Temple and one at Baylor.
Another change is that Robinson recently accepted a position at Texas A&M to join new head coach Jimbo Fisher. Fisher, who was hired by the Aggies while coaching at Florida State, has been rounding out his coaching staff by hiring assistants from the Big 12 conference.
It is unknown in what capacity Robinson will serve at Texas A&M, but he is expected to remain on the defensive side of the ball. Baylor has yet to name a replacement.
Rhule took to Twitter to extend his well wishes for Robinson.
“I am sad but grateful for all of the time I spent with [Robinson],” Rhule said in his tweet. “He did a great job for us at Temple and here at Baylor and I want to wish him all the best as he starts this new chapter in his career.”
The Bears head coach wasn’t the only one who tweeted his appreciation for Robinson, as junior defensive lineman Ira Lewis posted a message thanking Robinson for all he had done.
“He has turned me into a way better player than I could imagine. Wish you all the best coach,” the tweet read.
Sophomore wide receiver Jared Atkinson also took to Twitter to announce he would be taking a semester off from Baylor and returning home to deal with some personal issues. Atkinson caught five passes for 73 yards after appearing in all 12 games for the Bears.
In a response to Atkinson’s tweet, his mother Monique announced she is preparing to battle breast cancer. She also thanked Rhule and Baylor football for all of their support.
Baylor football has not yet released the date for its 2018 spring game. The Bears will open the next season at home against Abilene Christian on Sept. 1.