By Jessika Harkay | Sports Writer
With a week of warm temperatures, play-call echos and sweat dripping from every forehead, spring practice is in full swing for Baylor football. From a 1-11 record to 7-6 and clinching the Texas Bowl within a single year, the Bears are on the rise and optimistically preparing for the upcoming 2019 season.
This marks the third year under head coach Matt Rhule. Two factors that are beginning to define the team are the ability to create a comfortable coach-athlete relationship and striving to improve. Acknowledging how the spring season has been a time of development for the Bears, Rhule said the biggest change on the field comes from maturity and focus.
“This has become a very mature team that doesn’t miss a lot, so we’re not always getting pulled away from distractions. That’s our number one job, is to help players develop and grow academically and socially.” Rhule said. “This spring I’m really encouraging guys to make mistakes. …The only way we can coach you and improve you is if you make mistakes and we can see where your limits are. We can make corrections and as much as anything, that’s the biggest difference now than last spring. … I think [players] truly understand we’re side by side now.”
The “best interest at heart” culture, which engulfs the locker room that Rhule described, creates a sense of consistency and high expectations that returning players all understand. Senior offensive lineman Sam Tecklenburg said going through the third year with the coaching staff and teammates has helped to shift the program from forming relationships to solely football.
“I think a lot of guys know [Rhule] and what the whole staff expects,” Tecklenburg said. “I think we’re getting a better picture of that and hopefully at this point, in a lot of our careers, things can be a lot more football orientated than trying to figure out what they want from us and how they want things done.”
Not only is the team shifting toward becoming more football orientated, but Tecklenburg said the motivation in the locker room is setting their sights on nothing but success.
“I’ll never take for granted winning the bowl game. It’s been an unbelievable experience and been fortunate to win a few here, but I still haven’t won a Big 12 Championship,” Tecklenburg said. “That was my dream when I came here and that was my goal, and to go beyond that as well. That’s the same mindset for a lot of guys. We’re happy with what we did last year but it’s still not good enough. We want more.”
With the same mindset guiding the team, the Bears look forward to a few changes going into the new fall season, including greater size on the offensive line, new talent with veteran leadership, cutting down sacks and using the confidence from the bowl win to keep the players hungry for greater success. With a locker room full of individualized goals, junior quarterback Charlie Brewer said the team’s confidence is growing.
“I think that everyone should have pretty high confidence after winning the bowl game and a lot of people coming back,” Brewer said. “Coach kind of talks about that last year doesn’t matter. We’ve got to get better, but I thought we had a really good offseason. Everybody’s really excited to be back on the field.”
The Bears’ football team will hold the Green and Gold game on April 13 and the regular season opens at McLane Stadium on Aug. 31.