The Final Sporterberg of Spring: Draft brings thanks, hope to Baylor fans

FILE - In this Feb. 25 file photo, Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule, former Baylor head coach, speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis The 2020 NFL Draft is April 23-25.Associated Press

By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer

Texas Christian University had three players selected before Baylor in the 2020 NFL Draft. Texas Tech had one. TCU went 5-7 last season. Tech won only four games. Baylor won 11, and it’s all because of former head coach Matt Rhule.

Baylor had no first round picks. Denzel Mims was the only player picked on day two, and while three defensive players were selected on day three, the Bears didn’t produce any elite prospects. Yet, by all accounts, the Green and Gold were an elite team last season.

The Bears finished 11-3, their best finish since the Art Briles era, and allowed just 4.7 yards per play on defense, good enough for 16th in the country. That’s almost a hundred spots better than their No. 114 ranking from 2018 with mostly the same players.

Rhule and defensive coordinator Phil Snow coached the Bears into a finely tuned machine that forced turnovers and held their own on third down. Their coaching paid off with wins, a conference championship game appearance, and the most defensive players drafted from a Baylor squad since 1996.

Rhule inspired those players to greater heights than we could have imagined. And now he’s gone.

Because of his great success at Baylor, Rhule was hired as the head coach of the Carolina Panthers. He’s moved up in the world, and it’s because of the good he did for this program.

I think we often forget about that good. Baylor was in shambles when Rhule came to Waco, and he leaves it in the healthiest shape it’s ever been. And, he leaves it in the next best hands I can think of.

Shall we look at Dave Aranda’s history in the NFL draft? The defending national champion’s defense produced two first round picks, four more picks in the 2020 defense and his history includes players like Jets safety Jamal Adams, Buccaneers linebacker Devin White and Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White.

He’s been at the helm of some of the best defenses in the country during his tenures as defensive coordinator at LSU and Wisconsin. He’s also been around some of the best minds and leaders in the game, preparing him for the moment he takes over a team for himself.

Just like Rhule, Aranda is a people person. He’s charismatic and honors the values that Baylor instills on its student-athletes. With Rhule gone and Aranda in town, I think we’re in good hands.