Baylor football coach Matt Rhule announced Wednesday that four players have been suspended from the team, including junior linebacker Eric Ogor, redshirt freshman safeties Tre’von Lewis and John Arthur and redshirt freshman defensive end Justin Harris.
Rhule said the players have been suspended for different undisclosed disciplinary matters and won’t participate in spring drills which begin Thursday. Rhule said the players are still enrolled at Baylor.
“Without getting into too many details about it, what I would say is the policies were turned over to the people that are supposed to handle it,” Rhule said. “Some I know about more because they were suspended by me, and some other grander things. So I think they’re all up in the air as of right now.”
Rhule said he suspended at least one player based on his discretion while other players were suspended based on a decision by a university committee that handles allegations surrounding player conduct. He declined to specify which players.
When asked about various media reports involving allegations of sexual assault concerning his players, Rhule said he was unclear of any specific allegations. He said university officials are investigating possible involvement of players.
Rhule said he has spoken to police and other officials about the incident. He said the players were suspended quickly after the alleged incident which reportedly happened last November.
“There’s a committee that steps in and says, ‘This happened, you’re separated from the team,’” Rhule said. “The people that do this for a living they handle the investigation. There’s no hiding. It’s been very transparent from this side. I don’t know much about the case, and I think that’s really a good thing because I probably shouldn’t know much about it as the football coach.”
In addition to the suspensions, at least a dozen players are injured coming into spring drills. Punter Drew Galitz and receivers Gavin Holmes and Chris Platt suffered ACL knee injuries last year and are undergoing rehabilitation. Offensive lineman Blake Blackmar and fullback Kyle Boyd are out with shoulder injuries.
Offensive linemen Josh Malin, Rob Saulin and Casey Phillips, linebacker Deonte Williams and receiver Pooh Stricklin are also out with various undisclosed injuries. Running back Dru Dixon and linebacker Clay Johnston are out with injuries, but are expected back sometime during spring practice.
“We’ve gotten a lot of guys back, but those guys were still out,” Rhule said. “In addition, (quarterback) Charlie Brewer who got injured in that last game (against TCU) and really had sort of a lingering shoulder issue from high school, will be on a little bit of a limited basis as we start spring football. It’s a little bit of a limited pitch count, and we’ll see where he goes from there.”
Despite the injuries, Rhule expects the position battles to be competitive. He said the Bears have more depth this spring than last fall when limited numbers and injuries contributed to his debut 1-11 season.
“Every year I’ve had a couple guys suspended going into the spring, and I think every year I’ve had injuries,” Rhule said. “Really just maybe on the offensive line depth, which means it’s going to give a lot of guys an opportunity to go out there and prove what they can do. I think we’ll be good though. I think we’ll have enough guys.”
Brewer and incoming freshman Gerry Bohanon from Earle, Ark., are the only scholarship quarterbacks. But Rhule said he wouldn’t mind adding a graduate transfer before fall camp.
“I think the quarterback depth is just a concern, having two scholarship quarterbacks right now,” Rhule said. “There’s probably not many teams in the country like that. We have some other guys like (walk-on junior) Preston Heard that we feel really good about.”
In addition to Bohanon, the Bears added five other freshman January enrollees, including Phillips, Houston Porter safety Christian Morgan, The Oakridge School (Arlington) tight end Christoph Henle, Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington receiver Tyquan Thornton and Cibolo Steele safety J.T. Woods.
Baylor also added Temple University graduate transfer cornerback Derrek Thomas.
“The six mid-year kids who are here right now have done a tremendous job,” Rhule said. “In addition to them, Derrek Thomas, a kid who played for us at Temple and graduated. He’s a guy we think can add depth to our defensive backfield. We hope he’ll help to continue our defensive growth, and I think he can be an NFL guy at this time next year.”
Rhule said offensive analyst Shawn Bell will take over as an on-field coach during spring drills while offensive line coach George DeLeone is sidelined with a broken hip.
“As he rehabs and mends, it’s a great chance for Shawn, who is really one of the best young coaches I’ve been around to step on the field,” Rhule said. “George will continue to mentor him off the field as a consultant, and continue to be around the program and continue to lend all his leadership. He’s one of the best offensive line coaches in the country, but in the interim while he gets healthy Shawn will take on an additional role on the field.”
Baylor’s offensive line was a major issue last season since it didn’t have the depth to sustain injuries. But Rhule believes the line will be much stronger this year with veterans like Patrick Lawrence and Blackmar returning and Jake Fruhmorgen gaining eligibility after sitting out last year following his transfer from Clemson.
“We have great skill players, it’s going to come down to how good are we on the offensive line,” Rhule said. “I feel good about that. I feel like the offensive line is going to come together. But also can our quarterback stay healthy? We don’t have a ton of quarterbacks in the program.”
Tribune-Herald staff writer Kristin Hoppa contributed to this story.