When you’ve got a nickname like Sweet Feet, it takes someone pretty swift to fill your cleats. In Baylor’s case, it likely will take more than one someone.
When senior receiver Tevin Reese fractured his wrist in Baylor’s 41-12 dusting of Oklahoma last Thursday, his Bears teammates were struck with sympathy pain. The players universally view Reese as a role model and leader for his practice habits, and replicating his rapid production figured to be next-to-impossible, too.
“He’s a little guy, but he’s got big shoes,” senior wideout Clay Fuller said.
They might as well as be track spikes. Reese isn’t a philosophy major, but few can go deep any better than the fourth-year senior from Temple. He owned 24 career touchdowns, many of them of the home run variety, and his 25.0 yards per catch average this season topped the country.
That kind of ability and production isn’t easily replaced. Yet Baylor coach Art Briles said that is exactly the challenge the Bears must embrace.
“It’s something that is going to have to happen,” Briles said. “What we have to figure out is who we’re going to lean on, how we’re going to lean on them and when we’re going to lean on them. So that’s the situation. We do have players who are very, very capable.”
Before, Reese and junior Antwan Goodley served as the go-to receiving combo for quarterback Bryce Petty. Now the slack falls squarely into the waiting hands of a quartet of receivers — Fuller, Levi Norwood, Jay Lee and Corey Coleman.
Reese had zipped to 824 yards and eight touchdowns before his injury. That foursome has combined for 1,036 yards and six TDs. But they’ll all spot a few more balls flying their way now.
“I think everybody’s role is kind of heightened,” Petty said. “We’ll get more and more production out of each of those guys. I have no doubt or lack of trust in any of those guys.”
As it pertains to game-planning, a good football coach is part poker player. He isn’t about to show you his cards. Still, Briles admits that Reese’s void forces the Baylor offense to reexamine itself. Perhaps Goodley will get more of the deep go routes that used to fall to Reese. Maybe the Bears won’t take as many long shots.
Since Briles tends to mold facets of his offense around his personnel, change is inevitable in the wake of Reese’s injury.
“From that standpoint, I’m eager to see how it changes us from a schematic standpoint and from a philosophical standpoint,” Briles said. “We’re going to have to change how we think and how we feel without Tevin, because he’s the fastest receiver in America. When you’re losing a guy who per-catch is the No. 1 guy in the United States of America, it’s a pretty big blow. We’ll have to compensate in a variety of ways.”
You simply can’t clone Reese, or any player for that matter. Ask any scout team coach how difficult it is to duplicate a player’s unique skill set. But Baylor’s receiving corps said that while they won’t try to be Tevin, they plan to fill in for him as best they know how.
“We just have to be ourselves, and we have to do it together,” Fuller said.’
“I don’t run a 4.3 so I can’t be Sweet Feet,” said Norwood, who caught four balls for 76 yards and a touchdown against the Sooners. “I’m just trying to do what I can do. Catching the ball and trying to make people miss is more of my game. I’m not trying to run past people or do anything like he does. I’m trying to play my game, and that goes for Jay and Corey and Clay and anyone else that steps in.”
Baylor’s receiver depth is not really an issue. While Fuller, Coleman, Lee and Norwood may not mirror Reese’s talents exactly, they are not lacking in talent of their own.
Fuller, a 26-year-old junior, is a phenomenal all-around athlete who played six years of professional baseball before joining Baylor as a walk-on in 2011. He’s now on scholarship. Norwood, a fourth-year junior, has flashed his elusiveness in the return game for the past three seasons, and has scored TDs in two of the past three games. Coleman and Lee are younger, but are capable of big plays, too. In fact, Coleman, a burner who also returns kicks, may be the next-best deep threat on the team behind Reese.
They’ll all look to contribute in their own way. That includes being there for Reese, who underwent surgery on his wrist Friday and likely has caught his last pass for the Bears, though Briles has left the door open for a possible return in Baylor’s bowl game.
Reese’s receiving buddies don’t intend to leave Sweet Feet behind. They never have before.
“That’s one of our teammates, and he’s like family,” Lee said. “He’s like the soul of the receivers. We go off of what he does, and we all just have to step up and pick up where he’s produced this whole year.”
Bear Facts: Briles said that banged-up running backs Lache Seastrunk (groin) and Glasco Martin (knee) were “probable, at best” to play Saturday against Texas Tech. Freshman receiver Robbie Rhodes has been nursing an ankle injury, but is expected to be able to play against the Red Raiders. spikes. Reese isn’t a philosophy major, but few can go deep any better than the fourth-year senior from Temple. He owned 24 career touchdowns, many of them of the home run variety, and his 25.0 yards per catch average this season topped the country.