Timarcus Davis didn’t really expect that he would play immediately when he signed at Baylor. The true freshman cornerback out of College Station missed his senior season of high school football as he rehabilitated a knee injury, and he figured he would spend a year in that familiar college football waiting room reserved for redshirts.
But Davis — and many other Baylor freshmen — found their number called sooner than they could have imagined.
“Coming in, I had an opportunity to play through just some team depth at corner, being young,” said Davis, who has seen action in three games for the Bears. “Got the opportunity to play and I’m trying to take advantage of it.”
Redshirts are for teams where everyone can grow facial hair. That doesn’t describe the 2017 Baylor Bears at all. As injuries have mounted, these Bears have increasingly relied on the cubs, with 16 true freshmen seeing action in the team’s first five games. Only six teams in the country have played more rookies. On the season, underclassmen — freshmen and sophomores — have accounted for 73 percent of Baylor’s total yardage.
“Most of us, when mom says don’t do something and you do it anyway, learn from our own experience, and we’re making a lot of mistakes that are causing us to lose,” Baylor coach Matt Rhule said. “The nice thing is, they’re young, so they learn from them and you teach them and you don’t panic. You just keep teaching and hope that when they’re sophomores and juniors and seniors, they win a lot of games, and that’s what happened at Temple.”
While Rhule doesn’t particularly enjoy Baylor’s 0-5 record, he understands how and why it happened. He has traveled this road before. At Temple, Rhule played 13 true freshmen in his first season as head coach. The Owls took their lumps, finishing 2-10 that year.
But the next season they improved to six wins, followed by back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2015 and ’16.
“Those kids that lost on a Hail Mary to Fordham and lost on a 4th-and-12 to Rutgers ended up beating everybody, pretty much, because they had learned from tough losses,” Rhule said. “As bad as the record is, and as much as we don’t like our record right now, we’ve had the ball in the fourth quarter with the chance to take the lead or tie in every football game.
“So we’re not losing by 20 points, and we’re not losing by 25 points. I think our average margin of defeat right now is nine points. So how do you make up those nine points? Well, it’s all the little mistakes, and they’re everywhere.”
Davis said that playing defense on the college level resembles the high school game only in the fact that both use a football. In high school, you could fall out of position and make up for it with your superior athleticism. In college, everyone’s an athlete.
“It’s just making more reads on the field,” Davis said. “Knowing what everybody is doing around you, not having tunnel vision and focusing on one aspect of the game. You kind of have to see the whole field.”
Rhule receives daily emails and texts from people asking how he’s doing and telling him to hang in there. On some level, he gets it. His team is 0-5. The injury situation has been challenging to say the least. A total of 21 Baylor players have combined to miss 57 games.
But Rhule doesn’t feel as though he’s in the midst of a funeral march.
“I’m having a great time doing this — I really am,” he said. “Our coaches are having a great time doing this. You can see the light go on in a couple more kids’ eyes each and every week, and as I see the light go on for Denzel Mims and Jordan Williams, I say to myself, ‘Just keep getting more and more kids have the switch go off.’ … Now we’ve got to go learn to win, and that’s really hard to do.”
Baylor has landed a commitment from 2018 punter Issac Power of Ponderosa High School in Parker, Colorado. Baylor offered Power (6-2, 185) after seeing him during its week off. Power, who is set to play in the 2018 U.S. Army All-American game in January, is ranked as the No. 5 punter in the country according to ChrisSailerKicking.com.
Power is Baylor’s 19th committment of the 2018 class and the first since running back Craig Williams committed to the Bears in early August. ... BU safeties Taion Sells, Chris Miller and Davion Hall are expected to play against Oklahoma State after battling injuries. Defensive end Jamie Jacobs is expected to miss the next two weeks with neck and shoulder injuries.