Baylor coach Matt Rhule wants to see more offensive leadership as the Bears delve deeper into preseason football camp.
Tuesday morning’s early practice was especially disturbing as he saw too many unfocused players as the Bears near the end of the second week of practice.
“Practice was not very good today,” Rhule said. “It was a soft football team out there. Camp has been hard and today was the last day of classes. There were a bunch of guys feeling sorry for themselves. Overall the lack of leadership on offense really showed itself today.”
Rhule wants to develop a tougher, more physical team that will respond when things don’t go well.
“Toughness has been the issue,” Rhule said. “We knew it was going to be the issue based upon the offseason. Will our guys do things at a high level when adversity strikes, when it’s really hard? Up until now they’ve been really good at it all camp. Today was the first day they showed that crack, so we exposed it and see what they’ll do moving forward.”
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While Rhule wasn’t pleased with the performance of the entire offensive unit, he said quarterbacks Zach Smith and Anu Solomon practiced well Tuesday.
“I thought both quarterbacks played really well today, that was a positive,” Rhule said. “They made a lot of good plays and gave the receivers a chance to make plays on the ball. You’re always looking for a quarterback that has that certain something, that special ‘it.’ Right now they’re both learning, so it might take them a couple more weeks to really see that come out.”
Rhule has continued to make adjustments on the offensive line. During Tuesday’s practice, Southlake Carroll freshman Ryan Miller played center with the starting offensive line while Sam Tecklenburg moved from center to left guard. The rest of the starting offensive line included left tackle Mo Porter, right guard Blake Blackmar and right tackle Patrick Lawrence.
“Ryan Miller as a freshman is a guy that’s stepped up,” Rhule said. “He ran with the 1’s all day today, which lets us play Tecklenburg at guard. And Tecklenburg has naturally become a very good offensive lineman very quickly. Mo, Blackmar and Lawrence are consistent guys. And some of the other young kids have done a really nice job coming in.”
With veterans like linebacker Taylor Young and safety Taion Sells leading the way, Rhule has been impressed with how the defense has practiced on a daily basis.
“Taylor and Taion are two guys who always stand out,” Rhule said. “But we’ve got guys on the defensive line who are giving tremendous effort, trying to get better. Ira Lewis is a guy who just always stands out to me. He’s transformed his body and has become a really good player. (Linebacker) Eric Ogor is night and day since we first got here. There’s some verbal leaders, some older guys on defense who are attempting to play to a certain standard.”
Safeties Davion Hall, Rajah Preciado and Henry Black are expected to return from injuries soon, which should give the Bears good depth. Sells, Chance Waz and Chris Miller have been getting most of the reps at safety while redshirt freshman walk-on Jairon McVea has impressed the Baylor coaches with his speed.
Since Terence Williams will be out at least the first three weeks of the season with a shoulder injury, the Bears are also trying to develop more depth at running back.
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Sophomore JaMycal Hasty will likely see the most action but freshmen Johnathan Lovett and Trestan Ebner are also making an impact. Walk-on freshman Dru Dixon has also shown potential as a power back. Both Dixon and offensive lineman Ty Smith spent a year at Air Force Prep in Colorado before coming to Baylor.
“I think being at Air Force Prep for a year probably really helped them develop some toughness,” Rhule said. “Me telling them to be here by 6 o’clock in the morning probably doesn’t seem as hard after having done Reveille or whatever they did for a year. But I think he’s a really good prospect.”
Junior punter Drew Galitz is competing with sophomores Connor Martin and Peter Webster for place kicking duties.
“You don’t always love to have one guy be the kickoff, punt, field goal guy,” Rhule said. “I’ve had it. Brandon McManus did all three (at Temple). It’s just kind of different swings. But at the end of the day, we’ve got to do what we have to do. Connor’s been good, it’s just not at the consistent level that we need right now.”
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Despite a rough day at practice, Rhule expects the players’ focus to improve as the Bears head toward the Sept. 2 season opener against Liberty. Rhule believes consistently strong practices will translate into solid performances in games.
“Today, last day of classes, a little bit beat up, it’s getting late, you still have to show up and be elite,” Rhule said. “I don’t want to be one of those teams that plays a great game one week and plays a bad game the next week. I want to be consistent. It’s very hard to do, but that’s kind of what you’re trying to get done when you talk about why things went wrong today.”