When Baylor coach Matt Rhule arrives at his office early each morning, quarterback Jalan McClendon is often already there.
The graduate transfer from North Carolina State knows he has some catching up to do after arriving at Baylor for summer workouts. But he’s eager to soak in every aspect of Baylor’s offensive system as quickly as he can.
“Jalan beats me in the office every morning,” Rhule said. “He’s in there watching tape at 6 a.m. every day. That lets everyone know no one’s bequeathed anything. That’s what we wanted was good competition, and it’s not just competition on the practice field.”
While sophomore Charlie Brewer is the Bears’ clear-cut starting quarterback, McClendon and freshman Gerry Bohanon have given him plenty of competition. They’ve also been highly supportive of each other and have made the quarterback room stronger.
“They’ve been great,” said Baylor quarterbacks coach Glenn Thomas. “We have an awesome room. They’ve been extremely supportive of each other both on the field and off the field. That makes life a lot easier as a coach. Even when we’re not in a specific position meeting, they’re in there working and getting ready for practice and supporting and questioning and quizzing each other. It’s been really positive.”
After a record breaking high school career at Lake Travis, Brewer moved into the Bears’ starting quarterback role during the last four games of last season. Throwing for 315 yards and three touchdowns, he guided the Bears to their only win last season, a 38-9 blowout of Kansas on Nov. 4 in Lawrence.
For the season, Brewer hit an impressive 68.1 percent of his passes for 1,562 yards and 11 touchdowns with only four interceptions. After recovering from a shoulder injury during the spring, the 6-1 Brewer has shown more arm strength during preseason camp after spending a great deal of time in Baylor’s strength and conditioning program during the summer.
“I needed to get bigger which would help me with a lot of things at the quarterback position,” Brewer said. “I’ve put on just about 20 pounds and I think that will help me. I feel a lot better than last year weight-wise and overall strength.”
Both Rhule and Thomas like the savvy Brewer brings at quarterback. He grew up learning the nuances of the position from his father and older brother. Robert Brewer was a quarterback for the Texas Longhorns in the early 1980s who was the MVP of the 1982 Cotton Bowl in a 14-12 win over No. 3 Alabama. Michael Brewer played quarterback at Texas Tech from 2011-13 before transferring to Virginia Tech.
“I grew up watching my brother play a lot, so I think that’s where I fell in love with football,” Charlie said. “Also seeing old tapes of my dad and stuff like that, it’s kind of cool.”
Charlie believes he does at least one thing better than both his father and older brother.
“I’m way faster than my brother,” Charlie said. “He’s slow. My dad, I guess the same thing. I think I’m faster than both of them.”
Brewer’s maneuverability gives him opportunities to create plays and buy more time to pass. Though he doesn’t possess the speed of former Baylor quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Seth Russell, Brewer is a running threat who can pick up valuable yardage with his feet.
“Charlie has a knack to play the game, that’s the part that comes easy,” Rhule said. “Just managing all the situations, handling the protection, all the things that take you to the next level as a quarterback are the things we’re pushing him right now.”
With a season under his belt, Thomas believes Brewer will be able to react faster as situations arise during games. Thomas also likes the calm demeanor Brewer brings at quarterback.
“The more things he’s seeing, he has more experience to draw from and react appropriately,” Thomas said. “He’s got a sense of confidence, a familiarity with what’s going on, a comfort level on the field as far as he’s seen that before. He’s a competitor. He’s fiery and he takes it serious. That being said, he has an even keel personality which I think is important as a quarterback.”
After graduating from North Carolina State with a degree in communications in May, McClendon transferred to Baylor and has been accepted to the Truett Theological Seminary.
McClendon plans to become either a sports broadcaster or a team chaplain in the future, but for now he’s looking forward to getting one last shot to play college football as a graduate transfer.
McClendon played in 20 games in three seasons at North Carolina State but never made a start. He passed for 262 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 223 yards and two scores. McClendon knew Baylor receivers coach Frisman Jackson when he coached at North Carolina State in 2014, and decided to join his old coach in Waco.
“At North Carolina State, things didn’t shake out for me,” McClendon said. “I just got the opportunity (at Baylor), so I took it. I’m picking (Baylor’s offense) up. I’m still learning how everybody plays and meshing together. I think it’s all coming together pretty good.”
McClendon takes pride in getting to the football offices earlier than everyone else. He’s following the example of former North Carolina State quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who was picked in the third round of the 2016 NFL draft by New England and now plays for Indianapolis.
“Yeah, I don’t mind getting up early,” McClendon said. “I know all the good guys do it, like Jacoby Brissett who was a mentor to me. He always told me to be the first one in, last one out, so I always took that to heart. And that’s something that I’ve always applied in my life.”
The 6-5, 219-pound McClendon gives the Bears a much needed third scholarship quarterback on the roster, and his experience is welcome in a relatively young quarterback room.
“I’ve been extremely impressed by his preparation both early in the morning and late at night,” Thomas said. “He’s on top of the script, he goes above and beyond to take care of his business. He understands the situation and why he’s here, and he’s trying to make the most of it.”
While McClendon gives the Bears another passing and running threat at quarterback, one of the biggest tasks for him has been learning the different offensive jargon the Baylor coaches use. But he believes he’s picking up Baylor’s system quickly.
“It is like learning a new language,” McClendon said. “You learn the English, then you’ve got to learn the French or Italian. It’s all pretty much the same plays, just different terminology. I think it’s more of a pro-style system. Knowing Coach Rhule’s background and the coaching staff’s background, they’ve all been on some sort of NFL team. So I think it’s more of an NFL-style offense. But besides that, it’s not too tough to pick up on.”
Bohanon has an even sharper learning curve than McClendon since this will be the freshman’s first season of college football after starring at Earle, Ark., where he was the top-rated recruit in the state.
Bohanon is glad he graduated from high school early and went through spring drills with the Bears because he’s had to grasp a much more complicated offensive system.
“That made a huge difference because I feel like now I had a lot of practices in the spring,” Bohanon said. “I feel like if I would have come in this summer I would have been lost because I would have had a really small time to master the offense. But the spring gave me a couple extra months to really master it.”
Bohanon said that coming from a small town fuels him because he wants to prove he can play at the Division I level. At 6-3 and 224 pounds, Bohanon is the most physically imposing of Baylor’s three scholarship quarterbacks.
He put up ridiculous numbers during his career at Earle, passing for 11,362 yards and 142 touchdowns and rushing for 5,925 yards and 70 scores.
“I want to make sure that everybody from my town is proud of me and I want to make it out of there,” Bohanon said. “A lot of kids look up to me because I’m the first one to actually go D-1. They all kind of admire me, so I want to make sure they have a good quality role model coming out of Earle, Arkansas.”
Bohanon is learning everything he can from Brewer and McClendon since they have experience at the Division I level. Since the NCAA now allows players to play up to four games without losing their redshirt status, Bohanon will likely see at least some playing time this season.
“That quarterback room is something special I would say because we all compete with each other but we all learn from each other and we try to help each other,” Bohanon said. “Jalan helps me out a lot. Every day after meetings, after practice, we’re talking about ball. I’m always asking him questions, trying to learn from him, because I know he’s had plenty of experience playing at North Carolina State and that he knows a lot more than I do.”
BEAR FACTS – Former Bears defensive tackle Andrew Billings graduated from Baylor with his undergraduate degree on Saturday. The All-American decided to forgo his senior year at Baylor in 2016 and was picked by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fourth round of that year’s draft. Three current Baylor juniors also graduated, including running back JaMycal Hasty, linebacker and long snapper Ross Matiscik and linebacker Lenoy Jones.