The music at Tuesday’s Baylor football practice was old school with Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” and “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” blaring from the speakers.
Much different than the rap and hip-hop that used to play at Art Briles’ practices.
The physical practices under first-year coach Matt Rhule are also old school with a great deal of emphasis on blocking and tackling.
“Coach Rhule came in here with a physicality mentality,” said Baylor offensive lineman Mo Porter. “So we’ve been going in full pads. We’re hitting each other every day. We’re just showing physicality and competing 24-7 all day.”
Since Rhule will run a pro style offense with elements of the spread, the Bears will have to be a more physical team. Unlike Briles’ spread offense, the Bears will often utilize a fullback and several tight ends.
That means more smash-mouth football.
“The offense is different because we line up under center more,” Porter said. “We’re still a spread-based team but we line up under center and just smack people in the mouth. We’ll go three tight end sets with a fullback. Two tight ends with a wing. Just a bunch of physicality out there.”
After Baylor’s fifth practice of the spring and second with full pads, Rhule wants his veterans to be much more physical than they’ve shown so far.
“I wasn’t super thrilled today,” Rhule said. “A lot of young guys were practicing really hard today. A lot of older guys just maybe don’t like the level of physicality and aren’t practicing to the level I think we’re going to need. So it’s kind of a mixed bag. Some of the older guys haven’t had the leadership we need.”
Rhule has made it clear the level of intensity of practices won’t get easier. He wants to set the tone in the spring and carry it over to the fall.
“It’s not going away, it’s not going to change,” Rhule said. “This wasn’t one of those real hard practices. This was a normal practice. We just have to get used to it, more mental than physical. It’s not like their bodies aren’t working. They just have to make a decision every day to compete at a high level and go against each other. A lot of guys are doing it. I’m just disappointed a couple of key guys didn’t.”
Anu Solomon, a graduate transfer quarterback from Arizona, likes the tone Rhule is setting in practice.
“Coach Rhule wants to make it a culture here where we’re just physical every play,” Solomon said.
Solomon is competing for the quarterback job with sophomore Zach Smith and freshman Charlie Brewer.
Smith took over as Baylor’s starting quarterback after Seth Russell suffered a season-ending injury last November and led the Bears to a Cactus Bowl win over Boise State. Brewer enrolled at Baylor this spring after a record-setting career at Lake Travis High School.
“Zach’s a little bit limited with his ankle, but he’s got an elite arm,” Rhule said. “Anu has some escapability, some mobility, some niftiness. Charlie, you can see that 78 percent completion percentage in high school carries over to college. He finds a way to check the ball down. But it’s still so early with all those guys. That, to me, will be a long-term deal.”
Rhule has liked the way returning backs JaMycal Hasty and Terence Williams have run the ball during early practices. Williams rushed for 1,048 yards and 11 touchdowns last season while Hasty finished with 623 yards. Freshman receiver RJ Sneed has also shown some good early signs.
“I think JaMycal Hasty is a guy, to me, that I see getting better and better,” Rhule said. “For the young guys, RJ Sneed just goes out every day and practices, doesn’t say very much and just does his job. Terence Williams got a little banged up today and made a decision to continue to practice. So I’m really proud of Terence.”
Former Marine Kyle Boyd is making his presence felt at fullback.
“He’s doing so much,” Rhule said. “That fullback for us is a tight end, H-back, fullback. He’s a smart kid. I saw him a couple times where he got his pads down and really got a feel for it. I think with time, he’s such a hard worker and such a tough kid, I think he’ll find a way to make that role work for him.”