Baylor spring camp preview: Bears hope to establish physical mentality

Baylor football is coming off a brutal season. However, coach Matt Rhule is poised to lead a quick turnaround in Waco, Texas.

The Bears return one of the most experienced rosters in the nation. SB Nation’s metrics rank the Bears No. 4 nationally in returning production. That includes No. 2 overall on offense; 93 percent of the production is back.

Rhule started to build the program in his image in 2017. The roster struggled to adjust. Most of the players were recruited to play in a speed-based attack. Rhule wants the roster to be more physical. Spring ball is the opportunity to build a culture.

Here’s how the Bears look as spring camp gets underway.

Baylor Bears

2017 record: 1-11, 1-8 Big 12

Key returners: QB Charlie Brewer, WR Denzel Mims, LB Clay Johnston

Key losses: RB Terence Williams, LB Taylor Young, QB Zach Smith

Early enrollees –

Coach: Matt Rhule

1-11 heading into his second season

Things were ugly during Rhule’s first season in Waco. The Bears stumbled out to a 1-11 record and lost all three nonconference games. The low point was an FCS loss to Liberty, the first FCS loss since the 1980s for Baylor. At Temple, Rhule collected just 2 wins in his first year. The Owls improved to 6 wins in his second season and 10 in his third.

RELATED: Way-too-early Baylor preview

The Bears lost wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell to the NFL, but hired Titans WR coach Frisman Jackson to replace him. Baylor also promoted recruiting coordinator Evan Cooper to an on-field assistant role.

Quarterback situation

Late in the 2017 recruiting class, Baylor offered an overlooked quarterback who just won a state championship at Lake Travis. Despite setting a Texas state record for completion percentage, he didn’t have a single Power 5 offer. Charlie Brewer went on to averaged 282 yards per game and complete 69.6 percent of his passes in five games as a starter.

After Brewer, things become more troublesome. Quarterback Zach Smith transferred to Tulsa during the offseason. Four-star QB enrollee Bohanon is the only other scholarship quarterback on the roster. The rotation is shallow.

X-factor: Blake Lynch

Baylor used Blake Lynch in several different ways last season. He started the season mostly at cornerback, but also played safety and wide receiver. In fact, Rhule joked that Lynch could play virtually any position on the roster.

Lynch will have the opportunity to try out different positions during camp. The Bears have quite a bit of talent at cornerback, so safety or linebacker could be intriguing options. Of course, Lynch showed plenty of promise as a wide receiver. It will be interesting to see how Rhule handles the situation.

Key camp storylines

1. Conditioning

Last season, Baylor football suffered a shocking streak of injuries. The issues started during camp and eventually continued into the season. Five expected starters were out for the opening game against Liberty. It only continued into the season.

Rhule’s practices are very different than the previous administration. The old staff wanted practice to be based more on speed. Rhule wants to build a physical team, and that starts in practice. However, it remains to be seen whether players will be able to withstand this level of physicality through the spring.

2. New additions

Baylor has a deep group of new players who should contribute in 2018. It starts with a trio of heralded transfers. Former Clemson offensive tackle Jake Fruhmorgen, former Tennessee wide receiver Jalen Hurd and former Texas A&M defensive end James Lockhart could all compete for starting jobs right away.

The Bears also bring in a strong recruiting class. Six of the top prospects are already on campus after signing in December. A nice group of defensive redshirts are also chomping at the bit. Performance in spring camp will help determine who competes for a starting job in the fall.

3. Familiarity

Last season, Rhule complained about the quality of his practices. Even though there were numerous talented athletes on the field, the group struggled to practice as effectively as Rhule expected.

Rhule said that his defensive system takes about a year to learn and implement correctly. It’s far more complicated than the base concepts that previous defensive coordinator Phil Bennett used in Waco. But now, the players have that year in the system. The practices should be better, or Baylor is in trouble.

The post Baylor spring camp preview: Bears hope to establish physical mentality appeared first on Diehards.

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