The Baylor Bears are the last nonconference opponent Rice football will face this season. Sic’em 365’s Sam Bradshaw takes us behind enemy lines.
Rice Football is three weeks into their 2019 slate with one final nonconference test remaining. To get the inside scoop on Baylor, we talked with Sam Bradshaw of Sic’em 365.
Q: How is the rebuilding process going in Waco? What are the expectations for Matt Rhule in Year 3?
Sam — The rebuild is going well after winning a bowl in year two after a bare bones roster at key positions in 2017. He’s really rebuilt the roster across the board and installed a very different culture in Waco which was an important step given the circumstances.
As for expectations, that will obviously vary from fan to fan but easily making a bowl up to winning 8-10 games is what fans are thinking is realistic this year. Baylor returns a ton of talent and experience across the roster from a team that went 7-6 last fall but many fans think could have won up to three more.
Q: What’s the confidence level in quarterback Charlie Brewer? Can he take the next step and become one of the Big 12’s best quarterbacks?
Sam — Baylor fans have a lot of confidence in everything about Brewer except maybe his deep throws. He’s accurate, makes good decisions, is a capable runner, and will play very tough.
Most Baylor fans would argue Brewer has already taken that step into being one of the Big 12’s best. He’s at worst fourth best in the league and Baylor fans would argue much higher than that.
Q: Two games into the season, has the Baylor defense shown improvement over last year?
Sam — When the starters held their first two opponents to one combined score and around ten combined yards per drive it’s safe to say they look good. They have shifted from a 4-2-5 to what is more of a 3-3-5 defense to get more coverage flexibility and to limit big plays. It’s been successful and they ask a lot of their DL with some two gap techniques and ask their LB’s to take on a lot more action inside. It’s a big shift from their usual fronts which are a lot like Rice’s base looks. It will be interesting to see how well the new tactics hold up against Big 12 blockers.
Q. Who is are some under the radar players to watch?
Sam — On offense I would say that tailback Trestan Ebner is one of the most dynamic open field threats in the Big 12. He has the ability to reverse field like few Baylor players I have seen. Receivers Chris Platt and Tyquan Thornton are somewhat under the radar but are among the fastest sprinters at their position in the Big 12 with incredibly good track speed.
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Sam — Defensively the jack of all trades is SLB/Nickel LB Blake Lynch. The former HS QB came to Baylor as a receiver where he played in 2016. That season he saw spot duty at RB due to injuries, then moved to corner in 2017, then to Safety, and finally to SLB last year. He’s 6-3 225 and still has the same speed and agility he had as a receiver and corner.
The biggest freak athlete up front is James Lynch (no relation) who was an unheralded recruit they’ve developed who is 6-4 285 with 9.5 career sacks and runs a 4.8. He can play inside or outside on the line.
Q: What’s the biggest question make for the Bears entering their Week 4 game against Rice?
Sam — Just how good is this team?
They dominated a rebuilding FCS team and an improved but clearly overmatched UTSA team that admittedly had played Baylor tough in 2018. Aside from that limited detail it’s not clear how good this team really is.
Last week we saw two 2-0 Big 12 teams with similarly dominant starts go on the road to play a P5 school and we found out a lot more about them. Texas Tech was humbled against an Arizona team that lost to Hawaii while Kansas State went to Starkville and won against an unbeaten Mississippi State squad. Furthermore that KSU game probably wouldn’t have been close had KSU not muffed two punt returns and an interception return. Which one is Baylor most like? Unless Rice makes it interesting this weekend we won’t really have an idea until Iowa State comes to Waco next week.