FRISCO, Texas — Baylor was known for dynamic offenses and video game numbers under the previous administration. However, don’t expect new coach Matt Rhule to do the same things.
“I’d love to have the gaudy numbers, I just don’t know that you can run 100 plays on offense and still be good on defense,” Rhule said. “I haven’t really found anyone who has done that yet.”
Rhule often gets painted as a defensive coach, but he has experience doing a little bit of everything. After playing linebacker and coaching the front seven at Buffalo, UCLA and Western Carolina, Rhule coached quarterbacks at Temple in 2007.
In fact, Rhule was an offensive coordinator for four years. He later spent a year with the New York Giants as an assistant offensive line coach. Having experience on both ends gives him perspective. He thinks of offensive and defensive units working together, rather than having two separate mindsets.
“The teams I really respect – the Alabama and New England Patriots of the world – if they’re down, they’ll go five wide, they’ll drop back and throw it. If they’re up, they’re going to get in the I-formation and blood your nose until they win the game,” Rhule said. “When I think of pro-style, that’s what I think of; it’s about doing whatever you need to do to win a game.”
Of course, there are numerous examples of Baylor games where being too touchdown-focused on offense ultimately cost the Bears games. Easily the most notable was the 2015 Cotton Bowl, when the Bears ran out of defensive energy down the stretch. Ultimately, Michigan State scored 21 straight points to win. Rhule has no interest in replicating that.
Versatility is the name of the game with the new systems. Both offense and defense will feature significantly more packages. The previous administration largely played out of base formations. Now, there is the potential for much more movement.
“I think you look across college football and say, who’s winning the national championships? It’s teams that mix tempos and personnel groups. I’d like to win the national championship someday, so that’s what we’ll do,” Rhule said.
However, the big concern remains on the offensive line. While a couple starters return, the Bears have three freshmen on the offensive line depth chart alone. Two veterans – Josh Pelzel and Tanner Thrift – both retired from football after suffering injuries this spring.
“That’s the one thing I’m searching for still – are we good enough up front to be able to be that versatile?” Rhule said.