Matt Rhule was an inspired hire at Baylor, but no one quite knows what the Bears will look like when they take the field Sept. 2 against Liberty.
There are a few different ways to run offenses and defenses. Art Briles wanted his offense to force defenses to adjust, and used his defense to get the ball back to his offense. Rhule’s identity is much closer to a chess game.
“They want you to know everything before you step on the field,” linebacker Jalen Pitre said. “They want you to be as prepared as possible.”
Briles’ system was more amorphous. Wide receivers did not have a defined route tree. Blocking schemes were somewhat simplistic and left run and pass options. The defense relied more on opportunism than complex schemes. Much of that could change.
The Bears will still run a base 4-3 defense, but it will most certainly look different than the one Baylor previously used. Pitre, a true freshman, said the defensive staff plans to run him at outside linebacker. Recruiting services listed Pitre as a safety.
Of course, Rhule has a history of trying to turn physical safeties into dynamic linebackers. Look no further than first-round NFL draft pick Haason Reddick, who developed from walk-on safety into NFL linebacker.
But as we detailed Tuesday, the main differences will come in mindset. The defense plans to be extremely physical and will attempt to impose its will on opponents.
New offensive identity
Of course, the main questions will come offensively. Baylor produced an average of 522.7 yards per game last season — and that was the Bears’ worst mark since 2010. Suddenly, the program will be running more of a pro-style system. In the spring game, Rhule showed off looks that included fullbacks and even the I-formation.
Receivers will have more involved roles on every play, including ones they are not involved in. Rhule asks receivers to read defensive coverages and react at a much higher level.
You can count on one hand the amount of times Baylor ran anything other than a quarterback sneak from under center. However, wide receiver Chris Platt believes the pro-style system will yield short- and long-term benefits.
“That’s probably going to help us beyond our college years if we decide to go pro,” Platt said.
Granted, Baylor will still have explosive moments. The team is too athletic not to chalk up some big yardage.
“I’m hopefully a smart enough guy to utilize the players we have, utilize the talent we have,” Rhule told SiriusXM. “I’m not stubborn enough to say I’m going to play with four tight ends on the field when I have all that speed.”
At first, it was a difficult transition for many players. Rhule criticized the team’s lack of physicality, and others — including upperclassmen — struggled to learn a complex playbook.
“I think we’re catching on now that we’re talking through it and meeting throughout the summer,” Platt said.