Baylor head coach Matt Rhule is optimistic about how effective the Bears’ special teams unit can be this season and beyond.
— Baylor Football (@BUFootball) August 7, 2017
In a video interview following Baylor’s Monday morning practice, Rhule said the practice had “more of an emphasis” on special teams in hopes of players establishing themselves within the unit prior to the start of the season. Rhule said in the interview that the team believes the unit can win Baylor “a game or two each year.”
According to the interview with Rhule, the Bears spent considerable time on kickoff returns – an area that Rhule said the team wasn’t where it needed to be statistically during the 2016 season. Defensive back Patrick Levels led Baylor in kickoff return distance last season, averaging a team-high 21.2 yards per return, according to Fox Sports. Levels, however, only had six returns that season.
Rhule said in the interview that the Bears “have some really special returners” and that he “really wants to focus on them” in practice – notably sophomore wide receiver Tony Nicholson. Nicholson led Baylor with 339 yards across 18 kickoff returns in 2016 – both team-highs, according to Fox Sports.
Rhule added in the interview that he is “symbolically” running special teams drills, but his coaching staff has added plenty of “expertise” in preparing the unit for the season. Among those providing expertise is co-offensive coordinator Jeff Nixon, who previously oversaw special teams as an assistant for the Philadelphia Eagles from 2007 to 2010.
According to the interview, Monday’s practice was the ninth of 27 scheduled for preseason camp. Rhule said during the interview that he’s “fired up” and that the players have done a “really nice job” over the course of camp.