Matt Rhule, Baylor’s new coach, was bragging on his players Thursday as he talked about his on-field expectations when the team begins spring practice later this week.
But off-field problems continue to plague the Bears, even with new coaches, support staff and an infusion of recruits.
In the past few weeks Rhule has been forced to fire two people who he’d hired in Waco. He also had to suspend his best defender.
DeMarkco Butler, director of football operations, was terminated earlier this week when it was discovered he’d sent inappropriate text messages to a teenager, who is considered an adult under state law.
Brandon Washington, an assistant strength coach, was fired last month when he was arrested as part of a prostitution sting at a Waco hotel.
Senior defensive back Travon Blanchard, who was a semifinalist for last season’s Thorpe Award, was suspended from all team functions when it was learned that his girlfriend had filed for a protection order and accused him of abuse.
Rhule, who was hired in December from Temple to steady a Baylor program that had been rocked by charges of sexual assault against its players, made his first public comments Thursday to the recent staff firings and Blanchard’s status.
“As you guys also know, we dismissed two operations staff members in recent weeks,” Rhule said. “I can’t really comment on the specifics because they were personnel matters. But what I will say is, I feel like we’ve established clear expectations and a code of conduct for every person — for myself, for coaches, for the staff, for the players. I think hopefully everyone knows in our program that if you fail to meet those expectations, you’re going to be held accountable.
“I recognize the scrutiny that our program is under. I understood that when I came here,” he added. “What I will say is that scrutiny doesn’t guide our decisions. We’ll hold our staff and our student-athletes to the highest standards of conduct. We recognize that our program, and any program, you know, people are going to make mistakes. Things are going to happen. But we’re always going to do what is right and in the best interest of the kids and the young people we’re here to serve.
“That was my commitment when I came here and that’s my commitment moving forward. I’m proud of the staff we have there, proud of the kids we have there, and I’m really looking forward as we move to football.”
Rhule said he’d done his research on the professional résumés of the men he’s hired, but he ackno0wledged he didn’t know about their personal lives.
The Bears, as a team, have been working out, going to class and doing community service since Rhule hit town. Rhule, who officially moved his wife, kids and pets to Waco this past Monday, estimated that his football team has performed more than 400 hours of volunteer work this semester.
The Bears are set to work for two hours at Missiom Waco on Friday, the day before they start spring practice.
Rhule said the first three days of practices will be run like an NFL mini camp, with no competition for starting jobs. Baylor will issue a spring roster on Friday, but won’t have an official depth chart.
Spring will be mostly about getting to know personnel and base schemes, as opposed to installing anything specific. Rhule’s teams at Temple were known most for terrific defenses. The Owls, on offense, focused on running the ball.
Rhule said Baylor’s offense probably will be a “mixture” of what the San Francisco 49ers ran under former coach Chip Kelly. Baylor’s main offensive coordinator is Jeff Nixon, who was the 49ers’ tight ends coach. But Rhule still is formulating what that mixture of offense will look like on the field.
“Offensively, even though I like to get under center and huddle do all those things, I’ve lost out so far,” Rhule said.