Matt Rhule opened up the final 20 minutes of spring practice Tuesday, offering clues of what the new Baylor offense might look like.
They were up-tempo. Two different quarterbacks saw significant snaps. Each threw downfield or lobbed passes to the tailbacks. It looked a lot like the Baylor of old, but even Rhule, who was hired as head coach in December, doesn’t quite know what the polished offensive product will be on Sept. 2 when the Bears open the season against Liberty.
Baylor closes spring workouts on April 22 with a scrimmage at McLane Stadium. And Rhule said Tuesday that he’s not even sure who will start at quarterback for the scrimmage, much less project who would be atop the depth chart four-plus months from now.
“I don’t think we’ll have any idea where the guys will be in this offense until the middle of (preseason) camp,” Rhule said, “until they’ve had this spring and go back to look at their mistakes and go through the summer process and really go back and refine what they’re doing.
“Then when you get to camp, you’re really getting to see a guy who understands this offense. Some guys look a little bit better than the others because they have a truer grasp of what’s happening (right now). I’d much rather take the learning out of it and be all about production and footwork, you know, execution.
“We’ll go through the preseason and at some point it’ll clear itself up,” Rhule said. “Once we know, we know. I’m not one of these guys who won’t know until the first snap of the season. … The sooner I know, the better so I can sleep at night. When we know, we’ll know.”
Baylor does have quarterback options.
Zach Smith is the de facto No. 1 and probably the favorite for the job. Rhule refers to Smith’s first-team spot as the “historical” choice. Smith, who will be a sophomore, was forced into the starting lineup late last season when Seth Russell broke his ankle. He threw for 13 touchdowns with seven interceptions. This is his second spring at Baylor — he was an early enrollee last year.
Then there’s Anu Solomon, the graduate transfer from Arizona who will have one year of eligibility with the Bears. He was 17-13 as a starter with the Wildcats, throwing for 7,964 yards, with 49 touchdowns and 28 interceptions. He played in Rich Rodriguez’s up-tempo offense, so the Big 12 will be familiar territory.
Charlie Brewer, the former Lake Travis High School star, enrolled early and has been spending a lot of time with Smith, learning the new offense.
Rhule said all three quarterbacks have run the first team. Smith still is somewhat limited by a lingering ankle injury from the fall. Solomon has class commitments during parts of practice. So there have been opportunities for Brewer. Rhule said there has been no decision on whether to redshirt the youngster.
Rhule has invited the players’ parents to watch Thursday’s practice and then the team will be off for Easter weekend. There will be another week of workouts before the spring game, when Rhule will offer fans a more specific glimpse of what changes he’s made.
He’s stressed that Baylor won’t look that much different. He’s told the team the same thing.
“There are only so many plays you can really run in football,” Rhule said. “So I tell them it’s not that much different.”