With the Baylor Bears showing off new schemes on both sides of the ball, interest was high in their annual green versus gold spring game. Even with a colder than usual and overcast weather, the Bears showed off their new styles for a crowd. "A rite of spring and a tradition for Baylor nation" as coach Matt Rhule called it after.
In the end, it was a 65-39 victory for the Gold team which was the offense. Here are a few takeaways from the action:
1. This game was for the fans and the student athletes that maybe won't play as much this year. Matt Rhule, a former walkon linebacker at Penn State, has said many times that the spring game was the one time he knew he would play. He made it a big deal for the walk-ons, creating Spring awards to call out the best of the spring. Postgame, he made clear to praise running backs Wyatt Schrepfer and Obim Okeye, who both played pretty much the whole game with JaMycal Hasty leaving early. Lineman such as Daniel Russell and Dalton Justice stood out as well, with defenders such as safety Jairon McVea and corner Ezekiel Brown playing quite a few snaps.
2. This is a VERY different offense, one that is multiple, something that coach Rhule wants in his teams. Citing teams such as Alabama, Clemson, USC in thei heyday and New England as ones that he respects, Rhule wants multiple looks to show on offense, as "the other team's defense tells you how to win the game." The Bears showed a two-tight end, fullback look on an early 3rd down that JaMycal Hasty converted. They went to multiple tight ends many times, and had 5 or so snaps under center. Even with a vanilla look in the spring game, the Bears showed that this will be a different team philosophy under Rhule.
3. The middle of the field will be key for this offense. No more wide splits for the Bears with their wide receivers to the boundary. They ran significantly tighter formations, and used crossing patterns extensively. Drag routes, mesh routes, out routes from their receivers. Simply put, these are NFL route trees, something that they have done featured in over about a decade. Tight ends should also take notice of this offense, as it should be a great role for any high schoolers wanting the best style of offense for them. The first big pass play of the game was a seem route to Jordan Feuerbacher for 19 yards on a 3rd down. In all, there were 9 catches by Baylor tight ends and running backs. That is closer to a season total in previous years.
4. Baylor's defense has evolved to be much more multiple as well, especially in their pre-snap reads and movement. Consistently, the Bears safeties were switching up from a 2-deep to a 1-deep and vice-a-versa depending on the look from the offense. This is a brand new concept for the Bears defenders, who under Phil Bennett ran a simplistic defense with not many wrinkles. The thought was to perfect a few things and do them very well. New defensive coordinator Phil Snow will install a much more varied defensive scheme. They lined up primarily in a 4-3 formation, with an over/under look depending on the situation.
The Bears defenders were able to wear down a limited offensive line, down Josh Pelzel and Tanner Thrift (who injured his knee in pregame) from an already thin group. KJ Smith had two of the Bears 7 sacks on the day and three of the 12 quarterback hurries. This was impressive, especially with Greg Roberts, Jamie Jacobs, and Ira Lewis held out of the game. Jameson Houston was a standout at corner, starting with Grayland Arnold out.
5. The Quarterback race has still not begun, at least in the eyes of Matt Rhule. Zach Smith received the most snaps and chances, going 17-30 for 162 yards and a touchdown, while Anu Solomon went 7-14 for 86 yards. True freshman Charlie Brewer was possibly the most productive though, finishing 8-12 for 103 yards and two touchdowns. He also impressed with his legs, rushing for a team high 44 yards on 7 carries, though some of those runs might have been helped by the defensive line not going full speed to tackle him. "Zach (Smith) and Anu (Solomon) would be slightly ahead with Charlie (Brewer) in behind, but I would say that Charlie is over the line of where he should be right now. If we needed Charlie to go in, he could do it." Expect the QB race to go all the way well into fall camp.
6. The two highlights that everyone will be talking about are the Clint Lewis touchdown and the awesome moment that was, along with the Ish Wainright touchdown. Wainright wasn't suppose to play, having just joined the team this past week. However, he convinced coach Rhule to let him play and got in on some plays in the second half. The highlight was Charlie Brewer finding him in at the goal line for a 23-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. It was a very athletic play, where Wainright ran a solid route and adjusted to the ball very well, catching it over his left shoulder.
With spring done, the staff will transition into May recruiting, fully hitting the road and camps over the next few weeks. This is evaluation time for many recruits, and expect offers and activity to pick up over the next 3-5 weeks. The focus for the players will be trying to get stronger and more comfortable in the schemes, building camaraderie and chemistry as the team builds for the fall. Stay tuned to BearsIllustrated.com for everything Baylor football, on and off the fields.