5 Burning Questions: Baylor

Scott talked with Bears Illustrated publisher Tim Watkins about the upcoming SMU-Baylor matchup.

Q: 1. Replacing Bryce Petty, what are expectations for Seth Russell?
TW: “Really, with the amount of talent around him, we don’t need him to be great. We need him to be good and take care of the ball. I think that’s the big question mark around him. He has got a looser running style. He fumbled the ball quite a few times. He takes some sacks. He’ll throw it deep, just like you’re used to seeing from the bears the last few years, but he forces it. If he can take care of the ball—and get it to the guys that are open—It’s that simple for him. Everything around him is built well, so he just needs to be solid, safe and good. He doesn’t need to be the guy this year. He needs to get the guys the ball.”

Q: 2. What can SMU expect to see from the Bears defense on September 4th?
TW: “With Phil Bennett, it’s a unit that likes to get aggressive. He likes getting all 11 guys within 8-12 yards from the line of scrimmage. He’s not playing guys off the ball very much—especially with the rover position (similar to SMU’s star position). We want to take away the run first, and we’re going to be very active blitzing-wise. We’ve got a very deep and strong defensive line. They will probably try and blitz less and allow the front 4 to generate more pass rush by themselves. It’s going to be an aggressive defense that really attacks the ball.”

Q: 3. Coming in at No. 4 on the preseason poll, this is obviously a very good team, but what are a few weaknesses?
TW: “Secondary play; especially in the fourth quarter. Last year, in the two loses to West Virginia and Michigan State, and even the almost loss to Texas Tech, the secondary just got destroyed in the fourth quarter. We just couldn’t rotate the secondary as much as we wanted to, so getting the key subs healthy and establishing depth this year will be important.”

Q: 4. Has the ruling in the Sam Ukwuachu sexual assault case been a distraction for the coaching staff and players?
TW: “It has been a distraction, I believe. The team is using it as a rallying cry, to come together tighter, and defend the program’s honor.”

Q: 5. What are players and Coach Briles saying about the matchup against SMU? What are their expectations for the game?
TW: “I think there’s a lot of uncertainty—especially with the new coach. There’s a lot of respect for Coach Morris. Honestly, when Briles was rumored to be looking around, Morris was at the top of my list. I think he can do a lot of the same things Briles can do. But there’s a lot of unknown and a lot of respect, especially from Briles and his staff. We definitely didn’t see the best version of what SMU could have been last year. It’s an opener with a new head coach and a different program so they (Baylor) know they’re going to have to respond with intensity as well.”

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