Preview 2017: Baylor Has Its New Coach. It’ll Win, But Differently.
Yeah, Baylor, it’s possible to win the right way, Under Matt Rhule, it just might.
Here’s the side of this whole ugly Baylor mess that seems to be lost in the translation: Baylor football didn’t become great because of all the horrible things that went on, and it really is possible to be dominant without all the problems.
And now it’s up to new head coach Matt Rhule to prove that.
No, despite the narrative many around Penn State would have you believe, winning has nothing to do with healing, and it doesn’t erase the sins of the past. However, in the case of Baylor, it would be nice if Rhule could make this all work, just to prove to the stupid that having a successful football culture doesn’t have to be a nightmarish negative.
Other programs have been able to go from can’t-win-a-lick miserable to consistently amazing in a relatively short time without any massive issues – paging Kansas State and Wisconsin – and now, Baylor can’t be afraid that fun-time on the football field is over just because Art Briles is out of the picture.
But, in purely football terms, it really was an unbelievable transformation.
Baylor went from being the program that held parades for merely winning a Big 12 game – and going the first 14 years in the conference, from 1996 to 2009, without a winning season – to being on the lip of the national championship cup under Briles.
Baylor didn’t just win, it made scoring 70 points routine, with an offense that put up cartoonish numbers week after week with breathtaking ease. For a long-suffering fan base, and the alumni who had to deal with their probably-insufferable friends and business associates from other Big 12 schools, who wouldn’t want that?
But Rhule – who played linebacker at Penn State – knows a little something about transforming a woebegone program into a champion. Compared to what he just did, this should be a breeze.
Al Golden might have done the heavy lifting at Temple, but he didn’t win any MAC titles in a conference as good as the current American Athletic.
Rhule went from 2-10 in his first year with the Owls, to 6-6, to winning 20 games in two years, two division titles, and one conference championship with an aggressive team that did just about everything right.
Baylor might not have the splash and dash anymore that made things so exciting under Briles, but doing things differently doesn’t mean there can’t be success.
This year’s team should have a strong starting 22 – and kicking game – but the depth is going to be lacking for a bit.
The running game should be dominant with Terence Williams and JaMycal Hasty pounding away behind another good line. There’s enough speed in the receiving corps to keep stretching the field, and there are three good options at quarterback to choose from.
Rhule knows how to crank up the defense, and in short order, the days of the Baylor D being along for the ride should be over. This is going to be a very tough, very active, very physical group.
The penalties that have been such a staple for Baylor should finally slow down, time of possession won’t be a negative, and things overall might settle a wee bit now that the coaching situation is set.
It’ll be an interesting year. The school and the program can’t just totally blow off everything that happened and immediately move on, but that’s not Rhule’s issue – he has to win football games.
It’s okay to do that the right way.