1 Effects of Hurricane Harvey on everyone’s minds
With Waco, Texas so close to Houston and having felt the impact of Hurricane Harvey over the past week, the storm is on everyone’s minds. Baylor is even offering free tickets and meals to the game this weekend to those affected by the storm. Several members of Liberty’s coaching staff, including Coach Gill, and 8 members of the football team are from Texas.
Coach Gill opened his press conference on Tuesday addressing the situation: “(I) want to say a prayer to the people all down in the Houston area and throughout the coastline down there in Texas and Louisiana, and hope that everything is going to be okay. Those that have lost their houses, their homes, their businesses, may God continue to give favor and to find ways for us to reach out to them in a way that can give them hope but more importantly also give them a baseline of the future according to God’s plans. Our prayers do go out to all those people in the difficult time of Hurricane Harvey.”
Gill also has 2 sisters who are on a cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico where they have been for several days. They are expected to get into New Orleans Tuesday afternoon.
2 New Head Coach Matt Rhule
Baylor is breaking in a first year head coach in Matt Rhule who comes to Waco after 4 seasons as head coach at Temple. Gill and most of his staff are familiar with Coach Rhule from his time at Temple as they coached against him while they were at Buffalo. Rhule also spent 6 seasons as an assistant at Temple prior to becoming head coach. With the coaching change, Liberty has been studying film of both Temple and Baylor to prepare for the game.
“Scheme-wise, (we’ve) looked at Temple film,” Gill said. “As far as what they did, that tells you their scheme, some of their strong tendencies. (We’ve) also looked at Baylor (film) for personnel.”
The one word that kept coming up when describing Rhule’s teams is physical. Gill, offensive coordinator Joe Dailey, and defensive coordinator Robert Wimberly all referred to his Temple teams as being incredibly physical and they expect nothing different out of Baylor on Saturday.
3 Starting Quarterback Named
Baylor has had a quarterback competition throughout training camp between Anu Solomon and Zach Smith. Smith played in 9 games as a true freshman in 2016 and started the final 4 games of the season. Solomon is a graduate transfer from Arizona who threw for 6,922 yards and 49 touchdowns with the Wildcats. Solomon provides a dual-threat ability at the position for the Bears. Tuesday afternoon word trickled out of Baylor that Solomon will get the start on Saturday.
“I went back and watched all the Arizona film that he played in,” Robert Wimberly said of Solomon. “He’s a special talent. He’s able to keep the ball alive. He does a good job of escaping pressure.”
4 Liberty depth chart released
After several months with no updated depth chart, Coach Gill finally issued an updated depth chart on Tuesday.
Liberty’s depth chart for the Baylor game, the first depth chart we’ve seen since the start of spring practice pic.twitter.com/k9bKX4laBS
— A Sea of Red (@ASeaofRed) August 29, 2017
Kentory Matthews (not Malik as listed on the depth chart) and Frankie Hickson are currently the top kick returners. Gill says that Matthews, Ceneca Espinoza, and DJ Stubbs are still battling for that spot alongside Hickson. Damian King will be the punt returner, but the expectation is that Stubbs will get a couple reps.
Chris Turner is suspended for the first half of the Baylor game due to a violation of team rules. Turner was arrested in April and charged with possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor. Jaylyn McKinney is also suspended for the first half of the Baylor game after he was disqualified in last year’s season finale against Coastal Carolina. Malik Matthews will start at corner in Turner’s place, and Lucas Irons will start at linebacker for McKinney.
5 Baylor’s Tempo
If you think of Baylor’s offense over the past several years, they’ve always been known for the high-octane, high-scoring system. The Bears averaged between 48 and 52 points per game from 2013-2015. Their scoring total dipped to 34.6 points per game under interim coach Jim Grobe in 2016. In contrast, new head coach Matt Rhule’s Temple squads averaged from 24.9 to 32.4 points per game. Will we see a fast paced offense or a more methodical approach?
Gill and Wimberly say they are preparing for a little bit of both. “At Temple, he did a little bit of both,” Wimberly said. “So, we’re going to try to prepare for both. We watched a lot of temple film, that’s all we have. (Offensive Coordinator Jeff) Nixon was at San Fransisco. Right now, it’s a guessing game.”
Wimberly went on to say that Temple played smash-mouth football and wanted to run the football.