Baylor’s rebuild progressing ahead of West Virginia game

The first time Baylor visited Mountaineer Field, fans’ heads shifted back-and-forth in a manner more befitting tennis than football. Offenses soared and huge plays piled up as West Virginia pulled out a 70-63 win in that 2012 game.

The Baylor program that visits Thursday night is nowhere near the same in more ways than one. Gone is Art Briles’ high-octane offense. But also gone is Briles’ blindness towards a spate of sexual assaults that shook the team and the campus to its core.

The rebuild of every aspect of the program is in its second year under former Temple coach Matt Rhule, and the Bears are  making progress. After struggling to a 1-11 finish with a misfit roster last season, Baylor is 4-3 and moving towards bowl eligibility.

“It seems like they’ve overcame their state-of-the-program issues that they had there,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. “Coach Rhule, I have a lot of respect for him. He went in there and attacked it and is coaching those guys up.”

With Rhule, it’s not all no-huddle and spreading out the offense. The Bears are multiple, even known to use – gasp – tight ends.

“They’re very multiple with what they do,” Holgorsen said. “They’ll do a lot of drop-back stuff, they’ll open it up, they’ll do a lot of [four wide receivers], throw the ball around a good bit. They’ll do some quarterback-run game, put three, four tight ends in the game and try to slow things down.”

The Mountaineers know what they are getting in Bears quarterback Charlie Brewer, who nearly pulled off a monumental fourth-quarter comeback last season. He’s a throw-first quarterback with a slippery escapability that has him ranked fifth in the Big 12 with 276.6 yards of total offense per game. Brewer played his high school ball at Austin power Lake Travis.

“There’s a lot of great quarterbacks from that part of the country,” Holgorsen said. “Drew Brees. Nick Foles. Baker Mayfield. This Brewer kid is just like them.”

Mayfield, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, preceded Brewer at Lake Travis.

Brewer’s favorite target is a former Tennessee running back turned Baylor wide receiver.

Jalen Hurd, who had the intelligence to get as far away from former Vols coach Butch Jones as possible, wanted to switch positions because of the lack of NFL longevity at running back. He has 47 catches for 622 yards and three touchdowns, but is also incorporated in the run game. Hurd has 25 carries for 112 yards and three scores.

Baylor came within a series of last-second red-zone throws from upsetting Big 12 leader Texas last week. Rhule wasn’t disappointed with the ending as much as his team’s penalties that factored into Texas scoring drives.

“The biggest lesson they learned is you can’t win big-time football games against big-time football teams on the road when you make a ton of mistakes.”

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