We’ve reached the point of the offseason where preseason magazines start to trickle out onto grocery store shelves and in .PDF format on Twitter and everywhere else you find your college football content.
One of the mainstays of the preseason magazine world, Athlon Sports, has long had a segment during this part of the season when they ask coaches, anonymously, about other coaches in their league.
While no one could have predicted the Baylor Bears falling as far as they did in the Big 12 Conference after winning a title in 2021, however, one anonymous Big 12 coach spoke on the regression under Dave Aranda saying that something strange was going on in Waco last season.
“They were a confusing team to play last year. Something was definitely off. Dave [Aranda] is a really smart defensive coach, but didn’t seem like they really used a lot of the stuff he’s known for schematically. What really stood out is how they weren’t as physical on defense. Guys weren’t playing as hard, to be honest. Just a weird vibe for an Aranda team.”
While the criticism might be a little harsh, the sentiment seems to be agreed upon by Big 12 fans. The 2021 Big 12 champs took a major step back in 2022 falling to a record of 6-7 overall, and 4-5 in conference play. While losses can definitely be the reason for an underwhelming team’s lack of effort during a long season, the reports of the Bears playing a completely different style of football is strange considering how successful the program was in the previous season.
The lack of physicality on defense is an especially interesting take as Dave Aranda has been known for a while as a defensive-minded head coach. It’s one thing to say that the team lost its staple physicality but at times defensively last season the Bears couldn’t get out of their own way. The two most notable examples of this were Baylor’s week two matchup of the non-conference schedule when new addition Big 12 team BYU took the Bears down 26-20 before conference play had even started. Perhaps the worst loss of the season for Baylor came against the Big 12 champions, K-State who dismantled the Bears 31-3. In that game, Baylor’s defense gave up a total of 405 yards resulting in the team getting hammered in the time-of-possession battle 37:37-22:23.
The Bears start their season off against Texas State on September 2nd, and while non-conference games are typically an “easy win” Baylor struggled last year in their first three games. If Baylor hopes to bounce back in 2023, the “weird vibe” in Waco will have to find its way out before kickoff.