Baylor football is officially all about building towards 2018 and 2019. Matt Rhule knew that, the large majority of fans knew that. But any slim (to none) hope of making a bowl game went out the window on Saturday night as Baylor fell to 0-7, meaning they can’t get to the .500 mark to become bowl eligible. While we all knew that was more than likely a month ago, it is now mathematically impossible.
That means while as much as Baylor will continue to try and win games this season, Rhule needs to make sure he is building this program for the future. That all starts with the quarterback position.
Zach Smith or Charlie Brewer? What should the Bears do?
On Saturday night, the true freshman Brewer replaced Smith, who Rhule said after the game was sick. Smith struggled going 16 of 27 for 261 yards. Brewer came in and lead the Bears to 23-straight points in the fourth quarter to nearly pull off the upset against West Virginia in a 38-36 loss.
Brewer hit Trestan Ebner on a 52-yard touchdown pass, which was followed up by a hand off to Ebner for a 40-yard touchdown. From there, a field goal cut it to a one-score game and his final drive of the night was an impressive 16 plays for 86 yards and a touchdown. Impressive, to say the least.
Brewer finished the game 8 for 13 with 109 yard and two touchdown passes. He also had 10 carries for 48 yards.
But on Monday, Matt Rhule was not ready to simply hand the reins over to Brewer just yet, saying, “We have a lot of confidence in Zach; he’s been our quarterback. But the whole program is based on competition, so we’ll go out there and practice the next couple of days and see if Charlie can pick up where he left off.”
Rhule is right to do that.
First off, I don’t want to anoint Charlie Brewer as the second coming just yet. He was outstanding, but the Mountaineers clearly got complacent and they were facing a quarterback they knew nothing about and had zero tape on. A similar example came three weeks ago when Kansas State brought in Alex Delton to replaced the injured Jesse Ertz. Delton ran over Texas for 79 yards on 12 carries. One week later he was held to 39 rushing yards on 19 carries against TCU. Then the Wildcats adjusted their game plan against OU and Delton piled up 142 rushing yards on 27 carries. It was gimmicky and it worked, but it always felt like a temporary fix.
That being said, Brewer brings a running element and pocket mobility that Smith doesn’t appear to possess. Also, I was a fan of burning his redshirt. Brewer could still redshirt next season if Baylor chose and it was time to see what exactly they had in the young man during a season that was all about looking to the future. Think back to 2014 when Oklahoma State burned Mason Rudolph’s redshirt (ironically against Baylor) following the head injury to Daxx Garman.
Rudolph’s success late in the season helped give the Cowboys a ton of momentum into the 2014-15 offseason and changed the recent trajectory of Oklahoma State football.
But if Baylor thinks it can get away with running Brewer 15-20 times per game, think again. Brewer is 6’1”, 190 pounds. He will end up hurt or worn out in two weeks. Just look at what Texas has done to true freshman Sam Ehlinger, who, by the way, is 6’4”, 230 pounds, and finds himself in concussion protocol after averaging 19 carries the past three games. It is not sustainable and simply temporarily masks other issues within the offense.
But if Brewer shows the same precision and accuracy he flashed against West Virginia then play him, but use his running game as a complement to his passing game, not vice versa.
Meantime, while Smith has struggled at times, we do need to remember he is only a sophomore and can be an enormous part of this program’s success moving forward. Plus, he’s less of a mobile quarterback and is playing behind a struggling offensive line. Just look at how mediocre Mason Rudolph, one of the best, but less mobile QBs in the Big 12, looked last week against Texas behind a banged up offensive line.
Moving on from Anu Solomon made complete sense, as he was a senior, and would have zero effect on this program after 2017. But that isn’t the case with Smith.
Ultimately, Brewer’s skill set it likely more of what Rhule envisions moving forward under offensive coordinators Jeff Nixon and Glenn Thomas, but it doesn’t mean Smith should be tossed on the scrapheap.
Ultimately, I have complete trust in Rhule to let these two compete this week in practice and let the best man start on Saturday against Texas. Then do it all again next week ahead of Kansas. Frankly, you can argue that nearly every position should be an open competition the rest of the way for Baylor. That’s what this season is all about. As tough as it seems right now, it will pay off down the road.
Patience, while trusting Matt Rhule and his process are the key.