In an effort to bring you in-depth insight on the opposing teams that West Virginia plays, WVSports.com goes Behind Enemy Lines for a look at Baylor and what to expect from the Bears Saturday from SicEmSports.com Publisher Kevin Lonnquist.
1. What is the atmosphere around the program right now with how quickly things have changed around Waco? What do you expect crowd wise? Where is this team lacking right now that recent Baylor teams have had and how has the transition to Rhule gone to date?
I would call it a bit sour given the struggles this team has had on both sides of the ball. There was a big upheaval during the bye week where two players Jourdan Blake and Ish Wilson were kicked off the team. A third Terence Williams got a second chance. The change from the spread to the power running game has not worked well. Baylor had been in its first five games in the fourth quarter. Then they got hammered at Oklahoma State. It could be a combination of things just not going right and OSU looking for payback after dropping the previous three meetings to the Bears.
2. Zach Smith started against West Virginia a year ago and fared well for a freshman. I noticed he didn't start the season for the Bears was that a surprise? How has he emerged back as the starter and where has he improved? Where does he struggle?
I was shocked he didn't start. I think it was mistake to go with the Arizona transfer Anu Solomon who frankly just didn't have it. Smith has been OK since he took over against Duke. But there are two major issues he's dealing with. First, his OL isn't very good and he's under pressure quite a bit. Second, he's having a problem with turnovers, especially in the fourth quarter. He has five alone in that period.
3. Baylor had a lot of turnover on offense, what is the scheme like under Rhule and how does this offense want to attack opposing defenses? Who are the players to watch?
Go look at the opening drive at Oklahoma State where Baylor marched 75 yards in 12 plays and took more than 6 minutes off the clock and that's what Rhule wants to do. Baylor wants to be physical with the running game. The RB situation is a mix between freshman John Lovett, Williams and JaMycal Hasty who just returned from a knee injury. The top receiver will be Denzel Mims. He's really emerged nicely, although he was no factor in Stillwater.
4. What is the scheme on defense and what does this unit do well? Players to watch?
They'll base out of a 4-3 but try to send as many as eight at different times. The defensive front is really thin because of injuries to Xavier Jones and KJ Smith. MLB Clay Johnston has had a solid season. Converted WR Blake Lynch is now at DB. He can handle that because he was a jack of all trades in high school. He's one of the top athletes on the team.
5. Any notable injuries or suspensions? What do you believe the keys to this game are if Baylor wants to get its first win? How do you see this one playing out?
I mentioned injuries to Jones and Smith. They also lost WR Chris Platt (knee), TE Rob Saulin (shoulder) and P Drew Galitz (knee) to season ending injuries. This is homecoming for Baylor. Baylor should give a great effort. But because the DL can't amount any kind of pressure, a young and inexperienced secondary. I don't know how they're going to do that against Will Grier unless the Mountaineers help them. The trend in this series is that neither team has won on the road. I would expect that to change on Saturday.