You may have noticed, over the past several years, that one SB Nation site avoids doing Q&As with us. That was once again true this year. But, no matter, Brian Etheridge of Sic Em 365 came highly recommended and was kind enough to take time away from his family during the holidays to answer a few questions for us ahead of Friday’s big Revivalry Game. We can’t thank Brian enough.
Frogs O’ War: Obviously, the record is what it is, but the Baylor fanbase seems to be drawing excitement from the progress the team has made over the last several weeks especially. What are you seeing from the program that gives fans hope for the future?
Brian Etheridge: I'm not sure I'd say excitement as much as understanding of where the team is in 2017. Baylor has been shorthanded in several positions and had a low of 47 available scholarship players during one game. The injuries have been at a freakish level with broken legs and ACL becoming the norm.
The hope for the future appears to be how the youth of the team has been performing on the field. Many are also looking forward to adding at least four possible standout athletes to the rotation in 2018, plus another large class of signees to replace many which left in 2016.
FOW: What are your early returns on Matt Rhule? Do you think he is the long term solution in Waco?
BE: The early returns are understanding what he had to do when he made it to campus. 1) Keep the team together 2) Protect and defend the players on campus who came after the incidents which lead to the former staff being removed 3) Change the culture 4) Win
He hasn't won, but 2017 is basically a rebuild with two tight ends getting significant time on the OL, losing two of the best DL to injury, etc...
If/when Rhule wins and how much will determine if he's the long term solution.
FOW: Charlie Brewer has been a bit of a revelation since taking over the starting job; while still making some true freshmen mistakes, he has a little flare to his game and seems to be primed to be THE QB of the future. What is it about his game that fits the offense and what took the coaching staff so long to give him the keys to the kingdom?
BE: I'm not sure a healthy Zach Smith behind a better OL wouldn't be doing this against some of the competition Charlie has faced, but I'm not taking anything away from Brewer or his play by saying Kansas and Tech are not defensive stalwarts to hang a hat on. Smith looked great against Oklahoma and at other times as well. I see a spirited competition in the spring to decide the starter for 2018.
FOW: How do you think the Bears' defense matches up against the TCU offense that could be rolling out a third string QB? What do they do well? Where are they susceptible?
BE: Baylor will look to stop the run and pressure the QB. With the loss of Taylor Young last week, Baylor will need Lenoy Jones, Jr. to step up. DL is likely the strength of the defense and safety the weak spot all season.
FOW: Denzel Mims is somewhat quietly putting together a pretty insane season, with over 1000 yards in receptions and 8 TDs. How has he grown as a player this year and do you expect him to take advantage, at 6'3", of the Frogs' smallish secondary?
BE: Mims should be a redshirt freshman but was played is a few games in 2016 before he was ready. Now that he is being coached by a former NFL WR coach he has blossomed to what we saw of him at a camp in Marshall before his Senior season. He's a freakish athlete with length and speed. I believe Ranthony Texada will be singled up on him and it will be a battle.
FOW: The TCU defense has been aggressive this year, limiting opposing offenses to less than 3.0 yards a carry and amassing 32 sacks. Can the Baylor offensive line hold their own against the Frogs' defensive line and linebackers?
BE: No. Baylor will not likely have much success running the ball. Pass protection is much better, but Baylor may be without starting LT Maurice Porter with his many injuries. TCU will likely blitz early and Brewer will need to move the pocket.
FOW: Gary Patterson referred to Friday's matchup as Baylor's bowl game, and for all intents and purposes, it's just that. They have a chance to keep their rival out of the Big 12 Championship game and finish their season on a high note. This rivalry, as proud as any in the country over a three or four year period, has lost some of its luster over the last year and a half, but it still means something to the fans. What's the temperature of the Baylor fanbase heading into Friday's game? Do they still harbor hatred for the Horned Frogs?
BE: I think the Baylor fan base is ready for basketball season and hoping for fewer injuries.
FOW: How can Baylor beat TCU? What is your prediction for the game and its score?
I don't ever predict scores and this season has been one where the unexpected seems to happen to the team with their youth.
The way for Baylor to defeat TCU is to force turnovers and avoid turnovers of their own.
Be sure to give Brian a follow, @BE_SicEm365 for all your team in Waco needs!