Rhule ad­dresses spring work­outs, re­cent prob­lems

New coach has had to fire two staffers, sus­pend best de­fender.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Suzanne Hal­libur­ton shal­libur­ton@states­man.com

Matt Rhule, Bay­lor’s new coach, was brag­ging on his play­ers Thurs­day as he talked about his on-field ex­pec­ta­tions when the team be­gins spring prac­tice later this week.

But off-field prob­lems con­tinue to plague the Bears, even with new coaches, sup­port staff and an in­fu­sion of re­cruits.

In the past few weeks Rhule has been forced to fire two peo­ple he’d hired in Waco. He also had to sus­pend his best de­fender.

DeMarkco But­ler, di­rec­tor of foot­ball oper­a­tions, was ter­mi­nated ear­lier this week when it was dis­cov­ered he’d sent in­ap­pro­pri­ate text mes­sages to a teenager who is con­sid­ered an adult un­der state law.

Bran­don Washington, an as­sis­tant strength coach, was fired last month when he was ar­rested as part of a pros­ti­tu­tion sting at a Waco ho­tel.

Se­nior de­fen­sive back Travon Blan­chard, who was a semi­fi­nal­ist for last sea­son’s Thorpe Award, was sus­pended from all team func­tions when it was learned that his girl­friend had filed for a pro­tec­tion or­der and ac­cused him of abuse.

Rhule, who was hired in De­cem­ber from Tem­ple to steady a Bay­lor pro­gram that had been rocked by charges of sex­ual as­sault against its play­ers, made his first pub­lic com­ments Thurs­day on the re­cent staff fir­ings and Blan­chard’s sta­tus.

“As you guys also know, we dis­missed two oper­a­tions staff mem­bers in re­cent weeks,” Rhule said. “I can’t re­ally com­ment on the specifics be­cause they were per­son­nel mat­ters. But what I will say is, I feel like we’ve es­tab­lished clear ex­pec­ta­tions and a code of con­duct for ev­ery per­son — for my­self, for coaches, for the staff, for the play­ers. I think hope­fully ev­ery­one knows in our pro­gram that if you fail to meet those ex­pec­ta­tions, you’re go­ing to be held ac­count­able.

“I rec­og­nize the scru­tiny that our pro­gram is un­der. I un­der­stood that when I came here,” he added. “What I will say is that scru­tiny doesn’t guide our de­ci­sions. We’ll hold our staff and our stu­dent-ath­letes to the high­est stan­dards of con­duct. We rec­og­nize that our pro­gram, and any pro­gram, you know, peo­ple are go­ing to make mis­takes. Things are go­ing to hap­pen. But we’re al­ways go­ing to do what is right and in the best in­ter­est of the kids and the young peo­ple we’re here to serve.

“That was my com­mit­ment when I came here, and that’s my com­mit­ment mov­ing for­ward. I’m proud of the staff we have there, proud of the kids we have there, and I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward as we move to foot­ball.”

Rhule said he’d done his re­search on the pro­fes­sional ré­sumés of the men he’s hired, but he ac­knowl­edged he didn’t know about their per­sonal lives.

The Bears, as a team, have been work­ing out, go­ing to class and do­ing com­mu­nity ser­vice since Rhule hit town. Rhule, who of­fi­cially moved his wife, kids and pets to Waco this past Mon­day, es­ti­mated that his foot­ball team has per­formed more than 400 hours of vol­un­teer work this se­mes­ter.

The Bears are set to work for two hours at Mis­siom Waco to­day, the day be­fore they start spring prac­tice.

Rhule said the first three days of prac­tices will be run like an NFL mini camp, with no com­pe­ti­tion for start­ing jobs. Bay­lor will is­sue a spring ros­ter to­day but won’t have an of­fi­cial depth chart.

Spring will be mostly about get­ting to know per­son­nel and base schemes, as op­posed to in­stalling any­thing spe­cific. Rhule’s teams at Tem­ple were known most for ter­rific de­fenses. The Owls, on of­fense, fo­cused on run­ning the ball.

Rhule said Bay­lor’s of­fense prob­a­bly will be a “mix­ture” of what the San Fran­cisco 49ers ran un­der for­mer coach Chip Kelly. Bay­lor’s main of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor is Jeff Nixon, who was the 49ers’ tight ends coach.

But Rhule still is for­mu­lat­ing what that mix­ture of of­fense will look like on the field.

“Of­fen­sively, even though I like to get un­der cen­ter and hud­dle and do all those things, I’ve lost out so far,” Rhule said.

JERRY LAR­SON / WACO TRI­BUNE-HER­ALD

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