May 30, 2016
The Baylor Bears acted fast to replace Art Briles, naming former Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe as their interim head football coach for the 2016 season.
Grobe spoke about the job in a statement issued in the program release:
It is an honor for me to have the opportunity to join the Baylor football program during this important time. I am looking forward to getting to know and working with the coaches and players in the coming days, and I have great respect for Baylor as an institution and its long-standing heritage. As a coach, winning is important. At the same time, I want to assure the Baylor family that every decision we will make in this football program will be made with Baylor University, her students and our student-athletes in mind.
Following an investigation by law firm Pepper Hamilton into the school’s handling of sexual assault, Baylor announced on May 26 it had suspended Briles and planned to terminate his contract.
According to Wolken, Baylor will launch a more thorough head coaching search at the conclusion of the 2016 campaign. Hiring Grobe isn’t an optimal solution for the Bears, but the program couldn’t afford to wait much longer to find Briles’ successor, even on a short-term basis.
Baylor’s recruiting has suffered since it announced Briles was on the way out. According to 247Sports, four players have decommitted from the school since Briles’ suspension, including two 4-star recruits, wide receiver Hezekiah Jones and tight end Kedrick James.
Another top recruit, quarterback Kellen Mond, could be on the verge of decommitting from Baylor, too. In an interview with Bleacher Report’s Tyler Donohue, Mond revealed he “definitely committed [to the Bears] because of [Briles].”
Mond is the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback and No. 103 player overall in 247Sports’ composite rankings for 2017. Losing him would be a debilitating blow for Baylor’s recruiting class.
Grobe can now work on getting Mond to affirm his commitment to the school in addition to targeting other players to build the Bears’ 2017 class back up. Granted, Grobe wasn’t exactly a great recruiter at Wake Forest, as the rankings for the Demon Deacons’ final five classes under Grobe suggest, per 247Sports‘ composite team rankings:
Baylor’s search for Briles’ replacement had to extend beyond just on-field and recruiting considerations. Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman alluded to how the school needed to send a bigger message with this hire:
Consequently, Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports wondered if Baylor overlooked one of its top internal candidates for the same reason:
Grobe offers a steady hand to lead the Bears through a tough time. Former Wake Forest star linebacker Aaron Curry gave Baylor players an idea of what to expect from their new head coach:
The only potential issues Grobe’s hiring presents for Baylor are the tweaks he’ll likely make to the offense. The Demon Deacons thrived early in his tenure while using more of a run-heavy misdirection style that kept opponents on their toes.
The Bears’ spread-based attack is built in Briles’ image. They’ll struggle should Grobe institute an offensive style more in line with his days at Wake. However, the bulk of Baylor’s staff, including offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, remains, so the team could still rely on the tenets Art Briles instilled during his eight years with the program.
Plus, quarterbacks Seth Russell and Jarrett Stidham will be back in addition to the team’s top two leading rushers, Shock Linwood and Johnny Jefferson. The cupboard of offensive talent is far from bare for Grobe.
Baylor was in a difficult spot. All of the best head coaching candidates had either already switched schools or weren’t going to do so before the start of the 2016 season. Bringing in Grobe as a stopgap will allow the Bears to make do for this year and then fully survey the coaching landscape next winter.
Read more Baylor Football news on BleacherReport.com