By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider
Devin Neal didn’t hesitate for a moment.
When asked whether it was better to piss off the home fans at McLane Stadium or to silence an unruly crowd on the street, the Baylor junior safety said, “I would say, really, silence an away crowd.”
“The only memory that comes up from this season is in the state of Iowa,” he said. “At the start of the game it was very noisy initially, you could feel the swing going back and forth. And then the defense did what they had to do and took it away from them, you saw people walking out of the game. You didn’t hear anything. It was like a Tuesday practice. So yeah, I like taking the energy away.
That could get tricky in Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. game at the 60,454-seat Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock when the Bears (4-3, 2-2) take to the streets to take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders (4-3) to compete , 2-2).
“We know it’s going to be a crazy atmosphere,” said senior receiver Gavin Holmes. “There’s going to be a blackout, (Kansas City Chiefs quarterback) Pat Mahomes will be there. But these are essentially just distractions for us. We just have to go out and play our game. . . If we go out there, it’ll be just us. Everyone else will want to take our heads off. Of course we can’t turn off the crowd. But we were in such atmospheres.
What they haven’t seen are the flying tortillas that the tech fans throw onto the field during the game.
“I was wondering what that flies in the field. I thought it was like paper plates or something. You actually throw them on the field?” Nele said. “I didn’t know that was a thing. No, I’ve never been thrown a tortilla.”
‘THIS IS MY DOG:’ In his first five years at Baylor, Holmes saw four other receiver coaches come and go before Dallas Baker was hired in February when Chansi Stuckey left to take a job at Notre Dame.
Also tutored by Bob Bicknell, Frisman Jackson and Jorge Munoz, Holmes says of Baker, “That’s my dog.”
“I love Coach Baker. He was a father figure to me and to all of us out here,” said Holmes, who leads the team with 397 yards and three touchdowns from 18 catches. “This is by far the closest receiver room I’ve ever been to and I think it’s a testament to it. He just preaches unity.”
While some of their conversations relate to football, Holmes said: “It’s more about living with him.”
“You see that when he celebrates with us,” said Holmes. “He’s really happy for us and really cares. It’s so easy to play confidently for a coach like that. I think he’s helped us a lot.”
PREPARATION FOR THREE: With senior quarterback Tyler Shough available for the first time since his shoulder injury in the season opener, the Red Raiders could field up to three quarterbacks in Saturday’s game.
Sophomore Donovan Smith has started four games and played in all seven, throwing for 1,505 yards and 12 touchdowns with seven interceptions, while redshirt freshman Behren Morton started the last two, passing for 886 yards and five TDs with three picks.
“They had a few other quarterbacks there,” said Baylor coach Dave Aranda, “but they all found ways to get the offense to work off the special quality of the guy that’s there.”
Neal said film studies start this week because “you don’t know until the last second who’s going to be out there and what they’re doing.”
“You see a formation or what types of guys are out there,” Neal said. “You won’t know what you’re getting yourself into unless you watch a movie and get some kind of experience. We just have to make sure we all watch the film together and know whose strengths and weaknesses are.”
FAMILIAR FACES IN NEW PLACES: Former Baylor associate head coach Joey McGuire started his freshman year at Lubbock after a five-year run with the Bears that included two appearances in the Big 12 Championship, going 4-3 and victories over Texas and West Virginia.
But the Baylor connections run deep. There are no fewer than a dozen football employees at Tech, including inside linebackers coach Josh Bookbinder and tight ends coach Josh Cochran.
Bookbinder was an assistant defensive quality control for the Bears from 2018-21 and is the grandson of Hall of Fame coach Grant Teaff, while Cochran was an offensive line quality control coach under Matt Rhule GA from 2017-2019.
Former Baylor players Brian Nance and James Lockhart serve on support staff as director of scouting and assistant defensive quality control, respectively. James Blanchard, who had two stints at Baylor, is the Red Raiders’ Director of Players Personnel.
The tech team also includes strength coaches Lance Barilow and Brandyn Musgrave; Quintin Jordan, Head of Soccer; Harrison Hanna, Assistant Director of Football Operations and Recruitment; Kirk Bryant, senior offensive analyst; and Jake Pittman, a former Baylor student manager and another of Teaff’s grandsons.
Conversely, Baylor’s associates include former Texas Tech All-Americans Aaron Hunt, Assistant AD for Football Recruitment; and Kevin Curtis, who is in his sophomore year as cornerbacks coach.
“I have friends there who have already spoken to me,” said Holmes. “Obviously there are coaches on this team who I respect, who I’ve had great relationships with during their time here.”