The Daily Texan spoke with DJ Ramirez, sports editor of The Baylor Lariat, ahead of the Texas football team’s game against Baylor on Saturday.
The Daily Texan: Baylor went 11–3 last year, and then (head coach) Matt Rhule and several other players left for the NFL. Before the pandemic hit, what were the expectations for the Bears this season?
DJ Ramirez: We were excited because Dave Aranda obviously had just come off winning a championship at LSU as a defensive coordinator. … People kind of expected us to be in maybe kind of a rebuild mode because we lost so many players, specifically on defense. But we had a lot of people coming back that had experience; they just hadn’t had starting experience.
DT: Baylor has had a lot of COVID issues — three postponements, and then the team had to suspend football activities a couple of weeks ago. To your knowledge, what are some reasons outbreaks have been such an issue for this team?
DJR: As far as Houston went, … they were just being extra cautious because I don't think any of the players had tested positive that week. It was just that they had come in contact with it, and nobody wanted to take any risks. ...This (most recent) postponement kind of came more as a shock.
DT: How has the inconsistency of this season impacted the players’ morale and the momentum of the team?
DJR: According to coach Aranda, they’re keeping the energy up during practice. … For the players … having to go to practice and then not having practice because somebody got COVID and not getting to play, I guess it would maybe derail some of the morale.
DT: It’s been a pretty small sample size of course given all the cancellations, but what have you seen from Dave Aranda in his lone two games as the Bears new head coach?
DJR: I don’t think anybody expected him to come in his first year and automatically take the team to the championship or even to a playoff. … He brought in some really good coaches and some really good coordinators. … It’s just trying to figure out where the pieces are falling out of place.
DT: (Texas head coach) Tom Herman mentioned Monday that because Baylor hasn’t played much, the staff doesn’t really know what to expect. Do you have any idea of what this team’s identity is?
DJR: They play the hardest that they can. … Last year, you could tell that they were a bit more of a fourth-quarter team even if they started out slow in the first half … I still think they had that potential going into this season.
DT: It sounds like the COVID-19 situation at Baylor has improved. Is the team ready to play Texas? Are they excited?
DJR: I think they are. I mean, it’s always exciting when you play The University of Texas. It doesn’t matter what sport it is. It’s a lot of history behind it. For us, Baylor, being smaller, more private, Texas is the big titan you want to take down every year, outside of Oklahoma. Whether they’re doing well or not throughout the season, I think people still just recognize the impact that winning against the Longhorns has on a program like Baylor, so it’s going to be exciting, especially when the game is in Austin.