Baylor’s first-year head coach Dave Aranda offers a different dynamic from the Longhorns’ prior head coaching matchups this season.
Aranda, who is widely revered for his calm and welcoming demeanor toward anyone in the film room and his suggestions on how to improve, is the only new head coach in the Big 12 this season and is serving as a head coach for the first time in his 24-year coaching career. He is also the sole head coach on the Longhorns’ schedule that didn’t play college football in any capacity.
The differences don’t end there.
To add on to the unique unfamiliarity that Aranda presents the Longhorns, his Bears have played just two games this season, as repeated COVID-19 outbreaks have prevented Baylor from fulfilling Big 12 roster thresholds twice. The Bears’ season opener on Sept. 12 against Louisiana Tech was postponed because of COVID-19 issues with the Bulldogs.
The pandemic has left Aranda with limited opportunities to practice in both the spring and fall, meaning the Big 12’s lone new coach has had far less time than any of his peers to instill a brand new culture and scheme in his inaugural year with the program.
Aranda’s status as a defensive-oriented head coach has almost assuredly made his adjustment as Baylor’s new head coach more difficult compared to newly hired head coaches with offensive backgrounds.
Head coaches who have previously served as defensive coordinators often present fresh tackling techniques to players who have spent the majority of their college careers playing under a different philosophy.
Anyone who has spent time watching the Texas football team this season would certainly subscribe to the argument that consistent tackling often takes time to develop under a new defensive scheme.
Baylor’s lack of both practice and game reps has undoubtedly made Aranda’s job as a first-year coach much more difficult, but failing to point out the advantages that come with his situation wouldn’t paint the whole picture for Saturday’s matchup.
The Bears have played just two games, meaning Texas has limited film to draw up a game plan against them. Factor that in with Aranda’s unique newness to the Big 12, and the Longhorns are coming into their matchup against Baylor with weakened intel on what their opponents weaknesses are on both sides of the ball.
It certainly shouldn’t be implied that the Longhorns are total strangers to Aranda. Along with rooming with Texas head coach Tom Herman back in college, he was the defensive coordinator for an LSU team that allowed 38 points in a thrilling win against the Longhorns last year in Austin.
In an effort that came close to knocking off LSU during its National Championship run, Texas showed that it is capable of putting up points against an Aranda-led defensive unit.
But things are different now. Texas no longer has receivers such as Collin Johnson or Devin Duvernay to present a vertical threat, and Aranda doesn’t have a K’Lavon Chaisson or a Kristian Fulton to anchor his defense either.
As a result, Saturday's tilt will be intertwined with mystique and unfamiliarity for both sides and at the very least, should provide a solid source of entertainment for fans.