West Virginia didn
No team in the Big 12 Conference ended the 2012 season with more momentum than
Baylor, and Art Briles' program enters the 2013 season as one of the
more intriguing teams in the league.
Briles has guided to BU to three-straight bowl games, a program first.
Coach: Art Briles Last season: 8-5 overall, 4-5 in
the Big 12. Beat UCLA 49-26 in the Holiday Bowl.
Following a 1-5 start in Big 12 play last year, the Bears righted the ship and
reeled off wins against then-No. 1 Kansas State, Texas Tech in overtime and
then-No. 23 Oklahoma State before embarrassing UCLA in the Holiday Bowl to
finish the year 8-5. But quarterback Nick Florence is gone and star receiver
Terrance Williams is now a Dallas Cowboy. Furthermore, the defense was atrocious
for much of 2012.
Will the Bears go bowling for a fourth straight year? Can they contend in a
wide-open Big 12?
We caught up with John Werner of the Waco Tribune-Herald for the latest on the
THE SPRING LEAD
Tommy Tuberville left the Red Raiders in December and Briles, a Texas
Tech graduate, was instantly mentioned as a potential replacement. While the Red
Raiders struggled to find consistency in the post-Mike Leach days,
Baylor's head coach added a Heisman Trophy and two bowl victories to what was
formerly one of the weakest BCS programs in all college football.
With a program built and a new football stadium on the way, BU fans weren't that
concerned about the possibility of Briles leaving.
"I think there was much more of a concern back in 2009," Werner said. "There
wasn't really much of a concern this time. Coach Briles is really tied into this
program, especially with the new stadium coming. I think he's just really
excited about being here. Three straight winning seasons, they've been getting
some really good recruiting classes coming in here. I think he really just loves
Briles certainly is a force to be reckoned with, and Baylor can no longer be
chalked up as an automatic win for the rest of the Big 12. Furthermore, the
Bears have proven to have some staying power after following up Robert Griffin's
departure with an eight-win campaign in 2012.
Now it's up to Bryce Petty, a junior, to keep the high passing offense
"The biggest thing is Bryce Petty taking over at starting quarterback," Werner
said. "This will start his fourth year in the system so he knows it very well.
He's really anxious to get in there and play. He's been behind Robert Griffin
and Nick Florence so he's ready to go. He knows Coach Briles system backwards
"He came quite a ways in spring. I think he needed to get in tempo with the
offense, maybe just pick up things a little quicker. By the end they were just
really pleased with him and are all set to go at quarterback."
Then there's running back
Lache Seastrunk, a potential Heisman Trophy
candidate. He only had 29 carries through the team's first seven games in 2012,
but exploded in the back-half of the season and ended up leading BU in rushing
"Probably the reason he didn't play a whole lot at the start of last year is he
was still trying to adjust to the offense and just trying to learn the system,"
Werner said of the Oregon transfer. "By the end of the season he had gotten it.
He knew his game and knew the offense very well. He knew how to hit the hole
harder and he's obviously a great downfield runner.
"The last half of the season, he had over 800 yards in the last five or six
games. I think he is a candidate."
Baylor's defense passed the eyeball test this spring, especially when compared
to how bad the unit looked at times last season.
"I think they're going to be better," Werner said. "They look more athletic
across the board. I think where they've really improved is defensive end.
They've got a couple of starters back. Chris McAllister and
Terrance Lloyd, and a couple of young players coming up. Penn State
transfer Shawn Oakman, who sat out last year under NCAA transfer rules,
he's 6-foot-8 and 250, 260 pounds. He can really move and they think he has a
great future. Another guy is Jamal Palmer who really came on late last year."
Baylor is so deep at defensive end it has moved former four-star recruit
Javonte Magee to defensive tackle.
Ahmad Dixon has moved from nickelback to strong safety in an effort to
get more speed on the last line of defense. Werner said it's Dixon's natural
Former safety Sam Holl is moving to nickelback.
"I think that switch will work pretty well for them," Werner said.
Baylor's offensive line is somewhat of a question mark as the staff tries to
find the best fit for a group that has been more than adequate in recent years.
"(Right tackle) Troy Baker tore his ACL and he probably won't be back
until early October so they had to move a bunch of guys around," Werner said.
"They moved Kelvin Palmer from center to right tackle.
Stefan Huber moved from right guard to center, and they moved
Desmine Hilliard to right guard."
Defensive end depth was a modest positive surprise and sophomore
Terrell Burt shored up depth at safety as a solid No. 3 option.
"There weren't any real shockers, but some guys really came out strong," Werner
It's just hard to trust a defense that historically has struggled to keep up
with the offense.
"It's probably just the development of the defense," Werner said. "Whether they
can get a good pass rush. With those ends, they feel pretty good about it.
They're going to get some help at tackle with Andrew Billings, a Waco
High kid coming in, and they have a few JUCO guys they're moving in. I think
they feel their defensive line is stronger. They obviously needed a better pass
rush last year.
"So I think the biggest concern is just continuing to improve on defense. They
got a lot better toward the end of last year and they're hoping to keep that
Schedule Note: Baylor starts the season with four straight home
games, including West Virginia in the fourth week to start the season. ... The
Bears will play out-of-state just three times. ... Oklahoma and Texas visit
Waco. ... Tech gets the Bears after a game against Oklahoma in the second game of
a four-game gauntlet also featuring TCU in Fort Worth and Texas to wrap up the