Skywriters Tour Visits Baylor
Courtesy: Big12Sports.com
          Release: 08/28/2010
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By Wendell Barnhouse | wendell@big12sports.com
Big12Sports.com Correspondent


2009: 4-8 overall, 1-7 in South Division, 6th tie 4th.
Bowl game: None.
Coach: Art Briles, 8-12, third season; 42-44 overall, 8th season.
Returning starters: 6 offense, 5 defense.

Key players returning
Sophomore QB Robert Griffin III, senior RB Jay Finley, junior WR Kendall Wright, senior OT Danny Watkins, junior C Phillip Blake, junior WR Kendall Wright, senior LB Antonio Johnson, senior LB Chris Francis, senior DT Phil Taylor, senior S Tim Atchison, senior P Derek Epperson, senior CB Clifton Odom, senior S Byron Landor

Impact newcomers
Freshman S Ahmad Dixon, freshman S Prince Kent, junior OT Robert Griffin, freshman DB T.C. Robinson, freshman S Prince Kent, freshman WR Tevin Reese, freshman RB Glasco Martin.

Offensive outlook
With a healthy Robert Griffin III running the attack, the Bears' offense should be potent. Baylor's season imploded when Griffin tore the ACL in his right knee in late September. During his rehab he has gained strength and weight during while maintaining his speed. In preseason scrimmages, his passing has been razor sharp. If senior running back Jay Finley (ankle injury) regains his form of two years ago, the Bears will have a reliable ground gainer. However, there is solid depth at running back. Junior Kendall Wright figures to be Griffin's favorite target but the wide receiver corps needs to find some big-play threats. The offensive line is solid and should benefit from the leadership of left tackle Danny Watkins, an All-American candidate.

Defensive outlook
There are two key players to be replaced - linebacker Joe Pawelek and safety Jordan Lake. Both were play makers and leaders. Senior Chris Francis could be Pawelek's replacement while Lake's safety spot is up for grabs. Senior Byron Landor along with freshmen Ahmad Dixon and Prince Kent are in the mix. Senior defensive tackle Phil Taylor needs to have a big season and the defensive ends must do a better job of pressuring opposing quarterbacks. Senior linebacker Antonio Johnson figures to be the top tackler on a defense that has put the emphasis on speed at every position.

Player on the spot
Robert Griffin III. Probably no player in the Big 12 is as crucial to his team's success as the Baylor quarterback. Staying healthy is one concern. The other is being the play maker - as a passer and as a runner - to make the Bears' offense scary.

Player on the rise
Chris Francis. The son of former Baylor All-American linebacker James Francis, the senior linebacker has been a reserve behind Pawelek. This is his time to step forward and shine as both a leader and a play maker. Francis has sideline to sideline range and is a sure tackler.

Number of note
In 12 games last season, Baylor produced just 18 sacks while opposing offenses attempted 430 passes.

Quote to note
Coach Art Briles on this year's team: "The thing I like about our guys who we're putting on the field this year is they're going to be very fresh, very fast and very fearless. … I really think, without a doubt, it will be the most complete team we've been able to put on the field since we've been at Baylor. So from that standpoint, we do have a lot of hope and a lot of high aspirations."

This and that
Baylor wants to change some of these ugly numbers: The Bears haven't beaten Texas since 1997, they're 0-18 against Oklahoma and the last time they scored more points than they allowed was 1995. … As a true in 2008, Griffin passed for 2,091 yards and 15 touchdowns, and ran for 843 yards and 13 touchdowns to earn first-team freshman All-America honors. … Punter Derek Epperson replaced Daniel Sepulveda, a two-time winner of the Ray Guy Award. In addition to averaging 44.8 yards per attempt last season, Epperson has a three-year average of 42.4 yards per punt. … Senior defensive back Mikail Baker, who missed the last nine games of 2009 with a torn ACL, has returned to action and should continue to give Baylor a kick return threat. He ranks third in school history with 65 returns and a 24.8-yard average. … Redshirt freshman Aaron Jones figures to handle extra points and field goals. He's nicknamed "Stork" because of his 6-foot-2, 175-pound physique.

Date book
The nonconference schedule has one huge challenge - on Sept. 18, Baylor plays at TCU, a top 10 team with hopes of making a run at the national championship. The Frogs will be huge favorites in this game between former Southwest Conference foes but the Bears will have a chance to measure themselves and assess how they'll match up with Big 12 foes. The Big 12 schedule is back loaded with tough games. Baylor closes the season with games at Texas and at Oklahoma State plus home games with Texas A&M and Oklahoma. On Oct. 9, Baylor plays a "home" game against Texas Tech in Dallas' Cotton Bowl.

2010 Schedule
Sept. 4 Sam Houston St
Sept. 11 Buffalo
Sept. 18 at TCU
Sept. 25 at Rice
Oct. 2 Kansas*
Oct. 9 Texas Tech* (in Dallas)
Oct. 16 at Colorado*
Oct. 23 Kansas State*
Oct. 30 at Texas*
Nov. 6 at Oklahoma State*
Nov. 13 Texas A&M*
Nov. 20 Oklahoma*
* - Big 12 Conference game.
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