Big 12 Sports.com Correspondent
2009: 4-8 overall, 1-7 in Big 12.
Starters returning: Offense (7), defense (5)
Coach Art Briles goes into his third season in Waco with a deeper and more talented team. He has continued bringing in talent, both from the high school and junior-college ranks. With several South Division teams undergoing transitions in coaching or at quarterback, the Bears have the chance to move above .500.
Baylor's high hopes last season were dashed when quarterback Robert Griffin tore his ACL in the third game. Griffin's injury derailed a 3-1 start and helped keep the Bears from reaching a bowl game for the first time since 1994.
Thanks to a waiver granted by the Big 12, 2009 counted as a redshirt season for Griffin so he enters this season as a sophomore. He was held out of contact during spring practice but is expected to be at 100 percent when preseason practices start in August.
The defense is making several play makers in the back seven. Linebacker Joe Pawelek and safety Jordan Lake were defensive mainstays for the last four seasons and both must be replaced. Linebacker Antonio Jones and safety Jeremy Williams are two more defensive starters that are gone. The receiving corps lost David Gettis and Ernest Smith while the offensive line loses center J.D. Walton.
Robert Griffin. No, not that Robert Griffin (who officially is Robert Griffin III). Robert Griffin is a 6-6, 335-pound offensive lineman from Navarro (Texas) Junior College. After undergoing shoulder surgery three weeks into spring practice, he's expected to play a major role in the offensive line which will try to make sure the other Robert Griffin stays healthy and has time to pass.
You'll hear about
Ahmad Dixon. A top 100 recruit from Waco Midway High School, Dixon could be the answer to the "Who replaces Jordan Lake" question. Lake started as a freshman and wound up starting 36 consecutive games. Dixon could follow in Lake's footsteps. Dixon orally committed to Texas before signing with Baylor. Rivals.com said that Dixon, "Could be an impact freshman …he is not afraid to hit and has very good ball skills."
* Junior Kendall Wright (team-leading 66 receptions and 740 receiving yards) is an outstanding receiver but the Bears have several holes to fill with the losses of Gettis and Smith. During the spring, four young players were impressive - sophomores Terrance Williams and Josh Gordon along with freshmen Darius Jones and freshman Tevin Reese.
* Like quarterback Robert Griffin, running back Jay Finley missed spring practice in order to heal up from a leg injury that hampered him last season. As a sophomore and with Griffin at QB, Finley ran for 865 yards and seven touchdowns. If he returns to form, he'll give the Bears another weapon in the backfield.
* With Griffin sitting out the spring, sophomore quarterback Nick Florence got plenty of snaps. Florence, who was thrown into the fire as a freshman last season after Griffin was hurt, threw for 242 yards in the spring game and he gives the Bears a capable backup.
Coach speak from Art Briles
"He's doing well, rehabbing hard. They expect him to be fully prepared and ready by Aug. 1. That's not a concern right now. Not having him in the spring wasn't hard because we went through most of the season without him."
- On quarterback Robert Griffin's recovering from his injury
"He was with us for three weeks in the spring before he had shoulder surgery. It looks like he'll be ready by Sept. 1. He looks the part; he's a big strong kid who has worked hard to make his body ready for the Big 12 South. When he gets off the bus, people are gonna say, 'That's a Big 12 South player.'"
- On the "other" Robert Griffin, a junior-college offensive lineman
"A year ago I thought we signed one of the best groups of receivers around. They all had great springs. Kendall Wright has been great the last two years. He just needs to keep improving, take more of a leadership role. Lanear Sampson, Terrance Williams and Josh Gordon all did a great job."
- On his team's depth and talent at wide receiver
"We're missing their leadership stature and their playing ability. But that's the nature of college football. We need other guys to assume those roles, step up and take over for those guys."
- On replacing linebacker Joe Pawelek and safety Jordan Lake
"Chris Francis real came on at middle linebacker, he's a great teammate and a leader. Antonio Johnson at outside linebacker is a three-year starter who's a powerful play maker. I think he'll be All-Big 12. Tim Atchison I think will step in for Jordan Lake. He needs to develop being more vocal, being more of a leader."
- Who are some of the defensive leaders who have emerged
|Sept. 4||Sam Houston State|
|Sept. 18||at TCU|
|Sept. 25||at Rice|
|Oct. 9||Texas Tech* (Dallas)|
|Oct. 16||at Colorado*|
|Oct. 23||Kansas State*|
|Oct. 30||at Texas*|
|Nov. 6||at Oklahoma State*|
|Nov. 13||Texas A&M*|