Big 12 Sports.com Correspondent
2011: 10-3 overall, 6-3 in Big 12, won Alamo Bowl.
Starters returning: Offense 6, defense 8.
Achieving success in college football is challenging when a program has struggled for over a decade. When the break-through season happens, the next challenge becomes maintaining the level of success.
That's where Baylor finds itself going into the 2012 season. The Bears went 10-3, won a bowl game and had a Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Robert Griffin III. It was, arguably, the greatest season in school history. With Griffin and several other offensive play makers gone, what do the Bears do for an encore?
"As a program, we feel we've earned an elevated level," said Baylor coach Art Briles, who has a 25-25 record in his four seasons in Waco. "When you finish in the top two or three in the Big 12 standings, you're over the building. You're trying to sustain. We're going to have to do things differently, but that's what makes it exciting. We've got to have people become more accountable and we've got to have different playmakers."
Considering the outstanding achievements of the 2011-12 athletic season - a national championship in women's basketball, an Elite Eight appearance in men's basketball, a baseball season that is breaking records with regularity - Baylor's football team enters 2012 riding its own momentum and that of other teams.
"Our confidence is high," said senior quarterback Nick Florence, who has a 3.79 grade-point average while majoring in economics. "Our standard is high. We're not going to be settling for anything less than a Big 12 championship."
Quarterback Robert Griffin III, wide receiver Kendall Wright, running back Terrance Ganaway, center Phillip Blake, linebacker Elliott Coffey, defensive tackle Nicolas Jean-Baptiste.
Quarterback Nick Florence, quarterback Bryce Petty, running back Lache Seastrunk, wide receiver Terrance Williams, defensive tackle Kaeron Johnson, defensive tackle Nick Johnson.
Sophomore running back Lache Seastrunk was a highly touted high school recruit from Temple, Texas, who started his career at Oregon. He transferred to Baylor and sat out last season. He was slowed by an ankle injury but in the spring game he gained 135 yards on seven carries and had a 75-yard touchdown run.
Baylor's top three running backs in the spring scrimmage - Seastrunk, Jarred Salubi, Seastunk and Glasco Martin - gained 284 yards on 22 carries during the 112-play spring game. "All those guys are good," Briles said of the three backs. "And our offense enables some space, occasionally, to get through a hole and make some runs. So it's encouraging."
Briles is excited and confident that the defense will be improved. In 2010 as defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh, Phil Bennett was in charge of a defense ranked No. 15 in the nation. Last season, Baylor won 10 games despite a defense that finished 116th nationally. Briles says the defense has more depth, speed and experience.
Baylor must replace both of its defensive tackles (Nicholas Jean-Baptiste and Tracy Robterson) from last season and the two players listed as starters on the depth chart (Kaeron Johnson and Nick Johnson) are former offensive linemen. Freshman Javonte MaGee is 6-5, 262 pounds and a highly-touted recruit. He's listed as a defensive end but could see playing time at both end and tackle.
"I know the offense a lot better because I've done it for four years and I've physically matured. As a quarterback, you run the offense and take care of the ball and put it where it needs to go. It's an opportunity and I'm going to take hold of it."
- Quarterback Nick Florence.
"We've got great potential at receiver and guys who have delivered. What they've got to do now is look in the mirror. They can't look around to who might make the plays. They've got to look at themselves to make the plays."
- Coach Art Briles.
"The defense will be a lot better. We know the system a whole lot better. We've got a lot of people coming back and we're going to put it together and play big. I feel a lot more comfortable now and I know the defense like the back of my hand. This isn't JUCO anymore, so I have to be on top of my game."
- Cornerback K.J. Morton.
"People think we're going to bow down because we lost Robert (Griffin) and Kendall (Wright) and some other great players. But our confidence is still high and we'll play with a chip on our shoulders. We'll build off last year."
- Wide Receiver Lanear Sampson.
|Sept. 15||Sam Houston State|
|Sept. 21||at Louisiana-Monroe|
|Sept. 29||at West Virginia*|
|Oct. 20||at Texas*|
|Oct. 27||at Iowa State*|
|Nov. 10||at Oklahoma*|
|Nov. 17||Kansas State*|
|Nov. 24||Texas Tech* (Arlington, Texas)|
|Dec. 1||Oklahoma State*|