What do you do if you have had a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback within the past two years, lead the nation in offensive yards per game in 2012 (ranked second in 2011), and finished the season on an upswing in 2012? Still in the shadows of huge state programs in Texas and Oklahoma and rumored to have a questionable defense, Baylor Bear head coach Art Briles is excited about it.
Briles was seemingly born to coach football. Growing up in a small Texas town, getting a shot at playing Division 1 college football, overcoming the tragic loss of his parents and steadily making his way through the Texas High School coaching ranks, Briles got his first shot college coaching in 2000. After winning state championships in Stephenville, TX, he joined Texas Tech coaching running backs. He soon was hired at the University of Houston and brought that program back into prominence; setting the stage for other Houston coaches that moved on to better pastures; head coach of Texas A&M Kevin Sumlin and head coach of Texas Tech Kliff Kingsbury.
But in 2008, Briles made the move to Baylor to begin another reclamation project. Baylor had just endured a three-win and nine-loss season with head coach Guy Morriss. At the time, Baylor was trying to reclaim the glory days of Grant Teaff but with each successive coaching change the outlook wasn’t improving. In 2008, Briles stated, “we want guys with a vision. I want guys that want to start a new path and not follow down an old one.” And that is just what Briles and his players did.
The 2011 season signaled the arrival of the Baylor football program with Briles at the helm. High-powered offense lead by the nations best player and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III carried the Bears to a 10-win and three-loss season. Wins against Texas and Oklahoma punctuated the season but a strong finish in the Alamo Bowl against the then 15th ranked Washington Huskies seemed foreshadow a huge 2012. Those 2012 hopes only partially materialized.
Things looked good on the offensive side of the ball. Even though the Baylor offense lost RG3 to the NFL, they lead the league in yards during the 2012 season. Baylor won its first three games. Unfortunately, the Baylor defense was the culprit in 2012 as the next four games were lost with an average of 52.5 points given up in those losses. Briles righted the ship and finished with eight wins and five losses, a bitter pill for Briles and the Baylor football team. Had the momentum gained in 2011 been lost?
That is the main question for 2013. Can Baylor, with another new quarterback and still questionable defense, make another push to the top of the Big 12. The timing seems right with traditional powers in rebuilding mode and talent like QB Bryce Petty and RB Lache Seastrunk running what some say is the most efficient spread offense in college football. Briles hopes so.
This season, Baylor is closing down Floyd Casey Stadium, home of the Bears since 1950. Will Briles and the Bear Football team turn the lights out on the old stadium with the glitter of a Big 12 trophy or another year of expectation, conjecture and disappointment? This season ought to be a high scoring one in Baylor either way.