Bear to Watch: Electric QB Robert Griffin Could Bring Baylor Out of Hibernation

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Bear to Watch: Electric QB Robert Griffin Could Bring Baylor Out of Hibernation
(Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

By now we are all aware of the two premier quarterbacks in the Big 12: Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and Texas' Colt McCoy.

These two, along with Florida's Tim Tebow, are the front runners in the race for this year's Heisman Trophy, and for good reason. Their accomplishments are up there with some of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the college game.

However, lost in the titanic hype surrounding Bradford and McCoy is a young quarterback who last season singlehandedly raised the spirits of a program in need of a serious emotional boost.

The Baylor Bears haven't exactly been atop the Big 12 standings year in and year out. In fact, the Bears have finished no higher than fifth in the Big 12 South since the conference's inception in 1996.

A measly 13-43 conference record is all the Bears have to show for 13 years of membership in the Big 12. Moreover, they haven't made the postseason since 1994, when they played in the Alamo Bowl.

To say the 2008 season was a success would be ludicrous considering the Bears finished below .500 yet again at 4-8 (2-6).

But there was something different about the 2008 Baylor squad.

The 2008 version of the Bears didn't lie down and get blown out week after week by physically superior opponents. In fact, the 2008 Baylor Bears convinced a lot of people that they were finally catching up athletically with some of the bigger-name programs in the conference.

The perception of this program changed dramatically—and it had a lot to do with electrifying freshman Robert Griffin.

When Art Briles brought his prized recruit along with him when he left U of H, very few in Bear nation were aware that this kid possessed that "it" factor that surfaces once or twice every decade.

Sure, Griffin was known for his elite speed on the high school track, but no one was quite sure what they were getting in terms of a quarterback.

When the freshman quarterback entered late in the game against Wake Forest in the season opener, the Baylor coaching staff was trying to run the clock and end what was already a very ugly rout.

However, fans got a glimpse of greatness, even if it was for just a few drives at the end of an already decided game.

Griffin went 11-for-19 for 125 yards and rushed for another 29 yards and a touchdown. These might seem like pedestrian numbers, but keep in mind this was with less than a half of work.

The coaching staff handed Griffin the starting reins, and two weeks later, he set a quarterback rushing record at Baylor with 217 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in a 45-17 trouncing of Washington State.

It was the kind of performance that made many say, "Hey, this kid kinda reminds me of a younger Vince Young."

Let's not look too far in to that comparison just yet, but there is no doubt that Griffin's talents have made him a force to be reckoned with in the Big 12.

Despite a subpar supporting cast, Griffin was able to rush for 102 yards against Oklahoma, 101 yards against Texas, 121 yards against Nebraska, and 56 yards in a near-upset of Texas Tech.

Griffin finished the year with 13 touchdowns on the ground, tied for a Baylor single-season record. 

Griffin's talents went well beyond running the ball, as he threw for 2,091 yards and 13 touchdowns against just four interceptions, completing 56 percent of his passes. 

He set the NCAA freshman record for consecutive passes thrown without an interception at 219. 

He has rare athletic talents and is already a very polished passer for his age.

The question is whether the 2009 season will be his breakout year, as if 2008 wasn't stellar enough.

Griffin dropped track this past spring and has fully committed to football, a move that will only help him in furthering his development as a quarterback.

He has often expressed his desire to get Baylor back on the map of college football, or at least create a little blip on the radar. 

The way Griffin performed his freshman year, I wouldn't be surprised if he made good on his promise to lift Baylor to new heights this coming season.

Obviously, a bowl bid is the first and foremost priority for this program. But what about for Griffin? Some have got to wonder whether his mind is on another prize.

Anyone with his talent should be considered for accolades, but what about the coveted Heisman? Does Robert Griffin, the quarterback of Baylor University, deserve mention in the Heisman conversation?

Circle Oct. 24 and Nov. 14 on your calendars. Baylor gets Oklahoma State and Texas at home and will be at least 14-point underdogs going into both contests.

Am I saying Baylor will win these games?

No. 

Am I saying Baylor could potentially win these games? 

Not really. 

However, should Griffin somehow miraculously lead Baylor over one or both of these opponents, the Heisman race could take a huge turn in his favor.

While I believe Baylor is being given too many premature votes of confidence, it's not out of the question that Robert Griffin gets this team into a bowl game and makes the Heisman hunt more than a three-horse race.

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