Baylor football head coach Art Briles took the podium to address the media for the 2010 Big 12 Media Day in his typical fashion—arriving with a persistent smile and optimism as the Bears enter the upcoming gridiron season.
This year, however, Briles may have plenty of reasons to be smiling—including the return of the injured quarterback phenom Robert Griffin III.
“I guess I’m no different than any other coach in America today,” Briles told the local and national media on July 26 for the Big 12 Media Day. “Everybody’s excited, enthusiastic, pumped, eager, anxious, high hopes, big dreams, but what I got to do is turn them into reality. So that’s the fun part.
“We’re really jacked about the season. We really feel good about it. 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, which started in 2008. So from that standpoint, you know, we do have a lot of hope and a lot of high aspirations. So that part of it is very exciting and very real. That’s kind of where we’re at right now.”
And that’s a start, no doubt. But where do the Bears hope to be come season’s end?
“You know, I mean, the easy answer is chemistry, of course,” Briles said. “You know, but that’s the real answer also. Our guys feel good about each other. They feel good about the direction. We’re physically the best football team we’ve been from just as far as the talent standpoint.
“You know, the guys—I mean, they have a very determined attitude, which we have to have. I mean, that’s—we understand what we have to do. We know we have to become a bowl-eligible football team, first and foremost, and then we’ll go from there. From that standpoint also, it’s very inspiring. It’s a great place for a lot of people to have a lot of inspiration, and that’s why I’m proud that I’m right in the middle of it.”
Beyond the hoopla of a new Big 12 season, most fans are questioning and wondering about the return of RGIII—the redshirt sophomore sensation with the arm of Peyton Manning mixed with the legs of Michael Vick.
“Actually, where his rehab is at—that’s as dry and humorous as I can get,” Briles said. “He’s really done exactly what we thought he would do. When you get something taken away from you, you respond two different ways. You pout, complain, sulk, cry, and fall into a shell; or you fight, you grind, you have vision, you have hope, and you work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life.
“That’s what Robert has done, and that’s what we knew he would do. Because you don’t become an elite athlete or an accomplished person without having something inside of you that that makes you want to be better than anybody else. And Robert has a competitive spirit that prevails and leads him in the right direction.”
So, where is Griffin in terms of returning to the gridiron in prime shape?
“As far as where he’s at physically right now, he was 217 pounds this morning,” Briles told the media on July 26. “That’s up about probably nine pounds from where he was a year ago at this time, which I like, which I’m all for. Our strength coach, Kaz Kazadi, and the staff have done a great job with him. Everything he’s done since his injury has been a structured atmosphere. So in that structured atmosphere, he’s really in great shape.
“What we’ve got to do, when we get him on the field September 4, is see how he responds instinctively. That’s how you determine where you’re at physically is when you make movements without your brain working first. And so that’s the thing that I think we'll see as the season goes along. But from a physical standpoint right now, he’s in really good shape.
“As far as the second part of the question, you know, I talked to Robert about coming today. Of course, he was here last year. And, you know, there’s a lot of really good football players at Baylor University.”
Just wait: Briles has a great point, I promise.
“Everybody knows Robert Griffin,” Briles said. “A lot of people don’t know Antonio Johnson, that his nickname’s Cuddy. They don’t know Danny Watkins, that he was a firefighter and a hockey player before he ever played football. He’s played football four years.
“They may not know about Phil Taylor, that he’s a transfer from Penn State and that he’s transformed himself into what we think he needs to be as a football player to contribute to our football team. So from that standpoint, that’s why Robert’s not here today.”
Amen, coach. Basically, this is a joint-effort sport—and there is no “I” in team.
But what makes Baylor better than in the past?
“I’ll tell you why I feel we’re better now than we were in 2008 or even 2009, is because, you know, if you live with somebody for a certain amount of time, you either like them or you dislike them, either appreciate them or don’t appreciate them, either work with them or you work against them,” Briles said.
“So we’ve been around these guys for two and a half years, and the ones that are still with us and hanging around and part of our program, we appreciate them, and we’ve been working with them, and we’ve been working on common goals since we’ve been with them. The more people you’ve got stepping in the same direction, the more force, and the more power you have.
“So that’s why I feel that we’re better now, is because, you know, early on we were operating on a little bit of a high, a little bit of smoke and mirrors. We were trying to make things happen instead of expecting things to happen.
"Right now we’ve got a pretty calculated decision-making process into figuring out what we think’s going to happen on each play. That’s where you [have] got to get as a football team. You’ve got to know, when something happens on either side of the ball or special teams, that you have a pretty predictable outcome.”
Predictable outcome or not, Briles and the Bears are prepped to make some noise on the Big 12 gridiron next season.
“Everybody we put on the field is important to the success of our football team, or we wouldn’t put them out there” Briles said. “They let us put 11 guys out there; we’d better put the best 11 on the field that gives us an opportunity to win.
“Robert has been in that situation to where he’s been one of those best 11. And if he is the person that he is and will be, then he’ll be an integral part of any of the successes that we have this year.”
Briles and the Baylor football team kickoff the regular season on August 4, 2010 against Sam Houston State at 6 p.m. CST at Floyd Casey Stadium.
Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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