Coach Art Briles loves spring practice.
Baylor's coach knows once the season starts he has to concentrate on the upcoming opponents. That's why Briles thinks spring drills are a perfect time to get to know his team and prepare the Bears for what's ahead with a lot of good old-fashioned practice time.
As Briles put the Bears through this year's spring drills, which ended with a scrimmage on April 10, he stressed one matter more than anything else. Toughness.
And considering the Bears play in the meat grinder that's the Big 12 South, that's a good idea.
"The big thing we need is to become more dominant up front on both sides of the ball," Briles said in the Waco Tribune. "We need a tough-guy mentality up front, and we also need to run the ball more effectively. I also want to see our defense be fast, aggressive and fearless."
Briles thinks that goal was accomplished. He also was pleased about another matter in the scrimmage, which ended with the White defeating the Green, 20-14.
"We tried not to hype it too much, just for the sake of getting through and getting out of it injury free, which we did, which was the most important thing that we wanted to accomplish," he said.
Quarterback Robert Griffin, who missed most of last season with a torn ACL in his right knee, didn't play in the scrimmage, but participated in many of the drills during the spring session and will be ready when the team begins summer practices on Aug. 1.NOTES, QUOTES
--Philip Blake is being moved from right tackle to center. Blake had his struggles last season at tackle after transferring from Tyler Junior College. Coach Art Briles thinks Blake's leadership skills will help the offensive line. Blake will try to fill the shoes of All-American center J.D. Walton
--In another position switch on the offensive line, Ivory Wade, who played primarily at guard last season, has been moved to right tackle. Wade, who played tackle in high school, was at the top of Baylor's 2009 recruiting class.
--Willie Jefferson has been moved from receiver to tight end. He caught five passes, including a touchdown, for 101 yards last season. His 6-foot-6 frame should create some matchup advantages at his new position and improve the Bears' blocking.
LB Chris McAllister -- Coach Art Briles thinks the redshirt sophomore had as impressive a spring camp as anyone on the team. Briles likes McAllister's size (240 pounds) and speed.
WR Josh Gordon -- Briles says the light has clicked on for the sophomore, who caught one pass last season. Gordon caught two passes for 53 yards and a touchdown in the spring scrimmage.
QB Nick Florence -- Even though he won't see much playing time if Robert Griffin recovers from his knee injury, the sophomore still impresses the coaching staff. Florence completed 20-for-31 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns in the spring scrimmage.
RB Isaac Williams -- The junior college transfer took advantage of his playing time in the spring with Jay Finley sidelined by knee surgery. He led all rushers with 71 yards and one touchdown on 15 carries, a 4.7-yard average, in the spring game.
LBs LeQuince McCall and Rodney Chadwick -- McCall, a redshirt freshman, and Chadwick, a sophomore. Had good spring camps and will help the Bears' depth.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I hope you guys were looking at them saying `boy, those guys are strong, fast, mean and tough,' because that is what those guys need to be. They need to be aggressive and physical with a bad temper. That is what we have to get to and that is the way that we have to play because the Big 12 South, if you are friendly and nice, you are going to have a long season. We've got to make sure that we have Big 12 South caliber players from a physical standpoint." -- Baylor coach Art Briles on the philosophy and attitude he wants his defense to show in the 2010 season.STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 OUTLOOK: Contending in the mighty Big 12 South won't be easy. Wading through games against Texas, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Texas A&M will be a difficult task.
And then there will be the crossover games against Kansas, Kansas State and Colorado. Not to mention the non-conference road game at TCU, which went to a BCS bowl last season.
The Bears will need to avoid injuries to key players, something that didn't happen last season when Baylor finished 1-7 in the league and 4-8 overall. The Bears are shooting for their first bowl bid since 1994.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The physical status of quarterback Robert Griffin will play a big role in how successful the Bears will be. He suffered a torn ACL in his right knee in the third game of the 2009 season and had surgery in October. He didn't participate in contact drills during spring practice, but threw the ball well and should be ready when summer practices begin.
Baylor finished 10th in the league in total offense last season so it's obvious how badly the Bears need a healthy and effective Griffin under center.
Baylor has plenty of talent at receiver and the large offensive line should be a plus.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Baylor gave up 30 or more points six times last season. It's difficult to win under those circumstances, even if the offense is putting up a lot of points.
Coach Art Briles hopes a quicker defense with more speed will help the Bears close the gap against their opponents.
Although linebacker Joe Pawelek, who earned all-conference honors four times, is gone, the Bears should be strong at that position.
Several defensive backs were banged up this spring, but Briles is confident a strong recruiting class that will arrive for summer drills will bolster the secondary.
Defensive back Tyler Pratt and linebacker Elliot Coffey and were the leading tacklers in the spring scrimmage with seven apiece. Lineman Nicolas Jean-Baptiste had two sacks.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: Neither kicker Ben Parks or punter Derek Epperson participated in the spring scrimmage. Aaron Jones replaced Parks and surely won some points with the coaching staff by kicking field goals of 53 and 43 yards. While Jones could push for the starting job, Epperson will likely hold on to the starting punter's job.
Fifth-year senior Mikail Baker, who is plagued by knee problems, has moved up Baylor's all-time list on kickoff returns.
OL Robert T. Griffin -- After playing at Navarro Junior College, the 6-foot-6, 345-pound Griffin could push for a starting job on the line. His size and strength have coach Art Briles hoping he can make an immediate impact. And for those wondering, Griffin is no relation to Robert Griffin, the Bears quarterback.
DB Prince Kent -- Kent is another player with a chance to contribute right away. He signed with Miami, but instead attended Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy. At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Kent was rated one of the top cornerbacks in the country in his senior year at Norcross (Ga.) High School.
RB Isaac Williams -- The transfer from El Camino (Calif.) College could help the Bears in multiple ways. Williams, who stands 6-foot and weighs 190 pounds, can run the ball, catch it out of the backfield and return kickoffs.
--Guard Robert T. Griffin will have surgery for an old shoulder injury, but is expected to be ready for preseason drills that begin in August. He's a transfer from Navarro College.
--Running back Jay Finley missed spring practice after having ankle surgery.
--Redshirt freshman running back Glasco Martin is still recovering from a knee injury suffered last season.
--Safety Anthony Moore missed spring drills with a broken leg, but is expected to be ready for the fall
--Cornerback Antareis Bryan is recovering from a foot injury.
--Safety Byron Landor had knee surgery and didn't participate in spring drills.
Previous Report: 04/28/2010