2011 Baylor Football Preview: Bear State of the Union

In case you hadn't heard, 2010 was the Year of The Bear.

Best offense in school history? Check.

First bowl game in 16 years? Check.

A win in Austin? Check.

So how did they celebrate?

WAY more fun than actually drinking beer.

Then it all came crashing down in the same Houston stadium where a few months later Scott Drew would lead his team of exemplary student athletes on a historic tournament run to the Elite 8 (while beating no single digit seeds) before Bayloring out in similar fashion.

Yes, it was unfortunate. But it was so Baylor. Shit gets real when an Aggie/Fighting Irishman from Colorado writes about Baylor on a Texas site.

Let's do this, Waco!

The Best Season Evar

In their last conference game of 2010, the Bears became postseason eligible for the first time since 1994 by beating Kansas State in a 47-42 shootout. Jay Finley rushed for a school-record 250 yards and Robert Griffin threw for a career-high 404 yards with 4TDs, earning a bowl bid against Illinois in the friendly confines of Reliant Stadium. Unfortunately, the Bears seemed more excited to visit NASA and local gentlemen’s clubs than actually winning the football game. Alas, the Zookin’ Illini shut down the Baptists quicker than an Asian dealing cards in an Indian casino. (Ed. Note – record for most convoluted racial iffyness in one sentence).

All in all, 2010 was still a hell of a year for Baylor. It was perhaps the high water mark since The Miracle on the Brazos in 1974, when Grant Teaff's Bears took down Texas 34-24, their first win over the Longhorns in 17 years. It also delivered their first conference title in 50 years. In Waco, that high water mark is somewhere near your shin.

This reality has never diminished the unconquerable spirit of Baylor Fan.

Floyd A. Casey Stadium: A lot of empty seats and face-painted virgins that look like Doogie Howser...

Considering where Guy Morris left the program when Briles took over in 2008, just making it back to a bowl game in three years was a nice feather in Art Briles' pimp hat. Sure, their defense gaped like the slacked jaw of a Wacoan Luby’s patron, but the offense was legit and retains plenty of promise for 2011.

Speaking of Briles, he is the only coach I’ve ever seen who, when wearing his ball cap, looks like he could play in Wimbledon. Without the hat? He looks like the creep with the shovel from Home Alone. The only man who has a bigger hat/no hat differential is Dwight Yoakum.

One must wonder of the timing of Art Briles’ career path. He had a decent thing going at Cougar High and left for a program that considers a bowl game a benchmark. It was a conference upgrade more than anything else but that disparity is questionable now with the Big 12 seemingly unraveling. Anyway, part of me thinks if Briles had waited a bit, he could have landed an opportunity with more upside and promise. i.e., anywhere but the Big 12.

Recruiting

Briles inherited the opportunity of selling not “ice to the Eskimos” but rather “lily white coed prudes to blue chips”.

These are your top Baylor nightlife spots:

1. The Coffee & Bean -. Kick back and listen to Hunter from Southlake play Jack Johnson’s greatest hits. Wear skinny jeans, a soul patch, and a hemp bracelet and your first latte is free. Jesus cross snuggled safely under crew neck.

2. George’s -Do you like Golden Corral food but prefer something just a bit more expensive? This would be a good bar if it weren’t for the staff, food, patrons, and Red Lobstery vibe. They do have those neat souvenir glasses which makes it feel like that '92 getaway to Orlando. /mentions this in handwritten note to Nelson Agholor.

3. Scruffy’s - If your idea of an Irish pub is a place where fratdaddies named Hoyt from Highland Park roofie unsuspecting virgins from Kinkaid while a Baylor coach pisses on the bar, this is your place.

4. Church - Because Young Life doesn't have to end in High School. Get to know fellow classmates while cleaning up graffiti on local billboards.

Couple this scene with a local atmosphere that Giddings finds boring, and your recruiting work is cut out for you. Further, the most popular annual event is not a football game, but rather a flash mob called “Sing” where fellas named Tanner and Holden dance 16 measured inches apart from sorority girls to music your grandpa would call “commie shit”.

To summarize: Ahmad Dixon’s don’t find themselves at Baylor. They mysteriously arrive there one day and are told not to ask questions.

Offense

Audible, imo

RGIII returns as the second most popular man in Waco just behind Kim Mulkey’s barber. Griffin III tallied a gaudy stat line of 3501 passing and 635 rushing yards, with 67% completion for a total of 30 TDs / 8 INTs. I hate the overrated/underrated arguments but I’ll indulge it here – I think Griffin’s legs are generally overrated and his arm is usually underrated. Granted, he runs like a gazelle in Nikes, but he is different on the ground than say Pat White. Conversely, He throws a perfect deep ball and makes good decisions under pressure in the pocket. Perhaps his most impressive stat: RGIII had ten TDs on the year on passing plays over 40 yards and five over 60 yards. Scipio can't even do that on his Xbox playing against Texas State.

Griffin will have another big year as long as the knees hold up and someone other than Kendall Wright steps up at the other skill positions. RGIII is backed up by Joel Osteen’s twin boys, Obadiah and Leviticus, so if he gets injured, the season is essentially done. With the world ending in 2012, this really needs to be your year, Baylor!

Jay Finley (RB) retired after a commendable 18-year campaign in Waco. Finley was a largely unnoticed yet crucial cog in the offense with an impressive 1200 rushing yards at 6.2 YPC. He looks to be replaced by Waco townie Jarred Salubi sandwich. Salubi had a supersized 26 carries last year for 215 yards and will be depended upon heavily in the Briles offense. Other than RGIII and Salubi, no one else on the roster has amassed over 100 career yards. God told Lache Seastrunk to return to Waco and remedy this matter shortly after Scott Drew and Briles met to discuss recruiting tactics over fuzzy navels at Friday’s. The question is whether a higher power will also convince the NCAA to let him play this year.

Kendall Wright often gets lost in the Blackmon-Broyles-Fuller discussion, but he is one of the league’s finest receivers and a lock for a first day draft pick. Toss him in a burnt orange jersey and he’d be a national name. Baylor’s other deep threat, Josh Gordon, was dismissed from the team after getting nabbed with a lapful of the superskunk at a Taco Bell drive thru. It wasn't his of course. "I ordered a beef burrito, officer! Not a pound of weed! Daaamn." Ramonce Taylor likes his style. And as a Coloradoan who has been known to sink into deep powder while enjoying some of the fine botanical gifts the dear Lord has bestowed upon us, I see this as a winning combo meal. Unfortunately, Waco’s finest did not see it the same way and as such Gordon landed a spot on Scott Drew’s All-Character Team.

The rest of the Bears' deep WR corps is comprised of Lanear Sampson, Terrance Williams, and Tevin Reese; all of whom have reaped the bolstered stats of an efficient Briles scheme. The tight end slot will be held down by Jordan Najvar, who showed the academic, career, and quality-of-life foresight to transfer from Stanford to Baylor.

The offensive line is big and above average, skill wise. You won’t find these names on All Conference lists, but they are solid nonetheless. Philip Blake had your usual rites of passage - grow up black in Toronto, play football in Waco. Ivory Wade and Cyril Richardson are the bookends on the line and will be tasked with keeping RGIII's blindside protected and repaired knee intact. This unit is a plus on the overall roster.

Defense

In the true Baylor tradition, this side of the ball has far more problems than their offensive counterparts. In 2010, they gave up over 30 PPG and experienced one drawn out Old Testament-style sodomizing for the ages.

The defensive line can’t stop the run, but this weakness is balanced out by not being able to rush the passer either. With Phil Taylor gone to the Cleveland Browns, Nose tackle will be held down by Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, who has the most apropos name for his college choice since Methanol Traylor laced up the spikes for the Sooners in the 1950’s. He'll be flanked by Terrance Lloyd and Gary Mason, confirming that there are men under 40 named “Gary”. The only other one on record is former Bears DB Gary Baxter. Gary Coleman would have been 43 this year.

The linebackers are made up of such household names as Elliot Coffey and Brody Trahan. Brody was the worst player on your high school team and he now starts for Baylor. If I know Brodys, they love a good whoopee cushion joke more than anything. Unfortunately, 'tackling' is not mentioned as one of his hobbies in the Baylor Media Guide. He should look into it.

Ahmad Dixon is the lone familiar name in the secondary, confirming that Waco Baptists love giving young wayward men with elite athleticism a second chance provided they can run a 4.4. Guys named Chance and Tyler are the cornerbacks, thus violating Rule 1 of Football 101:Your cornerbacks should be preferably be named Deion or Trumain as opposed to Chance, Tyler, or Blake. Dixon certainly adds some star power to an otherwise lackluster secondary, but the rest of these guys are going to do their best to give the Biletnikoff to Broyles, Fuller, and Blackmon.

Special Teams

Not surprisingly, Baylor has a couple good legs at punter and kicker in Epperson and Jones, respectively. Kickers have generally been Baylor's crowing gift to college football over the past century. This unit gets a lift from Kendall Wright returning punts and kicks and he should take a few to the house this year.

Schedule

vs. TCU
vs. Stephen F. Austin
vs. Rice
at Kansas State
vs. Iowa State
at Texas A&M
at Oklahoma State
vs. Missouri
at Kansas
vs. Oklahoma
vs. Texas Tech
vs. Texas

Vegas has the Bears’ O/U on wins set at 6.5. I’m no Billy Walters but I'm inclined to take the under. Another bowl game would be a success, and it doesn't really matter which one. That's the measuring stick in Waco, which is an upgrade from simply praying for .500. I would love for the Bears to beat a Ginger-less TCU but don't bank on it. For Baylor to really take the next step as a program, they need to win a game they shouldn’t. This is how TCU became TCU: future Big East member. Gary Patterson might have had something to do with that.

Many eyes will be on this game Friday night and a big game from RGIII and a Bears win would validate early Heisman talk. Once you get to October, consecutive losses to A&M, Okie State, and Mizzou will quickly silence that chatter.

As usual, folks in Waco seem to be getting a little ahead of themselves. But that's what happens when you confuse desperation for conviction. There is no doubt Baylor is on the upswing and their 2012 recruiting class features names such as Corey Coleman and Kiante Griffin that in any other year would probably be committed to Texas, A&M, or OU. As soon as RGIII and Kendall Wright move on to the NFL, expect a regression to the mean.

In Waco, that's 6-6.

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