Despite all of this gloomy news, there is a feeling of hope and optimism in Waco these days. That feeling stems from the arrival of new coach Art Briles. Briles brings a sense of winning, confidence, and an offensive scheme that has put up big numbers for the last 5 years at the University of Houston.
"The biggest change I have seen (from Briles) is in the tempo of practice. You see guys jogging and running from station to station. There also seems to be more of a family like atmosphere than in years past," Bearsillustrated.com's Chris Bullajian said of the new attitude in Bear country.
One of the reasons for optimism is a load of options at the quarterback position. Blake Szymanski threw for 2,844 yards and 22 touchdowns a year ago, yet his job will be in serious jeopardy thanks to two new signal callers who arrived on campus this past winter. The first is senior Miami transfer Kirby Freeman. After being highly recruited out of high school, Freeman never really lived up to his potential at Miami. "You don't bring a guy with only one year of eligibility to sit on the bench."
With that said Robert Griffith, who lead Copperas Cove high school to the 4A state title game a year ago, graduated in December to throw his hat in the ring in the chase for the starting job this fall. "Nobody will know who is going to start at quarterback until at least two weeks before the season starts," Bullajian explained.
Whoever the trigger man is for Briles high flying offense, he will have a few weapons at his disposal. David Gettis, a highly recruited US Army All American a few years ago has put a promising track career on hold to concentrate on football, and it is paying dividends, "he has developed in his decision making, route running, and getting off the line the. He has all the skill to play at the next level," Bullajian elaborated about the 6'4 junior. Joe Bennet put up great numbers in the spring game, with 89 receiving yards and a score. Thomas White, Justin Fenty and Luke La Mar could all put up respectable numbers in Briles offense as well. At running back, Jay Finley showed flashes of brilliance with a 73 yard performance in the spring game.
Defensively, Baylor will have to rebound from a terrible 2007. The bears gave up 37 points per game, including 52 to the Sooners a year ago. With nowhere to go but up, there are a few reasons to be excited on that side of the ball. One of those reasons is Jordan Lake, the 6'2 junior turned heads last year with his hard hitting style. Ball hawking linebacker Joe Pawelek was one of the few bright spots on last years dismal squad, and will be looking to improve on his 86 tackles from a year ago.
The Sooners may have lucked out to play the Bears so early in the season, this is a team with a lot of upside that could get hot enough to pull off an upset or two down the stretch, and play spoiler in the Big 12 South.