Five Questions: Baylor

Baylor insider and Bears Illustrated publisher Steve Brischke gives the inside scoop on Baylor football.

How much did last week's win over Oklahoma mean to the program? Have you noticed a difference in the team this week or has it been business as usual?

It meant a lot. The staff and players won't admit too much, but they want respect. Plenty of national media types disregarded Baylor's 7-0 start, saying they had not played anyone good. Beating Oklahoma on a big primetime game by almost 30 points certainly opened up a few more eyes.

Like most teams, Baylor has a pretty strict 24 hour rule to celebrate a victory and then clear it from your mind to get ready for the next opponent. Seemingly Baylor has been able to do that, and so it does appear to be business as usual. Of course, it's hard to really determine what is going through a player's mind until you see them performing again the next Saturday.

How has the Baylor defense transformed itself from one of the worst in the nation over the first half of last season into one of the best this year?

I distinctly remember watching the first few practices of Coach Bennett's (defensive coordinator) tenure and him having to physically line players up where he wanted them before each play during practice. A lot of those guys, especially in the secondary, are the exact same players I was watching 2 years ago. All that to say I think experience in Bennett's system is the number 1 key. He has coached top 5 defenses at 3 previous schools, so it should go without saying that he can coach a good defense, given appropriate personnel.

As I just alluded to, then you look at the actual personnel on the field. Baylor has 2 true freshman playing extensively at DT and contributing. They have a defensive end transfer that is among the league leaders in tackle for loss. They have senior starting DE's that fall under the principle above of being experienced in Bennett's system. So as far as the moment in time last season when the players "got it," it's hard to pinpoint. But clearly at some point Bennett trusted them and they trusted him in what he was asking them to execute.

Is Baylor's pass defense legit or are the stats more a reflection of the poor passing offenses it has faced?

Both. I think there is no question that some of the passing offenses Baylor has faced are not anything like passing offenses we have seen in the Big 12 historically. You look at a team like Kansas State - they played and ran with Daniel Sams extensively in the game against Baylor, so when looking at the stats you have to account for things like that. or with Oklahoma, the Sooner attack simply has not been what it was in the past - and everyone in the conference realizes that. Texas Tech will certainly be the biggest test Baylor has faced this season in that regard.

On the other hand, you are talking about multi-year starters all over the secondary and a better pass rush from the front 4 than Baylor has had the last 2 seasons. I do think there is some legitimate improvement there. We will find out Saturday how legit it is.

Break down this Baylor offensive line. What makes it such an effective group?

You have to start on the left side where you have Cyril Richardson at guard and Spencer Drango at tackle. Richardson could have gone pro last year, but decided to return. He is massive and quick on his feet for someone that large. Drango has been a strength freak since the day he arrived at Baylor. Texas recruited him heavily, but he stuck with his Baylor commitment and his been a solid player in his young career - he's likely a future pro. The center position and right side then were all newcomers to starting for Baylor. Palmer (RT) was supposed to start at center until Troy Baker (prior 2 year starter at RT) was injured in the spring. Baker is back, but Baylor has continued with the same starting lineup. It's really just more of the same from the Baylor coaching staff which has been able to put multiple OL in the NFL over the last 4 or 5 years - they have a knack of knowing what type of player they need for their system.

How would you rank Baylor quarterbacks Robert Griffin III, Nick Florence and Bryce Petty and why?

That's a really tough question. Robert was the full package, won the Heisman, and helped Coach Briles turn around the entire state of the program. For now, you have to put him #1. Nick was perfect for Coach's system, and the team still won 8 games with him including a Holiday Bowl win over UCLA. You could argue that if the defense had improved in the first half of the season, they would have been back to 10 wins for the 2nd straight year (scored 70 and 50 to West Virginia and UT, and lost).

And then with Bryce you have yet another slightly different style that is still very successful in Coach's system. At this point in his career, even at 8-0, he still has work to do to catch Robert and Nick. Certainly he can get there and even surpass those guys, so we will have to see how it goes.

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