Kendall Wright

Baylor head coach Art Briles addresses media members at Big 12 Media Days in Dallas. Briles and the Bears are looking to improve on a 10-3 record from a year ago.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

The Baylor Bears may have lost their top three offensive threats from a year ago to the NFL Draft, but head coach Art Briles doesn’t see that being an issue as his team prepares for the start of a new season.

“We’ve got some holes to fill. We understand that,” Briles said. “In general I think our brand is probably as good as it’s ever been on a national level. What we have to do now is maintain it, and that’s where my inspiration, passion and drive is going to come from.”

The Bears are coming out of their best season in more than 30 years after a 10-3 finish in 2011, which included the team’s first bowl victory since 1992. But the loss of Heisman-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III as well as leading wide receiver Kendall Wright and running back Terrance Ganaway have many wondering if the Bears can duplicate their success from a season ago.

“We have to fill in the gaps because Robert created a lot of gaps,” Briles said. “We have to fill that in with a variety of different methods, schematically and personnel-wise, that will give us an opportunity to stay at the level we finished at last year.”

One of the players who will attempt to fill the massive hole left by Griffin III and others is senior quarterback Nick Florence. Florence would have two remaining years of eligibility, but he was forced to relinquish his redshirt late last season after Griffin III suffered a concussion against Texas Tech. In that game, Florence threw for 151 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another score, eventually leading the Bears to a 66-42 win over the Red Raiders.

It was then that Briles knew Florence would do anything to see the Bears win.

“That’s where his drive is — being a good football player that contributes to Baylor being successful,” Briles said. “I have a tremendous amount of confidence in the passion, energy and fearlessness he’s going to bring to the table.”

Briles isn’t the only one confident in Florence’s ability to lead the Bears. Senior center Ivory Wade feels the Bears are right where they left off at the end of last season.

“We’re going to be the same offense we were last year,” Wade said. “Very explosive and hopefully rack up a lot of yards.”

Those yards will have to come from somewhere, and that’s precisely where fifth-year senior wide receiver Terrance Williams comes in.

Williams played in all 13 games last season, including 11 at receiver on his way to 957 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. His receiving totals were second on the team, trailing only Wright, who is now a Tennessee Titan. At 6-foot-2, Williams provides a big target for Florence and should emerge as this year’s most reliable downfield threat.

“He’s going to blow up this year,” Wade said.

The Bears also return Tevin Reese, Lanear Sampson and Levi Norwood at receiver in addition to recent Michigan transfer Darryl Stonum. The loss of Wright hurts, but there are several players who are capable of working as a unit in order to replicate Wright’s receiving totals from last year.

With all the attention paid to Griffin III and Wright a year ago, it’s easy to forget that the Bears also had a 1,500 yard rusher, Ganaway, who is now a member of the New York Jets.

Ganaway found the endzone 21 times on the ground in 2011, and his production will be greatly missed as well.

At the moment, senior Jarred Salubi is listed as the Bears’ No. 1 running back. He’s played in 38 career games, tied for the most on the team.

“Jarred is an outstanding back. He’s able to make guys miss in space and he’s big and strong enough to be powerful inside,” Briles said.

Someone will have to step up in order to replace Ganaway, and that someone could be Lache Seastrunk. A graduate of nearby Temple High School and former Oregon Duck, Seastrunk joined the Bears in 2011 but was forced to sit out the entire season per NCAA transfer regulations.

“Lache is a very dynamic player that has three years left and we’re anxious to see what he can do when there’s people in the stands hollering, because he’s got ability and that’s something that’s hard to hide,” Briles said. “We’re going to have him open up the jacket and let it show.”

It won’t be an easy task replacing the drafted players on the offensive side of the ball, but the pieces are there.

“Perceptions change and there’s still people who are going to write us off, and that’s the way it’s always going to be,” Florence said. “We want to earn some respect. We’ve won a bowl game and got to 10 wins, so now we want to win a Big 12 Championship.”

 The Baylor Bears may have lost their top three offensive threats from a year ago to the NFL Draft, but head coach Art Briles doesn’t see that being an issue as his team prepares for the start of a new season.

“We’ve got some holes to fill. We understand that,” Briles said. “In general I think our brand is probably as good as it’s ever been on a national level. What we have to do now is maintain it, and that’s where my inspiration, passion and drive is going to come from.”

The Bears are coming out of their best season in more than 30 years after a 10-3 finish in 2011, which included the team’s first bowl victory since 1992. But the loss of Heisman-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III as well as leading wide receiver Kendall Wright and running back Terrance Ganaway have many wondering if the Bears can duplicate their success from a season ago.

“We have to fill in the gaps because Robert created a lot of gaps,” Briles said. “We have to fill that in with a variety of different methods, schematically and personnel-wise, that will give us an opportunity to stay at the level we finished at last year.”

One of the players who will attempt to fill the massive hole left by Griffin III and others is senior quarterback Nick Florence. Florence would have two remaining years of eligibility, but he was forced to relinquish his redshirt late last season after Griffin III suffered a concussion against Texas Tech. In that game, Florence threw for 151 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another score, eventually leading the Bears to a 66-42 win over the Red Raiders.

It was then that Briles knew Florence would do anything to see the Bears win.

“That’s where his drive is — being a good football player that contributes to Baylor being successful,” Briles said. “I have a tremendous amount of confidence in the passion, energy and fearlessness he’s going to bring to the table.”

Briles isn’t the only one confident in Florence’s ability to lead the Bears. Senior center Ivory Wade feels the Bears are right where they left off at the end of last season.

“We’re going to be the same offense we were last year,” Wade said. “Very explosive and hopefully rack up a lot of yards.”

Those yards will have to come from somewhere, and that’s precisely where fifth-year senior wide receiver Terrance Williams comes in.

Williams played in all 13 games last season, including 11 at receiver on his way to 957 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. His receiving totals were second on the team, trailing only Wright, who is now a Tennessee Titan. At 6-foot-2, Williams provides a big target for Florence and should emerge as this year’s most reliable downfield threat.

“He’s going to blow up this year,” Wade said.

The Bears also return Tevin Reese, Lanear Sampson and Levi Norwood at receiver in addition to recent Michigan transfer Darryl Stonum. The loss of Wright hurts, but there are several players who are capable of working as a unit in order to replicate Wright’s receiving totals from last year.

With all the attention paid to Griffin III and Wright a year ago, it’s easy to forget that the Bears also had a 1,500 yard rusher, Ganaway, who is now a member of the New York Jets.

Ganaway found the endzone 21 times on the ground in 2011, and his production will be greatly missed as well.

At the moment, senior Jarred Salubi is listed as the Bears’ No. 1 running back. He’s played in 38 career games, tied for the most on the team.

“Jarred is an outstanding back. He’s able to make guys miss in space and he’s big and strong enough to be powerful inside,” Briles said.

Someone will have to step up in order to replace Ganaway, and that someone could be Lache Seastrunk. A graduate of nearby Temple High School and former Oregon Duck, Seastrunk joined the Bears in 2011 but was forced to sit out the entire season per NCAA transfer regulations.

“Lache is a very dynamic player that has three years left and we’re anxious to see what he can do when there’s people in the stands hollering, because he’s got ability and that’s something that’s hard to hide,” Briles said. “We’re going to have him open up the jacket and let it show.”

It won’t be an easy task replacing the drafted players on the offensive side of the ball, but the pieces are there.

“Perceptions change and there’s still people who are going to write us off, and that’s the way it’s always going to be,” Florence said. “We want to earn some respect. We’ve won a bowl game and got to 10 wins, so now we want to win a Big 12 Championship.”

Foot locker

With all the focus on new schemes on both sides of the ball, player development and coaching changes, things can begin to get a bit repetitive during media days. That’s why I took the time out to ask a few players about something other than football.

During our lunch break, I noticed an exceptionally clean pair of Air Force Ones on a Baylor player, and knew I needed to delve deeper.

Those ultra-white Nikes belonged to Bears wide receiver Kendall Wright, and to say this man is a lover of shoes would be a gross understatement. When I asked his favorite shoe brand, his answer was simple.

“I love Jordans,” he said. “Especially the No. 11s, 12s and 13s.”

Wright was not the only player that shared an affection towards sneakers. Texas A&M defensive end Tony Jerod-Eddie is also a self-proclaimed “sneakerhead.” Jerod-Eddie was sporting a pair of Cool Grey Jordan 11s that looked like they had just been lifted out of the box. He almost ran out of breath naming recent shoes he had picked up.

“Oh man, I’ve got the Space Jams, these [Cool Greys] and I’m getting a white and black pair that comes out in December,” he said. “But my favorites are the 12s.”

Aficionados like Wright and Jerod-Eddie know a thing or two when it comes to shoes. In contrast, Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon confessed his lack of knowledge about the shoe game.

“I don’t know about Jordans that much,” said Blackmon, who was sporting a pair of black Jordan 3s. “These are my dress shoes.”

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Robert Griffin III, Junior quarterback: Robert Griffin III has gone from being a solid player on a fringe bowl team to a household name and one of the top candidates for the Heisman Trophy. He has passed for 3,678 yards this season with 34 touchdowns to only five interceptions. He is second in the nation in passing efficiency and second in the nation in total offense this season. In addition to his gaudy passing numbers, Griffin is also a significant threat on the ground, with 612 yards on the ground this season. He is completing 72 percent of his passes this season and hasn’t thrown an interception since an overtime win against Kansas. His worst game this season came against Oklahoma State in which he threw for 425 yards, completed 66 percent of his passes, had one touchdown to two interceptions with a passer rating of 136 — his lowest of the season.

Kendall Wright, senior Wide Receiver: Kendall Wright is No.4 in the nation in receiving this season, and is No.1 in the Big 12 among active receivers (Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles is No.3 nationally, but is out with torn ACL). He only has three games with less than 100 yards receiving, coming at 97 yards against Missouri. He has two 200-yard receiving games this season and three more games in which he passed 120 yards receiving. He has scored a touchdown in all but three games and is coming off a six-catch, 125-yard game against Texas Tech in which he had two touchdowns. A week after taking the best receiving unit in the conference, Texas will now take arguably the best and most explosive receiver in the Big 12.

Terrence Ganaway, senior Running back: Rounding out Baylor’s three-pronged attack on offense is Ganaway, who is the leading rusher in the Big 12 this season with Henry Josey out at Missouri. He has run for 1,195 yards this season and has two games with 200 yards rushing. However, he has been held to less than 100 yards rushing seven times this season, with two of his four lowest outputs of the season coming in the last three weeks. Against Texas Tech, however, he ran for a career-high 246 yards on almost six yards per carry. Behind Griffin, he is the other most important part of the offense, as his production allows Baylor to open up the game and allow Griffin to hit explosive receivers such as Wright. In losses to Texas A&M and Kansas State, he was held to 34 and 38 yards rushing, respectively, making the Baylor attack one dimensional. If he can get the ground game going, then Baylor will be tough to stop on Saturday.