Griffin extraordinaire. Besides new coach Art Briles, true freshman quarterback and all-around stud Robert Griffin is the biggest story for this year's Baylor Bears. The Copperas Cove product won the Big 12 400-meter hurdles before he even stepped onto the football field for Baylor. After that? Well, he just went 209 pass attempts without throwing an interception, a streak that ended last week as the Bears tried to rally against Missouri.
The easy comparison here is Vince Young, which many people are quick to make. Personally, I don't see it. Griffin is two inches shorter than VY and weighs about 20 pounds less. He's also much thinner in the joints, which I believe will leave him less durable in the long run and more susceptible to big hits. I have seen him nicked up a little bit in the several games I've seen Baylor play. Yes, he's so good that he will make you watch Baylor football. He's also a much more polished passer coming out of high school than Vince Young. In terms of body type and running ability, I would compare Griffin more to former Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon, except perhaps even more explosive running the football.
How to stop him? Well, I'm not really sure, although I do know that Iowa State, Oklahoma State, and Missouri have all held him under two yards per carry. Not having watched those games, I'm not sure what those teams did schematically, but I can guarantee that Will Muschamp knows.
The Art of coaching. Any discussion of the current state of Baylor football would be remiss not to mention Art Briles, the new football coach. Griffin originally committed to Briles when he was at Houston and decided to follow his future coach to Waco. Briles has energized the program and looks like the type of head coach that Texas A&M made a monumental mistake not to pursue. Not only is he an innovative offensive mind, but he's also a former successful high school football coach at Stephenville. Chalk up resurrecting the Houston football program to Briles, as well. Briles is still so revered among Texas high school football coaches that I believe he doesn't even have to thank them at every opportunity. And that's an enormous advantage at a school like Baylor that really has had to pick up the scraps left over after Texas, Oklahoma, LSU, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and even A&M and programs like TCU pick and chose their players. The dreaded question for every Bears fan is this: If he's successful at Baylor, what other major programs will come calling? With his ability to recruit Texas, I don't see him leaving the state, or at least staying close enough to still recruit in Texas, so that doesn't leave him many opportunities, although I imagine Tech could be a possibility if Leach finally gets a major job offer. Enjoy him while it lasts Baylor, because it might not be for that long.
That game with the sphere. Don't look now, but basketball season is almost upon us. I know that doesn't usually mean much in Texas, but it should with the program that Rick Barnes is building in Austin. A program that now ranks among the elite in college basketball for the first time, well, ever. For both of the Texas hoop junkies out there, Trips Right has your preview. He's right to mention the major question facing the team this season: How to replace do-everything star DJ Augustin?
It won't be easy, and it will probably take the combined efforts of several players. Trips Right puts Justin Mason first in line to fill the point guard duties, citing the supposed troubles Dogus Balbay has had in practice going against J-Mase and incoming freshman Varez Ward. I haven't heard anything to that extent and I tend to believe that Balbay will be fine because he's a pure point and has significant international experience playing for his native Turkey. Trips Right also doesn't have much faith in AJ Abrams playing the point for stretches, although I don't agree with that assessment. Abrams was effective handling the ball and making plays for his teammates his freshman year when Daniel Gibson struggled handling the rock. The subsequent banishment to running the baseline and spotting up at the three-point line was more about filling a need for the team and the appearance of DJ Augustin than anything else. While Abrams size does make it harder for him to hold space will driving, i believe that Abrams can be effective at the point for 10-15 minute a game, if necessary.
In terms of the frontcourt, Texas is as deep as it has ever been. Expect Rick Barnes to abandon the mostly ineffective zone defense of the past several years for his preferred man-to-man with the deeper team, perhaps even pressuring full-court this year with the ability to bring so many weapons off the bench. With the size and depth of the frontcourt, expect this to also be a good rebounding team. Dexter Pittman has continued to lose weight, while Gary Johnson, Alexis Wangmene, Clint Chapman, and the finally-healthy Matt Hill should all show improved post games. The ability to dump the ball into the post and let the big men go to work will take enormous pressure off of the ball handlers to make plays for their teammates, which should ease the transition to point guard by committee.
Pencil the Longhorns in for another Elite 8 appearance. You're the man, Rick Barnes.
No remorse for Muschamp. Muschamp, asked if he would call the same defense on Tech's game-winning play, responded that he would have played the same defense again. He noted that he had two players responsible for covering Crabtree on that play, but neither one of them were able to make it. Curtis Brown was in good position, but looked like he got caught between trying to make a play on the ball and making the ball. He was able to do neither, while Earl Thomas took a bad angle on the play and never gave himself a chance to tackle Crabtree. Unfortunately for the Longhorns, the play came down to two freshman with a chance to make a play and they just flat-out didn't do it. It wasn't an issue with the defensive call, it was just an issue with the players putting themselves in position to make the play, and then making it. Talent and experience won out over talent and inexperience.
From the Land of Miscellany. The Texas-Texas Tech tilt was the most viewed primetime game on ABC this season, drawing 8.59 million households...Mack Brown, Colt McCoy, and Brian Orakpo are all semifinalists for the three Maxwell Club awards: Brown for the Munger, the nation's best coach, McCoy for the Maxwell, the top offensive player, and Orakpo for the Bednarik, the nation's best defensive player...Quan Cosby is practicing this week, but his availability for the Baylor game is unknown. After not being hit in practice last week, it seems hard to imagine he is this week. I say sit him out this week and save him for the trip to Lawrence and the rest of the season.