BU refines offense, learns new defense
By Matt Larsen
With the April 2 spring game quickly approaching, Baylor football diagnoses itself with a healthy offensive pulse and a fresh, promising look on defense.
“Definitely offensively,” head coach Art Briles said when asked whether the team is on pace to accomplish springs goals. “Now defensively, we’re trying to catch up a little bit because of a variety of reasons — new scheme, new terminology and some personnel changes. But I’m not concerned about that one bit, because I have a lot of confidence in [defensive coordinator] Phil Bennett.”
The new defensive coordinator certainly draws the most attention among the new arrivals this spring, bringing with him a new defensive identity.
After just a few weeks, junior quarterback Robert Griffin III has seen enough of Bennett’s handiwork coming at him to know what the 2011 defense will look like.
“More aggression,” Griffin said. “You can’t sit there and try to let the other team make a mistake. You have to force them into bad situations. That’s what he is kind of doing.”
As for Bennett himself, junior cornerback Chance Casey likes everything the new coach brings.
“He’s vocal. He’s tough. I like him,” Casey said. “He says what needs to be said. He’s not sugarcoating anything. He is working us hard and I think it is paying off.”
Casey agreed that aggression spurs most of what Bennett does schematically. Translating that to the secondary, he expects to find himself in more pressing, man-to-man coverage.
The upperclassmen hopes to take a leadership role on a defensive unit that lost multiple leaders.
The junior won’t be caught looking past this spring, though.
“First and foremost I am trying to secure my spot,” Casey said. “It’s a new scheme for everybody, so it’s pretty much a level playing field.”
While the offense returns most of its players from last season, a few noteworthy departures have presented prime chances for competition among teammates to thrive on the other side of the ball as well.
Jay Finley left an open backfield after breaking the school record for single season rushing yards with 1,218 in his senior campaign.
Sophomore Glasco Martin looks to do something similar in 2011 after not feeling 100 percent last season.
“I have been working on getting my knee back,” he said. “I was kind of limited as far as cutting.”
Martin knows the spot is still wide open and knows what he brings to the huddle both now and in the future.
“I feel like I can get the dirty, grind it yards,” he said. “I feel like I am a very downhill runner. I not only bring the downhill, but I can catch the ball out of the backfield. I feel like eventually I could be the all-purpose back.”
The youngest, Martin finds himself right in the thick of the running back talk that includes seniors Terrance Ganaway and Isaac Williams and junior Jarred Salubi.
Ganaway and Salubi both got touches in 13 games last season, while Williams got in on six games.
Ganaway averaged the most yards per game of the three with 22.7 an outing.
Their fellow member of the backfield, Griffin, doesn’t mind who takes his handoffs.
“All those guys are ready to roll,” he said.
As for who is filling the left tackle vacancy left by All-Big 12 honoree Danny Watkins and No. 2 overall draft pick Jason Smith before him, Griffin had more specifics in mind.
“You want a man at that position because he is protecting your backside,” the quarterback said with a smile. He said for a night on the town, he would want Smith, Watkins and sophomore offensive lineman Cyril Richardson at his back.
In addition to fitting the physical mold, Griffin likes the approach the sophomore brings to his likely new home at left tackle.
“He’s about executing,” Griffin said. “I have a handshake with each and every one of the starting offensive linemen. My handshake to him is we handshake and say, ‘Business.”’
Richardson, a Fort Worth native, insists that his ‘strictly-business mindset doesn’t dumb down the fire he brings.
“If you don’t have a mean streak, you shouldn’t be on the line, period.”