Briles still searching for tailback in Finley’s absence

Junior running back Jarred Salubi practices staying low and accelerating in a drill at last Thursday’s practice at Highers Athletic Complex. Salubi is one of several players competing to earn the starting spot.
Matt Hellman | Lariat Photo Editor

By Chris Derrett
Editor In Chief

Coach Art Briles’ playbook features a passing offense, just not every single time.

Therein lies the challenge.

While the Bears’ passing game is essentially copied and pasted from last year’s depth chart, Briles knows that will not be the case on the ground.

Baylor still lacks a featured running back like former Bear Jay Finley, who, as a senior in 2010, became the seventh player in school history to break 1,000 rushing yards.

“We’re seeing some good things,” Briles said. “These backs are running tough, the lineman are doing a pretty good job, and we’re going to have to be effective running the football if we’re going to be a good offense.”

The competition and wide range of running styles among his backs even has Briles questioning whether he wants to name a starter at all.

“I don’t know if that’s something we need to do, honestly, because two or three of them will play,” Briles said.

Several players have battled to show Briles they can be the No. 1 ball carrier, including senior Terrance Ganaway, junior Jarred Salubi, sophomore Glasco Martin and freshman B.J. Allen.

All five players have had a summer to mull over Briles’ comments following last spring’s annual scrimmage, where Briles said nobody had stepped up and secured the top spot.

“I took it as constructive criticism, just try to work on things to be the person to step out in his eyes, to be the person to emerge from the crowd,” Salubi.

Briles hasn’t addressed concern over the running game, but as of Thursday, when Baylor began closing its practices, he has not specifically named a starter.

As denoted by the depth chart in the team’s fall prospectus, Salubi and Ganaway look to be the top backs this season, with shorter and smaller but quicker and more agile Salubi listed at No. 1 and Ganaway, a more downhill runner, behind him. Martin falls at No. 3 on the depth chart.

The competition, however, is just as alive now as it has been since the Bears opened spring drills in February.

“It doesn’t allow you to get complacent,” Salubi said. “It allows you to always have a fire burning behind you to work harder than the next person.”

Among all the candidates, Salubi has taken the most snaps with the first string offense. Fans did not get a chance to see him in action in the team’s Aug. 13 scrimmage, as he was held out.

Ganaway carried four times in the scrimmage for 21 yards, and Allen took five rushes for a team-high 50 yards. Allen was the only running back to receive passes out of the backfield, snagging two for a total of 13 yards.

Before taking the field for the team’s first day of fall practice, Salubi voiced confidence that he could be the starter.

“I think I can. It’s just going to take a lot of hard work and proving myself every day over and over again that I can do that,” Salubi said.

Ganaway felt the same way, echoing the message drilled into him by Briles and the coaching staff.

“Just produce. [I’m] stuck on that word, production. We just have to produce, whoever’s there. If I’m there, I will produce; I just have to be consistent when I do it,” Ganaway said.

Ganaway added the possibility that there might not be, at least for non-conference play, a back who takes the fair majority of the carries.

“If we have spells when one of us is hot and one of us is not, I think there will be a lot of rotation then,” Ganaway said. “I think [Briles] wants somebody to take it over and be that guy, have somebody come in and break [long runs] just like Jay Finley did last year.”