Do not fret, Bears fans: future still bright

Junior quarterback Robert Griffin III unveils his Barney socks at the press conference Jan. 11 at the Simpson Athletic Center. Griffin announced he would forgo his last season of eligibility and enter the 2012 NFL Draft.
Matt Hellman | Lariat Photo Editor

By Savannah Pullin

“RG3” was chanted repeatedly at almost every Baylor football game as quarterback Robert Griffin III led the Bears to 17 victories in two seasons. When the possibility of Griffin leaving for the NFL developed, the “one more year” chant usually followed the “RG3” chant.

The 2011 season came and went. Griffin won the Heisman, Baylor won the Alamo Bowl and the athletic program skyrocketed to the top of the college sports radar.

Our “Superman” took all fame with a humble and grateful approach. But the question was still stirring in the back of everyone’s mind. Is he going to stay for his final year, or is he going to enter the NFL draft?

Last week Griffin decided. He is moving on to a bigger playing stage, and now many Baylor fans cannot help but feel like they will be rooting for a Peyton-less Colts team.

Hope should not be lost in the Baylor football team of next year. With the bad comes the good. In this situation, the bad is seen as Baylor arguably losing its best quarterback in the history of the program.

On the other hand, Art Briles is a great coach with a wonderful coaching staff, and from what we saw at the Texas Tech game, Nick Florence has been preparing for his moment to lead.

First, look at the “bad” and see if it’s really as depressing as media and speculation have made it seem. Baylor is losing valuable players from its starting roster next year. Griffin is probably the one people are most sad to see leave simply because he has done so much for the program. Baylor will also lose wide receiver Kendall Wright, who finished his strong senior season with 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns. He will be missed when he, too, leaves for the NFL draft.

Another offensive player who will part with the Baylor program is running back Terrance Ganaway. Ganaway gained 1,566 yards this season off 255 carries with 21 touchdowns, including a powerful display against Texas Tech when he had 246 rush yards and two touchdowns.

Along with these three top offensive players, Baylor will lose linebacker Elliott Coffey, offensive lineman Robert T. Griffin, nose tackle Nicolas Jean-Baptiste and defensive tackle Tracy Robertson.

Looking at the names of all the great players who are leaving the program can be a little overwhelming. Perhaps this is why many are less optimistic about next year’s football season.

There are, however, still good things going on with Baylor football. Florence has already shown he is willing and able to step up and continue down the path Griffin started for the Baylor football program.

He is not alone; other players who are returning next year were part of a magnificent season that surely taught them a lot about the game.

Any player willing to sacrifice a whole year of eligibility to play for one-half is a leader. Of course, Florence could not just look at Briles and tell him he didn’t feel like playing that night, but it was the way Florence took the field that was so impressive.

Florence approached the field excited and ready to play. Although many of the plays he participated in were rushing plays, he proved he was able to handle the ball well.

Baylor fans, and probably many viewers, were shocked when he completed nine passes for 151 yards with two touchdowns and one rushing touchdown.

In addition to Florence, Baylor can look forward to many other great players returning. Jarred Salubi, Glasco Martin and Tevin Reese are returning, along with Terrance Williams and Lanear Sampson. Combined, these five offensive players had 26 touchdowns this season and experienced playing with Griffin.

The Baylor community cannot just sit back and expect this team to live up to expectations without help. This season, Baylor brought some of its largest, noisiest and most excited crowds to Floyd Casey Stadium. As the audience fed off the game and the players, the players and coaches fed off the energy of the fans who roared with support and encouragement.

Rather than looking at Griffin as Baylor’s greatest player who is leaving for the NFL, Baylor fans and the community should look at him as an incredible athlete who brought hope back to this program and proved just because we are a relatively small, private university does not mean we are destined for athletic failure.

Thanks to all the players who made the 2011 season as memorable as it is. Now it’s time for a new leader to step up with a great supporting cast and a continually outstanding coach. With Florence at quarterback, Baylor should not worry.

Keep the faith in the team and show continual support because when Baylor beats Oklahoma, you will want to be able to say you knew they could do it. Again.