By Krista Pirtle
At left guard, a 6-foot-5-inch, 335-pound man stares down the opposing line, a man who squats 705 pounds and cleans 341 pounds.
His goal: making sure no one touches his quarterback.
“Cyril [Richardson] will dominate wherever he goes,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said of the fourth-year junior with 17 career starts.
According to Richardson, only two words go through his head within the 25-second time frame before the ball is snapped.“Kill ’em.”
The combined weight of the green and gold front line is that of the minimum weight requirement for an Indy race car.
While two linemen were drafted in April, center Philip Blake in the fourth round to the Denver Broncos and guard Robert T. Griffin in the sixth round to the New York Jets, three veterans and two stellar underclassmen form the protection for the pocket.
Leading from the inside out of the line is senior Ivory Wade, who moved from right tackle to center this offseason.
“He’s going to be our leader and our guy up front that has to really anchor things,” quarterback coach Philip Montgomery said. “We expect big things from Ivory.”
Wade can squat 600 pounds and bench press 425 pounds.
He totalled 64 knockdowns last season and averaged at least four knockdowns in every game.
Richardson is on three watch lists: Rotary Lombardi Award, Outland Trophy and the preseason All-Big 12 team.
Fifth-year senior Cameron Kaufold will continue to play the right guard position as a third-year starter, playing in all 38 games during his career.
He can do 17 reps with a 225 pound bench press.
Kaufold totalled 60 knockdowns in 2011 and recorded four in all but one game.
Redshirt freshman Spencer Drango steps in as left tackle, responsible for protecting the quarterback’s blind side.
“Spencer is a quick learner,” Richardson says. “And he’s good.”
Drango was ranked No. 15 nationally among offensive linemen by ESPN.com his senior high school football season.
Sophomore right tackle Troy Baker saw limited action in three games last season, making his debut in the third game of the year against Rice.
“You know, Troy he learns, matured a whole lot, learned a lot of new techniques that he can use in his arsenal,” Richardson said.
With Wade leading the resistance with four completely capable men on either side of him, Baylor’s opposition will have their hands full.
Last season, if his line did not allow a sack, Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III would make beignets for the linemen.
According to Drango, this season needs no motivation.“We know what we have to do,” Drango said. “Our goal is Big 12 champs.”
After last year’s No.3 finish, the foundation is laid to continue to rise to the top.
In 2011, the Bears’ offense finished No. 2 in the nation, averaging 587.1 yards of total offense per game.
Baylor is the only school that ranked in the nation’s top 10 in both rushing, at No. 10 with 235.6 yards per game, and at No. 4 in passing yards, with 351.5 yards per game.
No other FBS school averaged 200-plus yards rushing and 300-plus yards passing.
“The thing that’s a little bit deceiving about us is everybody thinks we’re throwing the ball, throwing the ball, throwing the ball,” Briles said. “But we’re going to run the ball. We’ve always been a running football team for the last 10 years, and we’ll continue to do that. We’ve got good running backs, we’ve got good linemen and we’ve got good schemes.”
The run game would fail every time without five men blocking the defense and creating holes for their runningback and quarterback to dart through.
For example, think back to last season’s match-up between Baylor and Texas Tech at Cowboys’ Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Then senior runningback and current runningback for the New York Jets Terrance Ganawayrushed for 247 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
He was well aware that those yards would have been nonexistent without the five men blocking for him.
“The offensive line played really well today,” Ganaway said in the post game conference.
As for the quarterback situation Baylor finds itself in, much debate has surfaced about the ability of senior Nick Florence in the pocket vacated by Heisman Trophy winner and current Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III.
What people forget, however, are the five men forming a wall between the quarterback and the opposing defense.
“Yeah, we always get better,” Richardson said. “We always look at things. We have problems with the previous year we try to fix them and normally we’ve been fixing them.”
One of the areas to improve on is the number of sacks allowed last season: 29
In order for any part of the offense to be successful, these five men must stand their ground and dominate their opponents.
Think about it.
The ball isn’t snapped unless the center decides to send the ball to the quarterback.
If he does not snap the ball, then the offense will just stand there.
The quarterback has no time to think unless his front men block for him.
The wide receiver cannot run the short route without some help getting open by the offensive line.
The runningback cannot run down the field without some guys making holes for him to fit through.
“When they click up front, we’re going to click as an offense,” Briles said. “They’re everything They make everything happen.”
When thinking about the offense, quarterback and receiver always come to mind first when the hardest working guys form a line to make sure their quarterback stays pretty while they get dirty.
Those together will create a successful formula for the 2012 season for Baylor football.