For Baylor football, there is no preseason.
Every snap counts.
“The difference between college, high school football and professional football is that with high school you get scrimmages, with NFL you get preseason games, but with college they blow the whistle and it’s real,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said.
The Bears will take the field without Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III but with much to prove.
“I know we’ve got a hungry team,” Briles said. “I know we have a team that’s determined and I know we have a team that wants to prove itself.”
The statement will start on offense with senior quarterback Nick Florence.
“Being who I am, my faith is in the Lord, and he writes our plan,” Florence said. “We can do our own thing, but he’s going to make his own story. So at that point, I want to do what I can for my team and everything is going to work out. I get one season right now, and I am going to enjoy it.”
Florence will have many options to explode down the field as the team did last season.
A 1,000-yard trifecta leads the receiving corps for the Bears, returning six of its top seven receivers from 2011.
Fifth-year seniors Terrance Williams, a Maxwell and Biletnikoff Award and All-American candidate with 1,502 yards and 15 touchdowns and Lanear Sampson with 1.259 yards and five touchdowns and junior Tevin Reese, a Biletnikoff Award candidate with 1.278 yards and seven touchdowns.
With these numbers, one would think Baylor is a pass-first team; however, everything the Bears do hinges off the run.
Another talented trio commands the ground game for Baylor.
Fifth-year senior Jarred Salubi was back up to current New York Jets running back Terrance Ganaway last season, running for 331 yards and three touchdowns.
Junior Glasco Martin gained 268 yards last season, and with 6.7 yards per carry was top on the team for a player with over ten yards.
Sophomore Lache Seastrunk joined the Bears at the beginning of last season after transferring from Oregon. His speed promises aide to Baylor this season.
As for the other side of the ball, the defense is ready to hit other teams.
“I’m tired of knocking my own guys around and making plays on my own guys,” junior nickel back Ahmad Dixon said. “I’m ready to paly someone else. Coach doesn’t let us hit each other, and we really don’t get to go full speed. We are just anxious to unload on some people. We have to hold it until game day. We’re ready to show everybody who we can be.”
At the nickel back position, the defense hinges off Dixon, who ended last season No. 4 on the team with 89 total tackles.
An off-season under defensive coordinator Phil Bennett has added to the mentality that “knowledge is power” for the Bears.
Last season, Bennett stressed the intelligence side of the game, knowing your spot and following what was discussed.
This season, Bennett knows his players: their tendencies, strengths and witnesses.
Knowledge will prove how powerful it is.
But, this knowledge is not from the players but from the coach.
“Coach Bennett can trust us now compared to last year,” Dixon said. “He was trying to see the good and bad in all of us, and now he’s figured it out He can let us play now, and that’s the beauty of it.”
The defensive line took a hit as back up nose guard Kaeron Johnson is done due to season ending back surgery.
Baylor will be starting two new linebackers, sophomore Bryce Hager and junior transfer Eddie Lackey.
“Both are good football players,” Briles said. “We expect really big things out of them.”
As for SMU, the Mustangs run a ground first offense as well.
Senior running back Zach Line, whose season was ended last year with a broken foot, is back and able to lead the ground attack after racking up 122.4 yards per game last season.
“That’s a misconception about June [Jones],” Briles said. “If you watch them on tape, they are going to run the football. He was running it years ago, and he is doing it today.”
Leading the offense is Garret Gilbert who transferred from Texas at the beginning of last season.
“What you have to do is disrupt the rhythm, whether you do that with dropping eight in the coverage, or you’re bringing pressure and getting him to move his feet before he is ready,” Briles said.
On the other side of the ball, senior defenders Ja’Gared Davis and Taylor Reed start out the season on preseason watch lists.
“They are very good on the defensive side of the football,” Briles said. “They finished No. 26 in the country last year.”
But, last year is a different story.
The 2012 season begins at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday at Floyd Casey Stadium.