In the Crossfire: No. 5 Bears deal with distractions amid off-field issues

Head coach Art Briles directs his team during a timeout in the Bears’ game against Oklahoma State on Nov. 22, 2014, at McLane Stadium. Photo credit: Lariat File Photo

Baylor football has had a rough opening to its 2015 season. Though they are 2-0 on the field, the Bears have not had a perfect record off the field this year.

After incidents of coach and player suspensions, as well as the national attention from the Sam Ukwuachu trial, many have begun to wonder if these distractions are affecting the Bears.

Most recently, Baylor announced that starting tight end Tre’Von Armstead had been dismissed from the team for violation of team rules.

“It’s hard to remain focused [with the negative attention] but at the same time, we can’t get distracted because we have football games [to win] and we have to stay together,” said junior wide receiver Corey Coleman.

Briles said much work is needed in all areas for the No. 5 Bears.

“There are just so many things to polish up, I don’t even know where to start,” Briles said.

The statement from Briles comes a week after he indicated that the team is nowhere near where they need to be to win another Big 12 title.

Sophomore linebacker Taylor Young said the off field situations have affected the team but explained the Bears have to fight through them.

“As a team, it’s about being mature,” Young said. “We try to not mention it and it’s a straight focus on football and the next game, and next week.”

Junior quarterback Seth Russell said the suspensions haven’t hurt the team and they just have to remain poised as a national contender. When asked about the distractions affecting his play, Russell quickly responded.

“Not at all,” Russell said. “That’s what we’ve always preached in the summer time. People are going to try and tear you down when you’re at the top. There’s a lot of curveballs thrown and you have to be able to sit in there and take them. We have to be able to get back up.”

The recent performances from the Bears have caused speculations to arise of off the field issues triggering poor play on the field. Briles said there is a different feel about this year than in past seasons.

“I think it’s tough when everyone is always giving you their best shot,” Briles said. “We have to understand, and it’s something that I haven’t been doing a good job at this year. We need to make sure we’re the hunter and that we’re staying hungry, determined and we still keep our edge. I think I’ve lost my edge a little bit, quite honestly, and it’s something I don’t want to happen.”

Briles was quick to point out how the Bears were able to win consecutive Big 12 titles. The Baylor head coach said the team needs to understand the importance of having a competitive drive. However, Briles reassured that everything starts and ends with him, and vowed to be better.

“We’ve got to do a better job of matching the energy and the mentality that people bring against us, and that’s all on me,” Briles said. “One hundred percent it is my responsibility to make sure our football team has that edge and that’s something I’ve really worked on over the past eight to 10 days is making myself become me again.”

Briles said the key to continued success is never being satisfied. He said he hopes to instill that mindset in his players as Big 12 conference play approaches.

“Happy teams get beat. I learned that a long time ago. If you’re happy, you’re going to get beat, because someone that’s unhappy is going to take you down,” Briles said. “So we need to make sure that we maintain unhappiness about us, and a hunger about us, and that’s my responsibility 100 percent.”

Baylor will get a chance to showcase their new edge this Saturday at 2 p.m. against Rice at McLane Stadium.