Freshman Receivers Making Their Presence Felt
4:30 P.M., FRIDAY, Aug. 27, 2010
Every year, there are a few players that come in under the radar and perform far above any expectations based on recruiting experts' evaluations.
Certainly Joe Pawelek and Jordan Lake fit into that category. Underrated, they had few offers in hand and ended up being consensus All-Big 12 picks. Pawelek, in fact, was a two-time All-American who signed as a free agent with the Seattle Seahawks.
In more recent years, names that come to mind include running back Jay Finley, receiver Kendall Wright and defensive end Gary Mason Jr. Last year, freshman defensive backs Chance Casey and Mike Hicks were not exactly the most highly sought guys in the class, but they both played and performed well as true freshmen.
It's too early to grade the surprises in this year's class, but I'm going to put in an early vote for freshman receivers Tevin Reese and Levi Norwood.
Reese, who enrolled in January as a grayshirt, was a 2-star recruit from down the road at Temple, Texas, who had no other major offers. But he's been producing in every scrimmage, hauling in eight passes for 113 yards and one TD.
Norwood, the son of Baylor defensive coordinator Brian Norwood, was a 3-star recruit who originally signed with Penn State. But when he had a change of heart and wanted to stay at home, Penn State obliged, and he's made the most of his opportunities in fall camp with 12 catches for 170 yards and one TD.
"They're playmakers, but all of our guys are," head coach Art Briles said. "They know what to do when they get the football in their hands."
Not sure if either Reese or Norwood will have anything close to the impact that Wright has made the last two years. But they figure to be in the mix at inside receiver and will get their chances early.
Until they do it in a game, though, I'll withhold judgment. So get back to me after Sept. 4, when the Bears open against Sam Houston State with a 6 p.m. kickoff at Floyd Casey Stadium.
Sic 'em Bears!
Some football traditions, like rubbing a rock before the game, Aggies kissing their dates or players wearing the same pair of socks all year, really don't make a lot of sense to me.
But the "March of the Bears" just has a nice ring to it.
Reviving a tradition that started several years ago, the Baylor football team will arrive at the Baylor Sports Network tent near Touchdown Alley on the Dutton Street side of Floyd Casey Stadium about 2 ½ hours before each home game. And weather permitting, the Bears will march through the tailgating area on their way into pre-game warm-ups.
It's like the belle of the ball making a grand entrance by running through the crowd and high-fiving all of her prospective suitors.
To me, the part that's crucial in this is the fan involvement. The team is engaging the fans, including them as part of the family and getting them as pumped about the game as the players already are.
When a 6-year-old boy catches a glimpse of Robert Griffin in the "March of the Bears," and the sophomore quarterback gives him a quick wink, that's a lasting memory that he takes with him into the stadium. You think that boy might cheer just a little louder that day for Griffin and the Bears?
While some traditions come and go or just fade away, I hope this is one that sticks.
Sic 'em Bears!
Since I haven't made the rounds to every school in the state, I can't tell you how all of them do it. But one of the more unique experiences that I've witnessed in my two-plus years at Baylor is "Move-In Day" for the freshmen.
I can tell you for a fact that when I was a freshman at North Texas State University (seems like a hundred years ago), I was the one who hauled all my personal belongs up to my fourth-floor room at Kerr Hall.
So the thought of someone else doing the work for me seems unbelievable.
"I think it's one of the best things that Baylor does," said Baylor Athletic Director Ian McCaw, who helped with "Move-In Day" on Wednesday at Brooks Hall, where he was joined by Associate Athletic Director for Marketing John Garrison, Athletic Department Business Manager Henry Howard, Spirit Coordinator/Head Coach Rachel Levetzow, assistant Kip Sanders and the Baylor spirit crews.
"We do a wonderful job of welcoming the new students and their parents and really making them feel a part of the Baylor family. It's got to be a great feeling as a parent: You pull up, and you've got all this stuff in your car, and all of a sudden this group of Baylor students and faculty and staff descend on your car and unpack it. And then it's all set up in the residence room."
As much as he enjoyed the experience, McCaw is still trying to figure out how "every box that I carried seemed to go to the fourth floor."
"And it seemed like the people with the grand piano or the refrigerator were pulling up just as I got there."
For McCaw and the other Athletic Department personnel involved, "Move-In Day" also gave them a golden opportunity to "sell" the Bears.
"We were able to strike up a lot of conversations about how we need them at the first football game on Sept. 4 and inviting some of the parents to come to the game as well," McCaw said.
You never want to miss a chance to encourage the Baylor Nation to "Rise Up!" even while you're carrying refrigerators up three flights of stairs.
Sic 'em Bears!
Dear Jay and Jenny Allison,
Hey, guys, just wanted to send you a personal thank-you note for that beautiful $11 million indoor facility now that we're starting our second year in it.
I understand that y'all didn't give the money to build the facility with me in mind. But I'd like to think that my well-being was at least in the back of your mind.
With the temperature outside reaching a scorching 106 degrees on Monday, followed by a summer shower that would have made the humidity unbearable, what a relief it was to go indoors to the Jay and Jenny Allison Indoor Practice Facility for the conclusion of Monday's workout.
I still remember linebacker Antonio Johnson's comment from last year, when the team got to go in there for the first time: "It was like heaven."
Yes it was. And it still is. Honestly, there's few things better than going into that climate-controlled, air-conditioned building on days when it feels like it's 150 degrees out there on the practice fields. Today, it felt like my feet were burning just standing on the sidelines.
So if nobody's told you recently, we do appreciate our own little comfort inn. And we appreciate all you do to support Baylor Athletics.
Jerry Hill, Baylor Bear Insider
Sic 'em Bears!
I'm not sure how much of the game they really know or understand, but it was still nice to see a good number of the Baylor football players on hand to support the women's futbol (soccer) team Friday night during an intra-squad scrimmage at Betty Lou Mays Soccer Field.
Walk-on receiver Travis McClain led a very boisterous Sic 'em Bears!! on each of Courtney Seelhorst's first-half goalie kicks. And then, when freshman Selby Polley broke the scoreless tie with a goal off an assist from Lisa Sliwinski at the 19:15 mark in the first half, the players started chanting "Ole! Ole! Ole!" over and over and over again.
It was a fun night after a long day. And the football players were definitely getting into the school spirit, even if they were calling for yellow cards every time one of the players inadvertently ran into another player.
OK, maybe I'll bring a rules book with me the next time I go to a soccer game. But whether they were coerced or not - Athletics Chaplain Wes Yeary sat in the middle of a group that included safety Byron Landor, cornerbacks Chance Casey and Ahmad Jenkins, receivers Terrance Williams, Andrew Sumpter and Lanear Sampson, tight end Bryan Swindoll and offensive lineman Troy Baker, among others - it was still a nice gesture for them to make up over half of a crowd that also included a handful of parents.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III was a late arrival and encouraged the other players to leave at halftime to get some rest before Saturday's "Meet the Bears" Saturday scrimmage. But there were a handful of players that stayed around for the second half of a scrimmage won by the Green team, 2-0, and they were joined by volleyball players Bri Tolbert and Elizabeth Graham.
That kind of inter-team support is just another thing that makes Baylor a special place to be. If they get off in time, I suspect some of the soccer players will make it over to the football scrimmage from 2-4 p.m. Saturday at the Highers Athletics Complex. This kind of spirit is contagious and will help us fill The Case, the Ferrell Center, the soccer stadium and all the other athletic venues this year.
Sic 'em Bears!
Taking advantage of relatively cooler temperatures, the Baylor Bears went through a spirited two-hour practice Saturday morning at the Highers Athletics Complex.
Adding shoulder pads for the morning practice, the Bears went through their first real contact drills of the fall. Providing big hits after a move indoors to the Allison Indoor Practice Facility were true freshman safeties Ahmad Dixon and Sam Holl.
"It's not like all of a sudden we're going to try to find out who the toughest guy on the team is," head coach Art Briles said. "We're going to still work through our process and do things intelligently. But you play in (pads), so you've got to practice in them."
While the coaches try to keep the older, veteran players in check as far as big hits, the freshmen are on a much longer leash.
"The younger guys, we turn loose a little bit more than we do our older guys," Briles said. "We're trying to keep (the older guys) in check, because we've got to make sure we take care of each other. The younger guys, we're letting them play a little bit, because they're wanting to show us what they can do. And we understand that."
Even with Zac Scotton (6-6, 280) out with a pulled hamstring the last two days, the Bears are showing more speed and explosiveness "coming off the edge" at defensive end with sophomore Gary Mason Jr. and redshirt freshmen Tevin Elliot and Terrance Lloyd.
"I think we're getting closer, no doubt," said Briles, when asked if the team has enough speed at the d-end position. "Tevin's really explosive, Gary's got a tremendous upside. And those guys are fast and they're physical. We're getting the right people in place.
"I think you have to have a guy like Tevin Elliot. That's the kind of people we're looking for - explosive, physical, fast, tough guys."
The Bears, who came back for Photo Day this afternoon, will return to the practice field at 12:45 p.m. Sunday and then get Monday off .
Baylor opens the season Sept. 4 with a 6 p.m. home game against Sam Houston State. For single-game or season ticket information, call the Baylor Athletics Ticket Office at 254-710-1000.
I wanted to pass on an e-mail message that I received from a proud Baylor grad and fan on Monday.
Brent Wilson ('02, MA '06) writes:
"Yesterday, Robert Griffin, Lanear Sampson, Prince Kent and Isaac Williams came to my friend's son's birthday party and played with a bunch of kids ages 1-7 for almost two hours. My son, Tristan, has not stopped talking about how he caught a pass from Robert Griffin and beat Lanear Sampson in a race since the event."
Griffin and the other players were responding to a Facebook request to attend the birthday of a boy turning 1 year old. And he not only attended the party, Robert made an appearance at the Student Union Building and signed autographs for all the children who were coming to the party.
"The football guys played with the kids for at least an hour. All the kids (football players included) were sweating from the 100-degree heat, but they ran and played and tackled, anyway. All four football players were great with the little guys. Each football player was very polite, took pictures with everyone in attendance and stayed for the entire event.
"I am a Baylor Alum, grew up in Waco watching Baylor football, and I have never been more proud to be a Baylor Bear than I was yesterday."
These are the kinds of stories that rarely get told, but probably happen way more than we realize. We are blessed to have quality student-athletes at Baylor like Robert Griffin, Lanear Sampson, Isaac Williams and Prince Kent who are willing to reach out to the community and give of themselves.
Now that's a story worth retelling.