March 1, 2014
WACO, Texas - After winning their first Big 12 championship in the 18-year history of the league, the Baylor Bears aren't going to give it up without a fight.
"The way we are going to approach it is that we're going to fight our tail off to be even more formidable," said Baylor head coach Art Briles, whose team opened spring training with a two-hour workout on Friday. "We have the (Big 12 title) belt around our waist, and it's buckled up pretty tight. It will be a struggle to get that sucker off, I can promise you that. . . . We like the belt, and we're going to keep it."
Briles, beginning his seventh spring at Baylor, said the Bears "learned a good lesson" in the 52-42 loss to UCF in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl about "what it's like to be the hunter and hunted, and now we're the hunted."
"This is what we came here for, not just one (Big 12 title), but multiple," said senior quarterback Bryce Petty, the reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. "So it's about defending that, knowing that the target is on our back now. It's not the other way around. People know about us, people have been talking about us all spring. That's where we want to be, so it's definitely motivation for us to make sure we come out with all T's crossed and I's dotted."
Despite having seven defensive starters to replace and two others on the shelf this spring (linebacker Bryce Hager and safety Terrell Burt), Briles said the Bears aren't about to "take a step backwards, anywhere. . . . Offense, defensive and special teams, we are not losing ground."
"You didn't hear this from me, but we're going to be better than we were last year."
In addition to Hager and Burt, the missing wounded at the start of spring training includes starting left tackle Spencer Drango, cornerback Chris Sanders, wide receiver Clay Fuller and defensive end Sam Ukwauchu.
"It's part of this time of the year. Guys get hurt in the season, and they have to get fixed up, so you let them mend and let them go in August," Briles said. "It will give other guys an opportunity, but we've got a lot of guys who need opportunities anyway. It just opens up a couple of more doors, but it will take care of itself."
One of the position changes going into spring was moving former offensive tackle Tre'Von Armstead (6-5, 280) to tight end. He played there some toward the end of last season when Jordan Najvar, Jerod Monk and Gus Penning were all nicked up.
Asked if it was a permanent move, Briles said, "It is for this year, because he's good. We need him to be good at the position that fits him. It's a definite need, because it fits him perfectly. I think he's in for a breakout year."
Any questions about where freshman Davion Hall (6-2, 190) were also answered, when Briles said, "(Receiver is) all we ever recruited him as. He is a dynamic receiver, so it's going to be interesting to see how that transpires over the next few days."
The Bears will go through workouts Saturday, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday before taking off the following week (March 10-14) for spring break.
"It's a great day, and we're really excited about continuing this journey and trying whatever we can do to be the most dominant team in the southern part of the United States of America," Briles said.