Football Wraps Up Trip to Big 12 Media Day

Nick Florence addresses the media during Baylor's portion of the Big 12 Football Media Days.

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DALLAS - From Baylor quarterback Nick Florence to wide receiver Terrance Williams and from center Ivory Wade to nickel back Ahmad Dixon, there was never a hint of hesitation.

"We want to win a Big 12 championship," said Florence, tasked with replacing 2011 Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. "And if you ask any of the 120 players on this team, they would say the same thing."

But ask fifth-year Baylor head coach Art Briles, and his focus is on the Sept. 2 season opener against SMU and "winning today." The Bears shared the spotlight with four other teams on Tuesday during the final day of the Big 12 Football Media Days at the Westin Galleria.

"We hope we're favored to win the first game," said Briles, when asked if the Bears should be favored to win the Big 12 title this year after a 10-3 season and Valero Alamo Bowl victory. "That's all we're looking at right now. Long-term gets you beat in the short-term. What I'm concentrating on is winning today."

Briles did say he expects the defense to be improved under second-year coordinator Phil Bennett.

"First of all, I have tremendous amount of faith and confidence in Phil Bennett and our defensive staff and our players on that side of the ball," he said. "But our last six games, where we went 6-0 . . . our defense made critical plays at critical points of the games to help us win the football game. So when we got in the dressing room, we weren't saying, `Oh, we want this many points, this many yards.' We're saying, `Hey, did we make a critical play at the right time to help us win this football game? Is this a happy locker room?' If both those answers are yes, we moved on to next week."

While he hasn't anointed Florence as the starting quarterback to replace RG3, Briles said he has "a tremendous amount of confidence in the passion, the energy, the drive, the fearlness that he's going to bring to the table for us, because I know him from inside out and I know how he feels."

"The thing he's got to do is stay within himself and not get caught up in listening to anybody else or anything else and stay focused in the moment, focused in the situation," he said.

The Bears also have key holes to replace at running back and receiver, where they lost single-season rushing leader Terrance Ganaway and all-time leading receiver Kendall Wright, a first-round draft pick.

"Going into last year, we were thinking Ganaway, (Jarred) Salubi - either one of those guys might be the guy," Briles said of the running back situation. "I honestly always kind of felt like Ganaway was the guy that could do it, just because I knew his background and I had been with him since (the University of Houston) days. But going in right now, I think it will be Salubi that will get the majority (of the carries), Glasco (Martin) will certainly be situational, and then with (Lache) Seastrunk it's `Hey, let's toss him the ball and see what happens.' If it happens good, he'll get more."

At receiver, the Bears welcome back a trio of receivers who caught at least 40 passes - Terrance Williams, Tevin Reese and Lanear Sampson- plus brought in transfer Darryl Stonum from Michigan, who's eligible immediately.

"The guy that I think will have the breakout year is Lanear Sampson," Briles said. "He's a guy that we kept under the reins a little bit the last two or three years. When we got to spring ball this year, we threw him in front of it. We said we're going to let him play, because he has the ability to be a tremendous playmaker. It's our job to cut him loose and let him go. So he's going to be given the opportunity to be a dynamic player."

In addition to Briles, the Bears were represented by Florence, Williams and Wade from the offense and Dixon from the defensive side as they made the circuit through TV, radio, print and national TV interview sessions over the course of 5 ½ hours.

"It's been a phenomenal year for Baylor Athletics," Briles said. "I think our national brand is probably as dood as it's ever been on a national level. I'm just thankful and happy to be a part of it. What we have to do now is maintain it. And that's where my inspiration, passion and drive certainly is going to come from."

The Bears open fall camp next Friday, Aug. 3, in preparation for the season opener Sept. 2 against SMU in a nationally televised game by FSN at Floyd Casey Stadium.



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