July 26, 2010
PETER IRWIN: We're now joined by the Bears coach from Waco, Baylor University, Coach Art Briles. Coach, welcome.
COACH BRILES: Appreciate it. Thank you very much. Glad to be here. I guess I'm no different than any other coach in America today. Everybody's excited, enthusiastic, pumped, eager, anxious, high hopes, big dreams, but what I got to do is turn them into reality. So that's the fun part. We're really jacked about the season. We really feel good about it. I really think, without a doubt, it will be the most complete team we've been able to put on the field since we've been at Baylor, which started in 2008. So from that standpoint, you know, we do have a lot of hope and a lot of high aspirations. So that part of it is very exciting and very real. That's kind of where we're at right now.
PETER IRWIN: We'll take some questions.
What is it exactly about this team that you really are putting your hopes in?
COACH BRILES: You know, I mean, the easy answer is chemistry, of course. You know, but that's the real answer also. Our guys feel good about each other. They feel good about the direction. We're physically the best football team we've been from just as far as the talent standpoint. You know, the guys -- I mean, they have a very determined attitude, which we have to have. I mean, that's -- we understand what we have to do. We know we have to become a bowl-eligible football team, first and foremost, and then we'll go from there. From that standpoint also, it's very inspiring. It's a great place for a lot of people to have a lot of inspiration, and that's why I'm proud that I'm right in the middle of it.
Coach, can you talk a little about Robert and how his rehab is going and trying to get back to the role before the injury. And also to follow up on that, your decision not to bring him today? Because obviously he's huge for this team. Just talk about him a bit.
COACH BRILES: I haven't been asked that first one much. Actually, where his rehab is at -- that's as dry and humorous as I can get. He's really done exactly what we thought he would do. When you get something taken away from you, you respond two different ways. You pout, complain, sulk, cry, and fall into a shell, or you fight, you grind, you have vision, you have hope, and you work harder than you've ever worked in your life. That's what Robert has done, and that's what we knew he would do. Because you don't become an elite athlete or an accomplished person without having something inside of you that that makes you want to be better than anybody else. And Robert has a competitive spirit that prevails and leads him in the right direction. As far as where he's at physically right now, he was 217 pounds this morning. That's up about probably nine pounds from where he was a year ago at this time, which I like, which I'm all for. Our strength coach, Kaz Kazadi, and the staff have done a great job with him. Everything he's done since his injury has been a structured atmosphere. So in that structured atmosphere, he's really in great shape. What we've got to do, when we get him on the field September the 4th, is see how he responds instinctively. That's how you determine where you're at physically is when you make movements without your brain working first. And so that's the thing that I think we'll see as the season goes along. But from a physical standpoint right now, he's in really good shape. As far as the second part of the question, you know, I talked to Robert about coming today. Of course, he was here last year. And, you know, there's a lot of really good football players at Baylor University. Everybody knows Robert Griffin. A lot of people don't know Antonio Johnson, that his nickname's Cuddy. They don't know Danny Watkins, that he was a firefighter and a hockey player before he ever played football. He's played football four years. They may not know about Phil Taylor, that he's a transfer from Penn State and that he's transformed himself into what we think he needs to be as a football player to contribute to our football team. So from that standpoint, that's why Robert's not here today.
Art, could you tell me about the expectation levels for Phil Taylor. And, also, were you fearful of losing Danny Watkins to the Canadian Football League?
COACH BRILES: Expectations of Phil Taylor? You know, a year ago, if Phil would have walked into this room after I got through talking, you'd have wondered why he was walking and not flying, or if there was water, if he needed somebody to get on his back and walk across it, because I really -- and rightfully so, really thought Phil would have an outstanding year. He really didn't do the things that he needed to do, that we allowed him to do. So like I told him this year, we're going to pass judgment after six ball games. You know, after six games, we'll see where he's at. I think I know where he's at, but I thought I knew a year ago too, and I found out I wasn't as smart as I thought I was. We'll see where it goes from there. The second part about Danny Watkins, you know, I don't know -- I'd better be careful. No, quite honestly, I wasn't concerned about him going to the CFL, even though he is from Canada. Danny's got a very interesting story. I hope everybody gets to know it. It's a really inspiring story. But he understands where his potential could lead him, and that's going to be in the NFL. First of all, being a great player for Baylor this fall.
Coach, I saw that you guys weren't going to have the services of Eddie Johnson this year. Do you know for sure if Ahmad Dixon is going to be playing for you guys this year?
COACH BRILES: Do I know for sure? Well, I really don't like to comment too much on the things that are related in that category. There's still an outside chance that Eddie could enroll in Baylor, so it's a little premature, I think, to completely lock the door. The other scenario is we feel fully confident, when camp starts, that Ahmad will be in camp. As a matter of fact, he will be in camp when camp starts August the 5th.
Coach, can you talk about Antonio. With some of the pieces that you lost from last year's defense, how much of a bigger role do you expect him to play, and how much does he kind of gain confidence from or build from that game against Texas Tech?
COACH BRILES: He did finish up with a nice game. Antonio has been a very complete player since I've been at Baylor for the last two years. He brings a lot of passion, a lot of energy, a lot of athleticism to the field defensively, special teams. As a matter of fact, in our December meeting after the season, I told him we had one starter on our football team, and it was Antonio Johnson. So that's how we feel about him as a staff. You know, he's a guy that can get it done. As far as losing some of those other guys, you know, we lost some great football players. I'll name three or four. There are a bunch of them, but Joe Pawelek, Jordan Lake, Jason Lamb, Trey Bryant, Antonio Jones. Those guys played a lot of snaps for us. The thing I like about our guys who we're putting on field this year is they're going to be very fresh, very fast, and very fearless. And I think the last word there is the most important because there's a bunch of different ways to -- you know, to let you understand what I'm talking about. You know, if you haven't been scarred, then you're not afraid to get cut. These guys have not played all the snaps that some other guys have played, but the ones that they get, they're going to cut loose and play. It's our job to make sure we allow them to play in a free and fast motion.
How close is Robert's being what he was, and just how important is he going to be to contribute to your guys' success this year?
COACH BRILES: I'm not sure everybody heard the question. I think he's as good. How important is Robert to our success and how close is he to being where he was? You know, being where he was, I think time will tell. I think he's where he needs to be right now. I think he's healthy. I think he's ready. But I'm not lining up and growling at him and trying to, you know, cut him in half either. I'm sitting back there looking at him with a smile on my face. So I think when he gets in the heat of competition, I think that stuff will take care of itself. Everybody we put on the field is important to the success of our football team, or we wouldn't put them out there. They let us put 11 guys out there; we'd better put the best 11 on the field that gives us an opportunity to win. Robert has been in that situation to where he's been one of those best 11. And if he is the person that he is and will be, then he'll be an integral part of any of the successes that we have this year.
Some shaky moments for the future of the conference this summer, now where we're at, going forward, do you favor staying with ten? Would you like to try to find two teams that fit to make it 12? Do you want a championship game? What are your thoughts about what you'd like to see in the future for Big 12 football?
COACH BRILES: The main thing that I learned through -- that's the great thing about living. If you live and you listen, you learn. So I'm going to live a long time and listen a bunch because then I think I might be -- accidentally have a little intelligence there toward the end of the road. But the thing that I learned here over the last couple months is -- and I appreciate your question, but it really doesn't matter, you know, what Art Briles thinks, whether I want a ten-game league or a conference championship game. It just doesn't make any difference because I'm not a decision-maker in that field. So the other thing that I've stumbled along and learned through life is that you don't spend a lot of time worrying about stuff you can't control. So what I'm going to do, I know what we have, and we have a game September 4th against Sam Houston. We're in the Big 12. We're in the Big 12 South this year in 2010, and it's my job to get Baylor out there and make them a force in this league that we're in and do whatever is in my power to at least get us bowl eligible. So that's really where all my time and energy is at, because if I'm not doing that, then I'm sure not doing -- I'm doing a lot of discredit to a lot of people that love Baylor University, myself included.
Art, you just talked about making Baylor a force in the Big 12. Could you just go back to when you first arrived there, and I guess go through the talent you had there just from a whole roster, depth chart first day in terms of what you have now and making some improvements, and just kind of walk us through how you think this program has improved up till now.
COACH BRILES: That's a really good question, and the thing I've got to be careful with as a coach is answering it too honestly because what I don't want to do is make it seem like some of the players we had before might not be as talented as some of the guys we have now, which may not be the case. It may or may not be. I'll tell you why I feel we're better now than we were in 2008 or even 2009, is because, you know, if you live with somebody for a certain amount of time, you either like them or you dislike them, either appreciate them or don't appreciate them, either work with them or you work against them. So we've been around these guys for 2 1/2 years, and the ones that are still with us and hanging around and part of our program, we appreciate them, and we've been working with them, and we've been working on common goals since we've been with them. The more people you've got stepping in the same direction, the more force, and the more power you have. So that's why I feel that we're better now, is because, you know, early on we were operating on a little bit of a high, a little bit of smoke and mirrors. We were trying to make things happen instead of expecting things to happen. Right now we've got a pretty calculated decision-making process into figuring out what we think's going to happen on each play. That's where you got to get as a football team. You've got to know, when something happens on either side of the ball or special teams, that you have a pretty predictable outcome.
Art, coming from Baylor, what are your thoughts on the Big 12 being held together verbally and not contractually? COACH BRILES: Is it not contractually? You're telling me stuff that I don't even know.
There's nothing holding the league together. It's just the word of the higher-ups.
COACH BRILES: You're on the inside? That's the word through the media? I don't know. Honestly, that's the first I've heard of that. I'm sure there will be a contract signed. There's people in that room that know that answer. I mean, where I'm from, verbally works for me. You know what I'm saying? If I tell you I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it. You may not have to shake my hand. If you look me in the eye and say, Coach, I'm going to be there at practice, I'm going to expect you to be there. If I tell you, I'm going to go out and buy you lunch today, it's my day to buy lunch, forget your billfold. So verbal works for me.
PETER IRWIN: Coach, thank you very much.