Baylor beats heat by finishing practicing inside
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
WACO, Texas -- Baylor's facilities have undergone a dramatic transformation in the past several months. The Bears christened their new Allison Training Center for indoor work during the final hour of practice Thursday.
Considering the Bears were sweltering through temperatures of 102 degrees at the start of practice outside, moving into the air-conditioned facility was a popular choice for the end of the 2-hour, 10-minute workout.
"It was like heaven," Baylor junior linebacker Antonio Johnson said. "It was the opposite outside because it was really hot. I felt like it made a difference when we came in. The tempo picked up."
Baylor coach Art Briles said that the traditionalist in him made him wonder about moving practice inside, but he believes his team would benefit from the work inside. He also said that working inside would help preserve the team's grass practice fields.
"I'm changing from a tough old school coach to a smart old man," Briles said. "The old coach tells me to don't, don't, don't. But if you have something that can keep you stay fresh, why not use it? Let's be smart and fresh rather than tired and worn down."
Briles said he doesn't worry about his team's conditioning for its Sept. 5 opener at Wake Forest because of its extensive summer conditioning work with strength coach Kaz Kazadi.
"We don't need to go outside and sweat for two and a half hours to get everybody ready," Briles said. "We're in shape."
The indoor work also provided the Bears with a practice change that was welcome after the sweltering early work outside.
"It's a different environment outside because the ball travels differently inside," Briles said. "In confined space, the ball moves a little faster. It gives us the best of both worlds. It makes us adjust and that's what football is all about."
- Quarterback Robert Griffin looked strong in his passing and scrambling abilities. Backup Blake Szymanski also looked sharp with several throws he rocketed into tight coverage for completions.
Wide receiver David Gettis struggled with a couple of dropped passes early, but came along later in the practice with a couple of strong late catches. But sophomore receiver Kendall Wright provided several circus catches that enlivened the action on the field.
- The Bears were missing one player for practice. Junior college transfer Byron Landor was not present but is expected to arrive in time for practice on Friday.
Landor, who played at Blinn (Texas) College last season, is being counted on to boost the Bears' depth in the secondary.
Briles was tinkering with that as he worked wide receiver Mikail Baker at both cornerback and safety during practice.
Baker was enthusiastic about the move, Briles said.
"We're looking at him over there because we have a need there and it fits his skills and talents," Briles said. "We're pretty deep at receiver and pretty thin back there in the secondary. He's a guy who has the ability to help us."
- Former offensive lineman Courtney Green was switched to defensive tackle for parts of the practice.
"We certainly think he'll help us there or we wouldn't have done it," Briles said about the move of Green, a 265-pound sophomore. "We think it fits his body a little better. He's pretty quick and aggressive. He's a good size for a defensive lineman and kind of small for an offensive lineman. And we have a need there."
- Heralded transfer defensive tackle Phil Taylor has chosen to wear No. 11, a move he says signifies his new beginning with the Baylor program.
Taylor arrived at Baylor after he was kicked off the Penn State team several weeks before the start of the 2008 season for his role in an on-campus brawl at the school's student union. Taylor pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges and transferred to Baylor before last season.
After sitting out the 2008 season, Taylor is counted to provide a talent infusion to a Baylor defensive unit that is already returning nine starters.
"This is a new place, new life and a different number," Taylor said. "And I've always liked it."
Briles was bemused when he learned of Taylor's request, but was happy to comply.
"If Phil says he wants 11, he gets 11," Briles said. "We get him what he wants to wear."
- Running back Andre Pierce has returned to the program as a walk-on player after earlier leaving the program.
"He's coming as a walk-on player," Briles said. "He's doing a good job and taking care of his grades."