Thursday, April 4, 2013
Wrapping my spring visit to Baylor
By David Ubben
WACO, Texas -- You'll be able to see a lot more in-depth coverage from Baylor in the days and weeks to come, but thanks to all of you who read and participated in Tuesday's live blog. I'll make a note not to let safety Ahmad Dixon steal the show next time. Great, great job by him on the live chat with fans. I heard from a lot of you who said that was your favorite part of the day.
That's not hard to believe when he's dropping insight like this:
Baylor WR Levi Norwood has impressed his teammates during spring workouts.
John from Houston asked: Ahmad, Other than yourself of course, who has impressed you the most on Baylor's defense during spring practice? Who is the most difficult current Baylor receiver to defend one on one?
Ahmad Dixon: John, I'm going to have to say Shawn Oakman. He's helped us out a lot. He slows down the perimeter run a lot. A lot of those bubble passes and short throws, he's able to knock those down because of his length. He can get off the ball and get a lot of sacks. He gives us a speed rush and his speed gets in the backfield and length to cut off the outside. He's been the most impressive of anybody I've watched. (For receivers) I would have to say Levi Norwood. His ability to come out of his breaks are tremendous. He has great hips. He's not the fastest guy, but he has great stop/start speed .That makes you have to work on coming with balance and not coming downhill and just biting on his first move. When you guard Levi, it makes you learn how to be patient.
Great stuff from Ahmad. Here's a few more thoughts from my day with the Bears:
The one thing that jumped out to me in seeing them and being around the Bears all day was the confidence of everybody. I think last year really did show a lot of people around the league that Baylor's program was more than just RG III, and if there were any folks inside the program who doubted that, there aren't any more. There's just sort of a different feel around practice than there was last spring, and even back when Griffin was in the mix. I've gone to spring and fall practices probably five or six times at Baylor, but this one felt a lot different. You build toward titles in small steps in college football. One or two players won't do it. Baylor's talent level is steadily rising. I don't know if I see transcendent talents like RG III or Kendall Wright on this team, but on the whole, there's a lot more talent in a lot more spots than there has been for a long time at Baylor. That's the biggest thing that jumped off the page at me in spending two hours watching them work out. Offensively, I didn't see a huge difference from Baylor in the past, but on defense, there is clearly more speed. There is more instinct and football IQ, and there is not much griping from coaches about guys being out of position or being lost on plays. I saw very, very little of that. Who knows how much of that will carry over, but the defensive resurgence we saw late in 2012 was far above the moderate resurgence we saw at the end of 2011.
Art Briles' biggest concern about his team is definitely his offensive line. Losing Troy Baker to an ACL injury last week only made that worse, and necessitated adjustments. "We were a little light in the O-line to start with. We only had 10 scholarship O-linemen," Briles said. "That's kind of made us readjust some positions, but the defense has really done well. We've got eight of those guys back."
You'll be able to read a whole lot more about quarterback Bryce Petty in the future on the blog from my extensive sit-down with him and Briles, but Petty divulged that his source of transportation around campus these days is a moped. That was news to Briles, but it doesn't sound like he's too nervous about his starting quarterback zipping around Waco on two wheels, though I might be if I were Briles. "I'm glad it's not a Harley," Briles said.
As for practice, I saw a more mature version of the physically gifted Petty I watched in practices on previous visits to Waco. I thought he was ready to be a Big 12 starter last year, and maybe could have even started for a few teams back in 2011. Now that he's nearing the end of his fourth spring on campus, he definitely looks far more polished than any of the other quarterbacks on Baylor's roster. I mentioned this in the live blog on Tuesday, but I asked Briles what Petty would have to do to lose this job. He thought about it awhile and said it would take a long string of mistakes and not taking care of the ball. "I don't anticipate that happening," Briles said. Me either.
Plenty more Baylor coverage to come soon, so sit tight. Hope you guys enjoyed the live blog, though. If you want more in-depth coverage of my practice observations, you can find it there.