Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Thoughts from a visit to Baylor's spring
By David Ubben
WACO, Texas -- Baylor practiced for about two hours in shoulder pads and shorts on Monday, and I got a chance to see the new-look Bears up close and personal.
I’ll be writing about this in detail in the coming weeks, but first things first: the quarterbacks.
It was a windy day with what I’d say were easily 30-40 mph gusts, so the Bears moved inside for the second half of practice, but even in the wind, quarterback Nick Florence looked really good. Throwing into the wind, he hit Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese on consecutive deep balls down the field in one-on-one drills. Reese and Williams, by the way, looked great ... but you already knew that.
Bryce Petty is a step above Florence when it comes to physical skills, but Florence isn’t that far behind. Petty has a bigger arm and a bit more velocity, but both quarterbacks can definitely “make all the throws,” as they say. We’ve seen Florence do it in game action, but ultimately, it’s hard to see Florence losing this job. He’s been in this system since 2009, and it shows. He’s decisive. He’s got a quick release. He makes moving the ball in pass skeleton or 11-on-11 look effortless at times and he takes care of the ball.
Early indications from spring practice shows Nick Florence will be Baylor's starter this fall.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Florence will be a well above average quarterback in this league, but Petty could already start for a handful of Big 12 teams. Bottom line is I think this plays out like most think. This is Florence's team in 2012. Baylor can feel good about that. In 2013 and 2014, this is Petty's team. Baylor can feel really, really good about that. Art Briles has to sleep easy at night when it comes to worrying about quarterbacks.
I’ll have more on him today, too, but hyped transfer Lache Seastrunk looks like he’s bulked up a whole lot. It shows in his shoulders and calves, especially. He’s much thicker, which I have to think he understood he needed after an unproductive stop at Oregon before transferring to Baylor. His development will be fun to watch. Right now, he’s getting some reps with the first team, but Jarred Salubi was getting the majority of first-team reps. Surpassing him will be tough, but I think Seastrunk will get a decent chunk of touches this year. He’s got an explosiveness and shiftiness that’s rare; it’s easy to see why he was so highly recruited. But will that mean production? We’ll see. Late in practice, he disappeared in the pile during 11-on-11 drills, but broke outside and outran everybody down the left side for what would have been an 80-yard touchdown run.
That wowed the defenders on the sideline. "He’s been hanging out with one of the best backs around, LaMichael James," exclaimed defensive end Tevin Elliott on the sidelines, to no one in particular. “That must be where he gets some of his swag from."
That said, don’t let the hype from Seastrunk distract from what looks like a strong effort by Salubi to win this job ahead of Glasco Martin as well. He’s running hard inside the tackles and showcasing a physical style we didn’t see much of last year. Terrance Ganaway provided that all last season, and the Bears need someone to duplicate it. Salubi looks like he wants to answer the call and be known for more than shiftiness on the outside.
One scary thing to watch for, Bears: Replacing center Philip Blake. I don’t recall many bad snaps last year, but the first two to Florence during 11-on-11 drills on Monday were bad, and I counted at least six through the rest of the practice. Four with the first unit. There’s a lot of time to fix that, but center is one of those positions people don’t quite appreciate until they don’t have a good one.
A rough day for the defense. The athletes are there for the Bears, but the offense moved the ball at will in most of the team drills. Such is life going up against a high-powered set of skill players like the ones the Bears have. You couldn’t get much of a feel for the physicality, however, because players were only wearing shoulder pads.
Baylor’s one of the most fun teams in the league when it comes to trick plays; the Bears successfully executed quite a few in wins over TCU and Oklahoma. They’ve got some more fun ones drawn up along the goal line; plays we didn’t see in 2011 and ones I haven’t seen anyone duplicate. Detailing those is a good way to make sure you don’t ever see a practice again, but I’ll say this: They’ll be fun when Baylor busts them out.
With Baylor’s pro day looming on Wednesday, lots of the team’s departing seniors were on hand at Monday’s practice, back from training for the combine and pro day. Quarterback Robert Griffin III was on the field and for the first half and in the huddle for some of that period talking with Briles and various players. Receiver Kendall Wright and Ganaway were also on hand, and stuck around to watch the second half of practice indoors.
We’ll have some more from Griffin later today, but don’t be surprised if he busts out some bright cleats at his pro day showcase on Wednesday. He showed up Monday toting cleats reminiscent of the “Electricity” uniforms Baylor’s basketball team wore this postseason. Scott Drew would be proud.