IRVING, Texas – Since the inception of the Big 12, the only league school that hasn't played in a bowl is Baylor. The Bears' last postseason appearance came in a loss to Washington State in the 1994 Alamo Bowl.
Second-year coach Art Briles believes the drought will end this season – especially if Baylor can increase its home attendance. The Bears averaged just 34,124 fans in seven games at Floyd Casey Stadium in 2008.
"I've always been of the belief that, if you put something on the field worth seeing, people are going to show up," Briles said. "We've got something that's worth seeing now. We've got players that, nationally, are as good as anyone across the land."
Briles was mainly referring to sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin, who already is receiving some buzz as a potential Heisman candidate in 2010. Last season's Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, Griffin started 11 games as a true freshman and led Baylor to a 4-8 record. Three of the Bears' losses came by seven points or less.
"One person can't change a program," Briles said, "but one person can lead the charge, and [Griffin] is certainly doing that."
Griffin also is an Olympic hopeful in the hurdles, but he opted not to compete for Baylor's track team last spring so he could concentrate on football. Briles said Griffin made the decision on his own.
"I don't know what influenced him," Briles said, "but it could've been the numbers [225 and 227]. That's the weight of the first [two] quarterbacks taken in last year's NFL draft. Robert knows he needs to continue to work to get bigger."
Griffin is listed at 210 pounds. The goal is for him to gain about 10 pounds during the next few years. As far as track goes … Griffin said he believes he can qualify for the 2012 Olympics even if he doesn't rejoin Baylor's track team. Briles grinned when told of Griffin's comment.
"He may have a few other things on his plate by then," he said.
Promising as Griffin may be, he's not even be the top NFL prospect on Baylor's squad. Instead that title belongs to defensive tackle Phil Taylor, a transfer from Penn State who sat out last season because of NCAA rules.
"In my estimation, I don't know if there are five guys in America who are better on the field," Briles said. "The guy is 6-foot-5 and 352 pounds, but he's got the [quick] feet of a 165 pounder. Those people don't exist."
Oklahoma State preseason All-American Dez Bryant receives most of the hype, but Kansas has a receiver that's equally as good in junior Dezmon Briscoe. The only problem is that Briscoe is struggling to become eligible.
"I anticipate that he will [play]," coach Mark Mangino said, "but he still has work to do [in the classroom]. You get your work done here or you're not with us in August. We move on to the next player and we don't cry about it."
Briscoe set school records for yards (1,407) and touchdowns (15) as a sophomore in 2008. He is the nation's second-leading returning receiver.
• Mangino has a new nickname for Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing: "The Chauffeur."
"If you don't have a chauffer the car isn't going to move," Mangino said. "He's the one that makes it roll."
Reesing was ranked among the top-10 players in the nation last season in passing yards, completions and pass efficiency. The 2009 campaign will be the last for the distinguished senior, who was passed over by most Division I schools because of his lack of height.
Mangino said he'll never forget the day that Reesing and his father visited Lawrence during a trip in the summer of 2005. Reesing, who was preparing for his senior season of high school, was also receiving interest from Duke.
"Todd was overlooked by most programs, there's no question," Mangino said. "Some kids would pout about that and feel bad for themselves and say, 'You know, I caught a bad break in life.'
"Instead, he and his dad jumped in the car and went and visited the schools that had an interest in him. He did a good job of selling himself to me. He really had a swagger about him. He shook my hand and looked me right in the eye. He had a bounce in his step.
"When he [left], one of our coaches came down to office and asked me what I thought. I said, 'He's really small, but I like him. If we can get him, let's get him.' I just really like him. There's something about him that exudes confidence. He's like a stick of dynamite."
• Mangino said that, on numerous occasions, he has turned down the opportunity to vote in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll.
"I don't do it because I think it takes a lot of time," he said. "I don't feel good about spending two hours on a Sunday working on a poll when I should be getting my team ready to play."
BIG MAN FOR MIZZOU
The loss of quarterback Chase Daniel, tight end Chase Coffman and receiver Jeremy Maclin could lead to some big numbers for junior tailback Derrick Washington.
Washington earned second-team All-Big 12 honors by rushing for 1,078 yards in 2008. But his carries should increase as Missouri gears its offense more toward the run. Along with Washington, Gary Pinkel's squad also returns three starters on the offensive line, including All-Big 12 candidate Tim Barnes at center.
"We attack and throw the football vertically down the field," Pinkel said. "That's what we do, and we're going to continue to do that. But without question, we'll run the football a lot more. With Derrick and De'Vion [Moore] … I think it's probably the best one-two punch we've had at the running back position since we've been here."
Pinkel said Washington's hands are among his greatest attributes. Washington fumbled just once in 178 carries in 2008.
• With so many starters lost on offense, the common thought is that Missouri will finish in the middle of the pack in the Big 12 North. Pinkel, though, isn't lowering his expectations for the 2009 season.
"I don't think any of our fans really care about how young we are or how inexperienced we are or who we lost," Pinkel said. "They expect to see a good football team. It's my job to get that done."