When they signed with Baylor, Brian Nance and Kiante Griffin were two of the jewels of the 2012 recruiting class.
Academic issues delayed their arrival until this semester. So it’s not hard to imagine how isolated they felt last fall as the Bears made a great late season run that ended with a Holiday Bowl win over UCLA in December.
“It was a good bowl game and I wanted to be part of it,” Nance said. “But I had to wait my time and make up for my grades. But now I’m here.”
Nance and Griffin have started
their college careers this spring at different positions than where they starred in high school.
Nance was a highly touted linebacker at Euless Trinity who announced his commitment to Baylor at the U.S. Army All-America Bowl in San Antonio in January 2012. Griffin was regarded as one of the top receivers in the state out of Carrollton Hebron.
But now the 6-2, 230-pound Nance is playing defensive end and the 6-0, 200-pound Griffin is playing nickelback, a hybrid position between linebacker and safety. Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett said the positions aren’t set in stone, but that’s where they’re getting their first look.
“Whatever gets me on the field the fastest,” Griffin said. “Coach (Art) Briles has a plan for me. I played mostly defense at cornerback and safety my whole senior year. But I’ve never played linebacker.”
Nance was one of Baylor’s top defensive recruits in the 2012 class along with San Antonio Sam Houston defensive end Javonte Magee. After making 160 tackles that included 20 for losses as a junior, he was named a SuperPrep All-American and was recruited by schools across the country.
Following an injury plagued senior year at Euless Trinity in 2011, he played last fall at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., while getting his ACT score up to a NCAA qualifying level.
“It’s a real big step coming here but a pleasure,” Nance said. “It puts a lot of pressure on me because people looked at me coming out of high school as big time, and they want to see how I perform. I just have to give it my best every day and be second to none.”
Nance is eager to play defensive end and learn from veterans Terrance Lloyd and Chris McAllister.
“I didn’t know what I was going to play, but right now I’m comfortable as long as I get a chance,” Nance said. “It’s no big deal for me. It’s going real good and I’m just trying to get better.”
Griffin was a do-it-all player for Carrollton Hebron who played receiver, defensive back and returned kicks. As a senior in 2011, he made 12 catches for 219 yards and two touchdowns and also collected 41 tackles and two interceptions.
Griffin said he had to complete an online course last summer, and his eligibility at Baylor was delayed. While the nickelback position is new and challenging, he likes being in the thick of the action.
“It’s more physical and I have to think more on my feet,” Griffin said. “You have to play fast and smart.”
Briles likes the athleticism and potential that both players bring to the table.
“Kiante is a good player and a good athlete who understands the game and has a great physical presence,” Briles said. “Brian is a quick twitch and gets off the ball really fast. He enjoys being in there. He’s got a great future.”
BEAR FACTS: Baylor junior Tuswani Copeland has moved from cornerback to receiver while Javonte Magee has been getting a look at defensive tackle after playing defensive end as a freshman. Senior tight end Jerod Monk is back at practice after starting the spring on the sidelines with a pectoral injury. ... The Bears returned to spring drills Tuesday after taking off last week for spring break. “A break always helps, and our guys are anxious to go,” Briles said.