When Bryce Petty says he’s anxious to play, it’s not the voice of a cocky kid just out of high school who wants to show his stuff.
It’s the voice of a quarterback who has paid his dues for the last three years sitting behind 2011 Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence. It’s a 6-foot-3, 230-pound veteran with a booming arm who knows Art Briles’ offense from top to bottom.
Petty relishes the opportunity to take the reins of one of the most explosive offenses in college football and plans to make the most of it.
“I think I’ll cherish every snap,” Petty said. “I think that’s the way you have to play any position. It’s something we have to know as athletes that every snap is not guaranteed. I’ve waited, learned and grown, and now it’s time to put all that stuff to the test and prove what I can do.”
Petty has some big numbers to live up to after watching Griffin pass for 4,293 yards and 37 touchdowns in his Heisman-winning season, and Florence breaking the school record with 4,309 yards and 33 touchdowns last season.
But he also knows Baylor’s high-tempo offense is geared for quarterbacks to put up impressive numbers, and Briles is confident that he can do the job. He’ll be backed up by redshirt freshman Seth Russell and true freshman Chris Johnson.
“It’s his fourth year and it’s time to turn potential into reality, and that’s what he’s doing,” Briles said. “He’s getting that chance and is taking full advantage of it because he’s mature and hungry and is very able.”
Petty knows he won’t have to feel like the lone gunslinger out there because he has so many offensive weapons around him. There may not be a better backfield duo in the country than Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin. With Martin supplying the power and Seastrunk the flash, they’ve been dubbed Thunder and Lightning.
Despite the massive numbers delivered by Baylor’s quarterbacks, Briles has built one of the most balanced offenses in college football. Last year, Seastrunk rushed for 1,012 yards and Martin added 889 to complement Florence’s passing statistics.
“I don’t know if there are many places in America where you have two backs around a thousand yards,” Briles said. “We fully expect them both to go over 1,000 this year. That’s a big combination for us. It certainly helps our quarterback and our defense.”
After playing sparingly in the first half of last season, Seastrunk amassed 831 yards in the final six games, including 138 in Baylor’s 49-26 romp over UCLA in the Holiday Bowl. Last December, Seastrunk said he would win the Heisman Trophy this year, and hasn’t backed off that prediction.
“If I believe in my heart, it’s going to happen,” Seastrunk said. “My linemen have supported me, and they said they’re going to try to lead me there. I wouldn’t be here without my line. I’d probably be at home watching on ESPN.”
Though Baylor lost consensus All-American receiver Terrance Williams and Lanear Sampson to the NFL, the receiving corps is still overflowing with talent.
New role for Reese
Senior Tevin Reese should be one of the premier receivers in the Big 12 after catching 53 passes for 957 yards and nine touchdowns last season. He’s got breakaway speed and has proved that he can make the tough catch.
“I’m a senior receiver and I’m not going to let any slacking go on,” Reese said. “We’ve got a high standard, and we’ve got to reach that. We’re always confident. We’ve got guys who have played a lot, and they’ve got experience under their belts.”
Levi Norwood proved to be a dependable possession receiver last season as he made 40 catches for 487 yards, while former minor league baseball player Clay Fuller should also be a factor in the receiving corps. Antwan Goodley began showing his speed and receiving skills toward the end of last season and should step into a starring role this season.
“I really think Antwan can be a dominating factor not just a contributor,” Briles said. “He’s set for a breakout season, no doubt.”
No Baylor receiver in the Briles era has arrived with more accolades than Fort Worth Southwest’s Robbie Rhodes. Rated as the No. 2 receiver in the 2013 class by Scout.com, Rhodes began showing his speed and talent from the start of preseason drills, and could be a home run threat as a freshman.
“Robbie has been fabulous,” Briles said. “He’s farther along than we thought he might be. He doesn’t back away from working, he’s a tough guy mentally and has a lot of natural ability. We’ve said all along that he’s the best receiver in America and we haven’t changed our mind on that.”
Corey Coleman has enjoyed a healthy preseason camp after dealing with hamstring issues last fall and during spring drills. Slowed by a knee injury last year, 6-3, 210-pound Jay Lee has the size and speed to be a standout receiver. Baylor features a trio of solid tight ends in Jordan Najvar, Jerod Monk and junior college transfer Gus Penning.
The Baylor offensive line suffered a significant blow in the spring when starting right tackle Troy Baker suffered an ACL tear. He’s expected to return for the start of Big 12 play in October, but until then the Bears will start a reshuffled offensive line.
Kelvin Palmer moved from center to right tackle, Stefan Huber moved from right guard to center and Desmine Hilliard moved in at right guard.
“Any time you lose a guy who is 6-6 and 315 pounds that started 13 games and is physical and tough, you’ve lost a good football player,” Briles said. “But those guys were asked to come in and do a job and they’ve done it.”
After making second-team All-America last season, senior left guard Cyril Richardson should be one of the best offensive linemen in the country. He’s joined on the left side by returning starting tackle Spencer Drango.
Baylor’s offense has been among the nation’s best for the past three seasons, and no one expects that to change with Petty taking over at quarterback.
“Bryce is very talented, and we can do a lot of different things with him,” Fuller said. “It will open us up for a lot of big plays. He has an extremely strong arm, and I’m happy to be a part of his offense.”
Baylor returning offensive leaders
RUSHING GP Att Net Avg TD Long Avg/G
Seastrunk, Lache 13 131 1012 7.7 7 80 77.8
Martin, Glasco 13 179 889 5.0 15 43 68.4
Goodley, Antwan 13 4 26 6.5 0 12 2.0
Reese, Tevin 13 4 21 5.2 0 12 1.6
Norwood, Levi 13 3 20 6.7 1 9 1.5
Petty, Bryce 6 10 13 1.3 1 10 2.2
PASSING GP Cmp-Att-Int Pct Yards TD Long Avg/G
Petty, Bryce 6 7-10-0 70.0 97 1 37 16.2
Norwood, Levi (WR) 13 1-1-0 100.0 21 0 21 1.6
RECEIVING GP No. Yards Avg TD Long Avg/G
Reese, Tevin 13 53 957 18.1 9 75 73.6
Norwood, Levi 13 40 487 12.2 1 39 37.5
Goodley, Antwan 13 17 171 10.1 2 17 13.2
Najvar, Jordan 13 10 80 8.0 2 13 6.2
Seastrunk, Lache 13 9 107 11.9 1 68 8.2