Even with a furious wind whipping around, Baylor junior quarterback Bryce Petty felt a sense of confidence as he stepped on the field for Saturday’s final spring scrimmage.
Taking over for Nick Florence, Petty knows he doesn’t have to do everything by himself. He has two of the Big 12’s best backs in Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin, a deep group of receivers and a strong offensive line.
Petty was highly efficient, as he hit 13 of 15 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns for a balanced Baylor offense that had little trouble scoring against the second-team defense before an estimated 3,500 fans at the Highers Complex practice field.
“Bryce did extremely well,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “The last week to 10 days he’s really come on and grabbed hold of what he can do and has really embraced it. It’s his fourth year, and it’s time to turn potential into reality, and that’s what he’s doing.”
Petty understands it’s a major task to replace Florence, who set a school record with 4,309 yards passing last season and finished second nationally with 375.15 total yards per game. But Petty has so much faith in Briles’ offensive system and the players surrounding him that he doesn’t feel immense pressure.
“Coach Briles and his staff do a really good job of putting us in position to compete,” Petty said. “I’ve been in the system so long and I know it’s my time to do it. With this offense, you’ve got to know what Coach Briles wants with each play and that’s what makes the tempo go so fast and makes us effective.”
Throwing against a strong wind, Petty lofted a 34-yard touchdown pass to Clay Fuller in the left corner of the end zone. Later in the scrimmage, he found Jay Lee streaking down the left sideline for a 55-yard touchdown.
The Bears’ receiving corps wasn’t at full strength — Corey Coleman was nursing a hamstring injury and Tevin Reese was out with a sprained ankle — but Petty was glad to hand off the ball to his talented running backs.
“I handed the ball I think 300 times for 7,000 yards, so it made my job easy,” Petty said. “It makes it fun when the run sets up the pass.”
Martin exploded for 114 yards and three touchdowns on just 12 carries, while Seastrunk rushed for 90 yards on 10 carries. Both backs got loose for breakaway runs as Martin blew through the middle for a 66-yard touchdown and Seastrunk outraced everybody for a 44-yard score.
“We gave a little taste of what’s going to happen this season,” Seastrunk said. “We take a lot of pressure off Bryce because it’s his first time coming in. The line is outrageous, they make us look good.”
Even with starting right tackle Troy Baker out with a torn ACL, Baylor’s offensive line managed to open big holes all afternoon.
Changes on O-line
Briles made several position switches following Baker’s knee injury nearly two weeks ago as center Kelvin Palmer moved to right tackle, right guard Stefan Huber switched to center and Desmine Hilliard moved in at right guard. Jason Osei, a native of England, has switched from defensive tackle to backup offensive guard.
Briles hopes Baker will be able to return to the lineup in October but likes the progress he’s seen with his revamped offensive line.
“Anytime you lose a guy who is 6-6 and 315 pounds that started 13 games and is physical and tough and was raised by (former Baylor lineman) Danny Watkins, (you’re missing) a good football player,” Briles said. “Those O-linemen have to keep playing and it starts with energy, scheme, toughness and intelligence.”
Baylor’s first-team defense also performed at a high level as backup quarterback Seth Russell was pressured all afternoon by the front four. The starting front line included senior end Chris McAllister, junior end Terrance Lloyd and sophomore tackles Beau Blackshear and Javonte Magee.
Russell hit just nine of 22 passes for 42 yards and cornerback Joe Williams made two interceptions.
“With our defensive line in their face, I know the ball is coming fast,” Williams said. “If the ball is in the air I’m going to get it. It was pretty fun to see what they are doing out there and dominating their positions.”
After helping the Bears win five of their last six games, the defense has played with confidence all spring. With eight starters returning and more depth and athleticism, the Bears believe they can put an improved defense on the field as defensive coordinator Phil Bennett enters his third season.
“I think when Coach Bennett came here we were still living on how the offense was playing,” Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon said. “We’d get those stops at the end of the game, but never came totally together. It took us time to realize it, but now we have it down pat and we’re getting everybody on this train.”
BEAR FACTS: The Baylor men’s basketball team was recognized before the scrimmage after winning the NIT with a 74-54 win over Iowa on Thursday night at New York’s Madison Square Garden.