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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Big 12 notebook: Baylor’s Briles takes cuts

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— Big 12 Football media days began Monday morning at the Omni hotel, oddly enough, with a bit of baseball talk.

Art Briles, coach of defending league champion Baylor, was the first of five program leaders to the table for the day’s news conferences.

“I guess we’re batting lead‑off today,” Briles said. “Well, the thing that’s a little different is, I don’t know what the commissioner expected, but we’re not going to try to bunt or get a single. I promise you that. We’re swinging for the fence. So maybe he should have put us fourth, because that’s just the way we approach the game.”

Picked second by the media in the Big 12 preseason poll, behind Oklahoma, Baylor (11-2 in 2013) is perceived as one of the nation’s top teams. Briles said that should only help the Bears attain their 2014 goals.

“If you’re a hot football team, and you start at 27 (outside of the top 25), and you’re as hot as anybody in America, after eight or nine weeks, you’re (up to) No. 12 or 13,” Briles said. “So the advantage with our perception, our image, nationally, is we have a chance to fulfill faster, to get to where we want to get faster, which is getting in the Final Four (the College Football Playoff) this year.”

Baylor, led by Heisman Trophy-hopeful quarterback senior Bryce Petty, has the most offensive yards returning (6,319) of any team in the nation.

Challenge awaits OSU

Oklahoma State lost 33 lettermen from its 2013 team, which finished 10-3. And coach Mike Gundy isn’t exactly easing into things this fall. The Cowboys open their season Aug. 30 against defending national champion Florida State, in Arlington, Texas.

“It’s going to be a big challenge for our team, but they’re very excited,” Gundy said. “One advantage to an opener against a very good football team, much less the national champion and returning Heisman Trophy winner (sophomore quarterback Jameis Winston), is, motivation is there.”

Entering his 10th season at OSU, Gundy hopes the upcoming showdown in the Cowboys Classic at AT&T; Stadium will get his players through sweltering preseason practices in August.

“They’re obviously a great football team,” Gundy said of FSU. “They’ve got a number of players other than the quarterback, and some are going to be playing on Sundays. But our responsibility as coaches ... is to come up with a great plan.”

Frogs back bowling?

A 4-8 2013 season wasn’t only disappointing for TCU, it broke an eight-year streak of bowl-game appearances.

Coach Gary Patterson, whose Horned Frogs suffered six losses of 10 points or less, said he entered last year expecting far more. If anything, Patterson said a year ago he arrived at media days feeling too positive.

“I’ve kind of been back to being my old self, to be honest with you,” the 14th-year TCU coach said.

This season marks the Frogs’ third in the Big 12, and Patterson hopes they will get back to winning the close ones.

“For us, it’s finding that four or five plays,” he said. “You’ve got to be a smarter football team. In this league, the margin of error is different. There were good teams in any league we’ve played in. But on a week‑to‑week basis, the margin for errors is less (in the Big 12).”

Kingsbury on QBs

A former standout quarterback at Texas Tech, Kliff Kingsbury became the program’s coach in 2013. At first, growing pains didn’t seem to be a problem, as the Red Raiders won their first seven games. But they lost their next five before defeating Arizona State at the Holiday Bowl.

Between the comfort level that comes with Year Two for Kingsbury’s staff at Tech and the progress made last season by then-true freshman quarterback Davis Webb, the Red Raiders are more than optimistic.

“I’m excited to watch (Webb) play this year,” the coach said of the Holiday Bowl’s Offensive MVP. “He’s one of the hardest-working quarterbacks I’ve ever been around.”

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