Baylor is the new Quarterback U
OCT 02, 2012 4:15p ET
And we were reminded, yet again, the best quarterbacks no longer congregate at what we long considered "quarterback universities" like USC and Stanford, Florida State and Texas Tech before a few idiots in West Texas decided to dump coach Mike Leach. If there is a Quarterback U at all anymore, there is an argument to be made it actually is in Waco, Texas. Certainly Baylor coach Art Briles has become the quarterback whisperer, with Kevin Kolb, Robert Griffin III and now Nick Florence on his resume. If you want you can throw Case Keenum in here, too.
Hello, for the second year in a row, Waco has a player in Heisman race. To understand how unlikely this is, you have to understand Waco, and Baylor specifically. For a long time, it was a distant fourth behind Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech in football. It was only ahead of places like TCU and SMU and Rice because politics — former Texas governor and Baylor grad Ann Richards in particular — got them into the Big 12. And for years, Baylor was the worst team in the Big 12. That includes Kansas.
Coaches came. They promised. They failed.
The excuse was it was Waco, and it was a perfectly reasonable explanation.
When the job was offered to Briles, a longtime and highly respected Texas high school coach, his friends told him to politely decline and stay at the University of Houston. It was a no-win situation, they told him. They told him to just wait for the Texas Tech job.
He went to Waco anyway. He won. He won because no coach maybe in the country gets quarterbacks any better than Art Briles.
From his days at Stephenville, Texas, Art always understood quarterbacks and spacing better than his opponents. It leveled the playing field.
To say he is merely a system guy is an insult to the caliber of QB he has landed at Houston and Baylor. Art's ability to recognize potential passers and fit them into has given places like Houston and Baylor, which previously blew before his arrival, a chance in hell.
While everybody noticed and slapped sloppy, wet, verbal kisses upon Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith for his 656-yard, eight-touchdown day that has everybody talking Heisman, and rightfully so, Florence's day has been muted. That is a mistake, a big mistake.
Not only did Florence throw for 581 yards and five touchdowns, he re-etched his name in Baylor's record book. What people forget — OK, I forgot — is Florence was Baylor's record holder for yards in a game until RG3 bested him a year ago.
I think we all can agree this RG3 kid is pretty good.
So that Florence has been able to step in at Baylor almost seamlessly speaks to his talent and the system Briles has in place. The quarterback is the great equalizer in college football. If you have one of them, you have a chance. They used to go to certain programs. They used to fit certain prototypes. What Briles and Baylor — as well as places like TCU with Andy Dalton and Mizzou with Chase Daniel — have done is level the playing field by taking quarterbacks that were overlooked for whatever reason (height, arm strength, whatever) and win with them.
The University of is still the big power broker in Texas. It wins almost every recruiting war and has an improving quarterback in David Ash. But it had a five-star, Gatorade Such and Such in Garrett Gilbert and that was great until he didn't work out and transferred to SMU where he has continued to disappoint.
What the Longhorns know for sure is they have left some very good quarterbacks on the table, guys who ended up playing and winning at places like Stanford (Andrew Luck), Purdue (Drew Brees) and Mizzou (Daniel), and now Baylor (RG3 and Florence). What remains to be seen is whether Baylor has a defense. Baylor has yet to put a defense around Florence, or RG3 before him.
Why the Bears have become a force to reckoned with is because Briles has turned Baylor into Quarterback U.