Briles sees players, not backups, for No. 8 Baylor

September 10, 2014

Baylor coach Art Briles prefers to avoid certain labels for players not necessarily considered first-teamers in the eighth-ranked Bears' fast-paced, big-play offense.

''We really don't like to view our guys as backups. They're just all players,'' Briles said. ''We've got a bunch of players. You can only play so many at certain times. They all bring different things to the table according to what their opportunities are.''

That could apply to quarterback Seth Russell, who had a record-setting half when starting in place of injured reigning Big 12 offensive player of the year Bryce Petty. Or standout freshmen KD Cannon and Davion Hall getting extended early looks with several standout returning receivers injured.

With three games in a 13-day stretch to start the season, and injuries for several key players, Briles and the Bears (2-0) have already needed a lot of different guys.

''We certainly feel like the people on the field are very capable, keeping us at the level we need to be at to have a chance to another Big 12 championship,'' the coach said.

Petty is expected to play Friday night at Buffalo after sitting out the second half of the opener and not dressing out last weekend because of two cracked small bones in his back.

Antwan Goodley, who had 1,339 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns last season, may be out again because of a quad issue that forced him out of the opener without a catch. Another pair of senior receivers, Levi Norwood (wrist) and Clay Fuller (broken collarbone), definitely won't play in the Bears' last non-conference game.

Cannon and Hall were listed as starters on the midweek depth chart for the Buffalo game, which comes before a week off leading into Big 12 play. That may or may not change for Big 12 games after the seniors get healthy.

''They're both very centered on being really great, in different ways,'' Briles said. ''We knew coming in both of those guys would be really good. They're not just kind of OK. They phenomenal.''

Russell was named co-Big 12 offensive player of the week after completing 16 of 25 passes for 438 yards and five touchdowns while playing only the first half in a 70-6 win over FCS team Northwestern State last Saturday. No Baylor player had ever thrown for more yards in a single half - and it was No. 3 on the school list for an entire game.

Cannon had TD catches of 50, 81 and 42 in the first quarter. He finished with six catches for 223 yards, the second-most in Bears history even without playing after halftime and has averaged more than 35 yards on his eight catches this season.

''It just so worked out that these guys got opportunities that might not have been given under normal circumstances,'' Briles said.

Russell said he never got any official word that he was starting against the Demons, though the sophomore quarterback prepared as such working with first-teamers last week in practice.

''It helps a whole lot obviously, being able to go out there and make connections. We had a lot of hurt starters, and going in there knowing even with second-teamers, they're just as good as the first-teamers,'' Russell said. ''It definitely helps us later on knowing that we can trust those guys. ... That they can step up and make plays.''