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April 21, 2008

Copperas Cove's Griffin impresses in debut

Cove ex shines in Baylor spring game

WACO - Former Copperas Cove standout Robert Griffin III wasn't the first quarterback to take the field at Baylor's spring football game, but he was arguably the best.

Griffin led the Bears to 22 of their 31 points, including a 17-yard touchdown run that looked like it was straight out of Cove coach Jack Welch's playbook. Griffin took the snap from the shotgun and faked a handoff that sent the defense scampering toward the near sideline. Griffin kept the ball and ran the other way untouched into the end zone.

Griffin, who entered the scrimmage on the second offensive set, led the Bears to two 70-yard drives and one 46-yard drive. The true freshman finished the day with 35 yards rushing on five carries and completed six of 10 passes for 75 yards in just three series.

"I thought Robert did a good job," Baylor co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Phillip Montgomery said. "The best part about his performance was that he moved the ball down the field. He took control of the huddle, kept drives alive, made smart decisions, took care of the football and was pretty accurate throwing."

Griffin made such an impression in his debut that Bears fans were drooling over the potential of their possible future starting quarterback. After the scrimmage, the Copperas Cove native signed the back of kids' T-shirts and took pictures with parents.

"I'm never satisfied with what I do, but I thought I did a pretty good job today," Griffin said. "We moved the ball and it went pretty smoothly."

Griffin is one of three players competing for the Baylor starting quarterback job. University of Miami (Fla.) transfer and fifth-year senior Kirby Freeman along with incumbent Blake Szymanksi are also getting looks from the Bears coaching staff.

Freeman, a Brownwood product, struggled out of the gate with two fumbles and a couple of sacks, but rebounded to complete seven of 13 passes for 75 yards with one interception. Szymanski, who started 10 games for Baylor in 2007, was 9-of-13 for 102 yards passing and tossed the lone touchdown pass of the scrimmage.

"We've got some guys that can do some things (at the quarterback position)," Baylor head coach Art Briles said. "We'll get somebody on the field that can do it for us. So, that's an issue that will take care of itself. I'm not concerned with it."

No coach would reveal which player pulled ahead in the horse race for the Bears starting quarterback position.

"You're going to work harder if you don't know who's starting because you might avoid some of the flak," Griffin said. "The play will determine who's going to be a starter."

Griffin enrolled at Baylor in January after leading Cove to back-to-back state title appearances. He graduated a semester early from high school to take part in spring football and avoid being red-shirted.

The biggest change from Class 4A to Big 12 football has been the amount of throwing required of Griffin. The Bears staff wants the true freshman to use less elbow and more arm.

"Robert didn't get to throw a lot in high school," explained Montgomery. "What Cove used him for is a little different than what we're asking him to do. The biggest growth area is his throwing mechanics because we're going to ask him to do a lot more passing than he's used to."

On Saturday, Griffin looked comfortable as a thrower. Besides completing 60 percent of his passes, he also tossed two passes of more than 15 yards.

Griffin did, however, miss an open receiver in the end zone on his first drive and threw the ball out of bounds.

"Robert is a very intelligent player, very eager and very absorbent," Briles said. "Anything you say he absorbs, so that is a good quality and a good sign. We are definitely glad that he is a Baylor Bear because it bodes well for the immediate future."

Maybe even as soon as Aug. 30 when the Bears open their season against Wake Forest.

Evan Mohl, Sports, Killeen Daily Herald News; Contact Evan Mohl at: [email protected] or (254) 501-7564.

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