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Q&A: Baylor Insider

In this segment, Baylor expert and former player Sam Sledge answers some questions to provide a deeper look at the Bears before Saturday's game.
Sam Sledge played for the Baylor Bears from 2005 to 2009 and saw time at several positions. Sledge began his career as a walk-on center and moved to guard for his sophomore year. His junior year he played defensive tackle, and his senior year he played big slot/fullback on offense.
1) Tell me about Nick Florence. What are his strengths as a quarterback?

Art Briles has played a big role in the turnaround of the Baylor football program.

Sledge: "Although Florence did spend a lot of time behind Robert Griffin III his first three seasons at Baylor, his intelligence and early experience make up for all the lost time on the field. Florence got the chance in 2009 to start multiple games as a freshman, which I believe changed his outlook on how he needed to prepare and train until he got his opportunity in 2012. He is obviously very comfortable in Briles' offense and I believe Florence is also extremely underrated as a runner and as an athlete in general. Florence is also not afraid to take shots, which shows with his 13 interceptions on the year, but I believe that is something that keeps the Baylor offense as explosive as it has been."

2) What has Terrance Williams done to have such a big year? Who are some of the Bears other weapons on offense and what can they do?

Sledge: "Williams has done what everyone involved with Baylor knows he can. He is a big fast talented guy that fits perfectly into Baylor's offense. Williams also seems to go as Florence does, both of whom are leading the conference in receiving and passing respectively.

Another player that has become very important to the Bears offense is Lache Seastrunk. After transferring from Oregon and sitting out a year, I believe Briles has been slow to develop trust in Seastrunk's off the ball abilities (route running and pass blocking) and I believe that is the only reason we did not see a heavier dose of Seastrunk earlier in the season. When Seastrunk is effective it helps the Bears tremendously."

3) Tell me about Baylor's defense, they started the year off rather sluggish but they seemed to have improved lately. Who are some of Baylor's defensive leaders and what to each bring to the table?

Sledge: "As most of the Big 12 is discovering, it is a difficult conference to play consistently solid defense. Baylor has been near the bottom of the country in defensive statistics all year and have depended almost solely on a high octane offense and takeaways to stay in games. I believe the leaders of the defense are Bryce Hager and Ahmad Dixon, but I also think that the defense will play as good as the D-line plays. When the Bears are able to pressure a quarterback early, it has greatly helped their chances."

4) Texas Tech has struggled in the trenches lately, tell me a little bit about Baylor's offensive and defensive lines and who to keep an eye on from each group?

Sledge: "The heart of Baylor's O-line is their athletic four year starter at center Ivory Wade. Wade has played virtually every position on the line in his four years at Baylor and is very comfortable making the calls at center. The big guard Cyril Richardson (6-5 335) is key in the run game which can drive Baylor's offense. Baylor's D-line has not had a clear standout this year and usually depends on coverage to get pressure. Gary Mason is probably the most experienced and athletic on the line being able to play end and tackle, and stands the best chance of having a big game this weekend."

5) Baylor is one of the most improved teams in the Big 12 since the beginning of the year, where have you noticed the most improvements?

Sledge: "Baylor has become a far more confident program in the last 4-5 years in general. This confidence has helped the Bears beat top ranked teams (Oklahoma in 2011 and K-State in 2012) and carry them through the season. If Baylor's defense continues to improve, then they will finish the season strong."

6) Tell me about Art Briles, what's he like as a coach? Why has he had success every where he has been and what are your thoughts on the overall direction of the program?

Sledge: "Briles does a great job of exciting his players and encouraging them to play with passion and emotion. Having played for Briles my last two years at Baylor, I had never been more excited to take the field week in and week out. He also exudes confidence which trickles down throughout the entire program. With Briles, the Bears feel like they have the opportunity to win every week. Aside from that, he is one of the most creative offensive minds in the country - that shows on the stat pages.

As a program, I believe that Baylor is definitely headed in the right direction. Baylor recruiting classes continue to climb the ranks every year and they are building some of the best facilities in the country. With Briles and his staff, Baylor has the opportunity to be a top contender for the conference."

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