By Jon Schroeder
The Cove Herald
Sometimes, Dawgs don’t grow up into Cougars. They become Bears.
Robert Griffin III, a top Texas quarterback recruit and the quarterback of the Copperas Cove Bulldawgs, changed his verbal commitment at press conference Monday at Copperas Cove High School from the University of Houston (8-4) to Baylor University (3-9), located in Waco, Texas.
While high school players cannot sign letters of intent until Feb. 6, 2008, Griffin likely won’t sign one at all. Since he’s graduating early from Cove high school, Griffin will simply attend Baylor starting next semester.
Griffin, who was planning to start school next semester at the University of Houston after an early high school graduation, originally made his verbal commitment to play as a Cougar in September.
But Monday, as was widely reported, his choice fell between Stanford, Houston and Baylor.
During a press conference in the weight room at Copperas Cove High School, Griffin announced his new commitment Monday to Baylor University, to a football program which “is going to be on the rise” and to the track and field program which trained Michael Johnson.
“I wanted to go to Baylor anyway,” Griffin said, adding that the former Baylor coaching staff hadn’t offered him a scholarship. But now, with Briles in charge, the university offers new possibilities for the nation’s No. 3 dual-threat quarterback, according to Rivals.com, a popular recruiting Web site.
Briles’ resignation from the University of Houston rekindled national recruiting interest in Griffin, and Copperas Cove head coach Jack Welch said Griffin’s decision now — as opposed to in a few weeks, when Griffin might have had more offers on the table — shows Griffin’s dedication to the Cove Bulldawgs, still in pursuit of a Texas 4A state title.
Griffin’s teammate Troy Vital, a two-star running back recruit, according to Scout.com and Rivals.com, is reconsidering where he’d like to play in college, although he committed to Houston as well. Vital did not attend Monday’s press conference, but Griffin said Vital is still weighing his options.
“We both said we weren’t going to stay at Houston,” Griffin said, noting that Vital’s decision remains his to make.
But even if it means leaving his teammate, Griffin said he’s excited to compete for the starting quarterback slot at Baylor. He said Waco is the place for him — coincidentally, he made his announcement beside three Copperas Cove trophies, all won in Waco.
Rivals.com, a popular recruiting Web site, classifies Griffin as a dual-threat quarterback — the No. 3 dual threat nationally.
He can certainly run. As a Copperas Cove Bulldawg, Griffin led his track team with gold medal and record-setting performances in the 110-meter hurdles (13.55 seconds) and 300-meter hurdles (35.33). He also anchored the 1,600-meter relay team to a silver medal.
He was also recognized as the 2006-07 Gatorade Thirst Quencher Texas Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
Griffin has consistently been the one of the best hurdlers in the nation, owning four of the fastest eight times in the country this year in the 300-meter hurdles and five of the fastest 10 times in the 110-meter hurdles.
“(Griffin) being a two-sport guy, Baylor is probably going to meet his needs and Baylor’s needs more than anyone might possibly imagine,” said Chris Bullajian, referencing Baylor’s track credentials, which include Johnson and many other track Olympians.
Bullajiam is the lead publisher and recruiting analyst for the Baylor portion for Scout.com, another popular recruiting Web site.
If Griffin ultimately plays for Baylor, he would be the school’s second-highest rated all-time quarterback recruit behind Odell James, who became a Bear in the 1990s, Bullajiam said.
Junior college recruits, including several of the quarterbacks on Baylor’s current roster, are ranked according to different scales.
Highly-touted recruit G. J. Kinney, who verbally committed to Baylor but ended up at the University of Texas, is a comparable recruit, Bullajian said, noting that Griffin is a “true dual threat,” while Kinney is a passing quarterback “with wheels.”
Baylor made Griffin’s short list largely because former Houston head coach Art Briles is now Baylor’s head coach, replacing Guy Morriss, who held the reins from 2003 to the end of the 2007 season.
But Baylor recruited Griffin early on. When the former coaching staff at Baylor didn’t offer him a scholarship, Griffin decided to go to Houston instead.
With Briles headed for Baylor, the situation became cloudy again for Griffin, committed to a coach in transit.
The athlete’s father, Robert Griffin Sr., told media last week that a call from Briles would make his son into a Baylor Bear.
Briles began coaching at Houston in 2003, two years after a winless 2001 season for the Cougars. In 2006, according to Baylor, the Cougars put up the nation’s seventh-best turnaround with a four-game improvement over their 2005 6-6 record.
Under Briles’ leadership, Houston won the C-USA conference title in 2006, the fifth time in the last 30 seasons that I-A program won a conference after a winless season.
Houston (8-4), which ended its 2007 regular season with a 59-6 victory over Texas Southern, will play under an assistant coach against Texas Christian University Dec. 28 in the Texas Bowl.
Baylor coaching legend Grant Teaff put his stamp of approval on the hire in a recent release, citing Briles’ Texas recruiting credentials.
“Art Briles is an excellent choice and fit for Baylor University. I’ve known Coach Briles for many years and respect him as a person and as a football coach,” he said. “Coach Briles will bring a much-needed connection to the Texas High School Coaches Association to Baylor and he is an outstanding offensive football coach.”
Others to follow
Some media reports have indicated that Briles will bring some of his assistant coaches from Houston with him, but as of Monday, Baylor University had not made any new hires.
A Houston Chronicle article indicated Sunday that Philip Montgomery and Randy Clements, co-offensive coordinators at the University of Houston, would likely go with Briles. But Nick Joos, Baylor’s associate athletic director, said Monday that Baylor hadn’t picked up either of the two.
Because of recruiting rules, Joos was not able to comment on Griffin or Troy Vital, Cove’s standout running back.
Vital, a two-star recruit, also verbally committed to Houston. Like Griffin, he made his pledge while Art Briles was the Cougars’ head coach.
Contact Jon Schroeder at firstname.lastname@example.org