WACO — Back in 2010, when Ahmad Dixon was an Under Armour and U.S. All-American safety for Waco Midway High School, Dixon said each of the programs that recruited him — including bluebloods like Alabama and Texas — told him he’d have the opportunity to compete for a national championship.
“Coach Briles just had a dream,” Dixon said. “And his dream was to build this program up, and that’s what I wanted to be a part of.”
Rather than try to sell a recruit on a program he didn’t have at the time, Briles instead focused on the end goal, and homed in on the players he needed to get there.
“We wanted trailblazers, we wanted mavericks,” Briles said. “We wanted guys that weren’t afraid to go down a path that nobody had ever been down before because that’s what you look for — if you don’t believe in yourself nobody else will.”
The No. 5 Bears have believed in themselves since day one this season, and now, after a 41-12 home whipping of No. 12 Oklahoma on Thursday, may finally be turning the rest of the nation into believers as well.
And if the Bears continue, it may lead them to a place no Baylor team has been in recent memory.
After Oregon fell to Stanford for the second consecutive year Thursday night, the Bears are now one of just five remaining unbeaten teams in the BCS top 10.
Baylor was the only unbeaten outside of the top five in the BCS standings and hopes to see that change after soundly defeating the first ranked team it has faced this season.
While Briles gave credit to the players for how far the program has come, the players heaped the praise on Briles.
“I think it speaks to coach Briles and that coaching staff,” senior defensive end Chris McAllister. “They know how to prepare for games and tell us exactly what they want us to do and how they see it and paint that picture for us. And we can go out there and execute it right now.”
McAllister showed his preparedness on the Sooners’ first play of the game, sniffing out a trick play in which he dropped OU receiver Sterling Shepard in the open field for a 3-yard loss.
But perhaps a bigger testament to the turnaround Briles has led came at the 11:06 mark in the second quarter, when running back Lache Seastrunk — the preseason Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year — limped off the field with a groin injury.
With backup Glasco Martin already out of the game with a knee injury, the Bears turned to redshirt freshman Shock Linwood — who responded by sparking the offense with 184 rushing yards.
With a national audience watching, it was a prime example of the depth Briles has been able to build in six years at Baylor.
“We’ve said we finally had Big 12 quality depth, and that’s something that I’ve been saying for about a year,” Briles said. “And it showed off tonight, when you lose Lache, you lose Glasco, you lose (senior receiver) Tevin Reese and you still maintain and you’re still effective, that’s a good thing.”
Briles said he expects Seastrunk to be fine, but Reese, the former Temple star, is out for the regular season with a dislocated wrist while Martin awaited the results of an MRI on Friday.
And with a neutral-field meeting against No. 25 Texas Tech at AT&T Stadium in Arlington looming — not to mention a trip to No. 15 Oklahoma State following that — the Bears’ depth will certainly be put to the test again.
But after passing its first test on a national stage with flying colors, Baylor is just as confident as it was to start the season that the upward trend it is experiencing won’t be ending anytime soon.
“Coach Briles and his staff, they believed in the dream that he had,” Dixon said. “And not just his staff, the players did, the guys that were here before me, all those guys believed in what coach Briles had to say and his dream.
“And when you have a team that stands behind the coach,” he continued, “and when you have everybody that’s standing behind one dream, it’s bound to happen.
“Thankfully, it’s happening while I’m still here.”
Contact Jordan Mason at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7562