Griffin primed for strong sophomore season

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Baylor came close to making its first bowl appearance in 14 seasons last year.

Take away three losses in a 4-8 season that were settled by a touchdown or less and the Bears weren't far away from breaking the longest bowl drought in the Big 12.

That realization is spurring Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin and the rest of the team as they prepare for the start of spring practice on Monday.

"We're a better team than we showed last season," Griffin said. "We know that we are in the toughest division in the nation and there's no game you can overlook. Every game is a threat, but for us and what we are developing, we realize that the minimum we will do around here is go to a bowl game.

"We won't put a limit on ourselves, but we are going to a bowl game."

Griffin's confidence was forged in a breakout season where he emerged as one of the nation's top freshman performers.

Among his accomplishments, Griffin tied the school record with 13 rushing touchdowns and also established an NCAA FBS record for consecutive passes without an interception at the start of his career with 209.

And he figures he can improve. A lot.

"There are always areas to improve," Griffin said. "I can improve in the running game. I can throw better. I didn't have many problems, but you can always get better."

After resting his arm for several weeks at the end of the season, Griffin is back throwing and hoping to improve his aerial form that helped him pass for 2,091 yards and 15 touchdowns against only three interceptions in 2008.

"I let my shoulder heal itself and since then, I've come back and am throwing the ball a lot better," Griffin said. "I'm happy about that. When I first got here, my coaches worked on my form and helped me get better. It's squared away, but I think you can always improve. I'm just out working on my velocity and technique."

The Bears return most of the skill-position starters to surround Griffin. But they'll need to rebuild an offensive line that lost potential NFL first-round draft pick Jason Smith and three-year starter Dan Gay among its biggest losses.

"We're going to miss those guys, but we got a lot of guys in our signing class and some others who should help us," Griffin said. "I'm excited about the competition we'll have during the spring and I think we'll get some good tackles from the class who will help us."

One key element that helped Griffin's start came after he skipped his final semester of high school to join the program last spring. That early work gave him an early working concept of coach Art Briles' offense that helped make his transition easier.

It helped him beat out incumbent Blake Szymanski and transfer Kirby Freeman for the starting position, winning the job for good by his second game.

That quick start makes Griffin an unabashed advocate of quarterbacks reporting early to join their teams.

"It was just coming in and getting to know the guys," Griffin said. "I didn't come with an attitude I was going to be 'the man.' I just came in, was humble and showed people with my actions what I could do. That will only help accelerate the learning curve and your growth as a quarterback."

Griffin is determined to continue that growth during the Bears' upcoming spring practice. He's added about four pounds over the off season, boosting his weight to 205 pounds. His added bulk feels comfortable, he said.

"The weight will only help me," said Griffin, who earned the nickname of "Rambo" from his teammates last season because of his zeal in conditioning drills. "I think by doing this will only help me take on a bigger work load and give me more strength. It should be good."