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Big 12 preview: Baylor buys RB Seastrunk's Heisman hype

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WACO, TX - DECEMBER 1: Lache Seastrunk #25 of the Baylor University Bears breaks free for a 76 yard touchdown run against the Oklahoma State University Cowboys on December 1, 2012 at Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

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Before the 2012 season was over, Lache Seastrunk declared he would win the Heisman Trophy this fall.

Given the second half of the Baylor running back's season, Bears coach Art Briles has no desire to downplay Seastrunk's hype.

“I'd much rather have players wanting to win the Heisman,” Briles said, “than clap for the one that does.”

After rushing for 831 yards and six touchdowns in the last six games, the 5-foot-10, 210-pound Seastrunk hopes to follow a fantastic finish with a spectacular start.

“Definitely. That's why I said it,” said Seastrunk, whose first name is pronounced “Lake,” of his December pronouncement to Sporting News. “Right before I said it, I thought about it and said, ‘Why not?' Coach Briles tells us to be the best players in the country. That's a goal that I want to achieve.”

It's a goal that appeared attainable when he was an All-American at Temple (Texas) High and five-star recruit at Oregon who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.34 seconds and has a vertical jump of 44 inches.

But Seastrunk fell out of favor and redshirted as a freshman, then transferred amid a scandal involving Willie Lyles, who received $25,000 for delivering Oregon outdated recruiting profiles.

After sitting out the 2011 season, Briles brought Seastrunk along slowly last year. He had 95 yards in the first five games, then averaged 138.5 yards over the final six while playing with the punishing Glasco Martin.

That included scoring three touchdowns in a victory over No. 14 Oklahoma, running for a season-high 185 yards in the upset of top-ranked Kansas State, a 76-yard fourth-quarter touchdown despite a tweaked leg muscle to clinch a victory over No. 24 Oklahoma State, and 138 yards against No. 17 UCLA to win MVP honors at the Holiday Bowl.

“He's a great player, an explosive, powerful player,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “That's all you can say.”

It's no wonder Big 12 coaches aren't dismissing Seastrunk's Heisman candidacy, especially after former Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III won it in 2011.

“In this league, you're used to seeing so much offensive talent at all the skill positions. That program has had a Heisman Trophy winner,” Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said, adding that Seastrunk is “everything that he's advertised to be.”

Briles believes if Seastrunk started at zero last season in terms of comprehending Baylor's scheme, he's now an eight on a scale of 1 to 10. Combine that Seastrunk's confidence, and he promises to be dangerous.

“Coach Briles lets me be myself,” Seastrunk said. “He says, ‘Do what you do on the field. We don't want to make you not who you are.' He sees the swagger that I have.”

It's a swagger that Briles has instilled at Baylor. He knows from Griffin's experience that the better Seastrunk plays in big games, the better Baylor will be — which increases his Heisman hopes.

“Honestly, Robert helped himself win the Heisman,” Briles said. “You have to do phenomenal things in phenomenal moments, and that's what he did. The timing was perfect. ...

“Lache has some qualities that give him an opportunity. He's a dynamic football player that's very engaging, and those are good qualities to have. They help you with the voters.”

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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