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WVU

Briles brings Baylor national attention

| Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Baylor's Art Briles scaled the coaching ranks the old-fashioned way.

He became a coaching legend in his native Texas, where he won four state championships at Stephenville High School and was among the coaches credited with introducing the spread offense to Texas high school football in the late 1990s — an offense he would later teach Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, who now plays for the Washington Redskins.

Briles' first college stop was at Texas Tech, where he joined West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen as an assistant. Briles landed his first head-coaching job at Houston, his alma mater, then moved across the state to Baylor, where he has been since 2008.

True to his roots, Briles, 56, has never coached outside his home state.

“It's just the way it worked out,” said Briles, who leads No. 25 Baylor against No. 9 West Virginia on Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium in the Big 12 opener for both teams. “I tried to work hard where I was at and be thankful for the job I had. It's just progressed to this point.”

Briles brought Baylor national attention — and a 10-win season in 2011 — largely due to Griffin's unexpected rise, but he has the Bears undefeated through three games this season.

He is a known developer of quarterbacks who recruited Griffin at Baylor and fellow NFLers Kevin Kolb and Case Keenum while at Houston. Briles has done it again this season with senior Nick Florence, who leads the nation in total offense in his first year as a starter.

“I still feel like I'm starting to grow in the learning stage of my career, but we think it's pretty good down here,” said Briles, who is 62-53 with six bowl appearances at Baylor and Houston. “Nick has done exactly what he's been asked to do. He's been very, very productive. His actions speak louder than my words.”

Holgorsen said Briles holds a special place among his coaching peers, especially those familiar with his high school success.

“It's not surprising that they lose the Heisman Trophy winner from last year, yet they don't miss a beat,” Holgorsen said. “I was fortunate to work with him for three years at Texas Tech. Prior to that, he won a bunch of state championships at Stephenville, which is a high level of football in Texas. He went to Houston and got that program going.

“I was lucky enough to follow him and inherit a bunch of guys — one being Case Keenum — and continue to win. He's doing the same thing at Baylor that he did at Stephenville, which is the same thing he did at Houston.

“He's had success wherever he's been.”

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com.

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