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2011 Baylor Preview – Defense
Baylor DE Gary Mason
Baylor DE Gary Mason
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 15, 2011


CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Baylor Bear Defense


Baylor Bears

Preview 2011 - Defense


- 2011 Baylor Preview | 2011 Baylor Offense
- 2011 Baylor Defense | 2011 Baylor Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: The defense couldn’t stop anyone with an offense, allowing a whopping 150 points over the final three games to Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma, and allowed 278 points in the six losses and 118 points in the seven wins. Former SMU head coach and Pitt defensive coordinator Phil Bennett was hired to run the defense, and he’s going to try to do the impossible and generate a pass rush from the front line that did next to nothing last year. A switch to a 4-2-5 alignment will get more athletes on the field to help a beleaguered secondary that got bombed on, and the results should be better. Speed isn’t a problem, especially at the corners, and there are plenty of promising young talents, but there are concerns at safety, defensive tackle, and linebacker depth for a D that finished 104th in the nation.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Elliott Coffey, 61
Sacks: Tevin Elliott, 5
Interceptions: Prince Kent, 2

Star of the defense: Senior LB Elliot Coffey
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior DT Nicholas Jean-Baptiste
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore S Ahmad Dixon
Best pro prospect: Coffey
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Coffey, 2) Dixon, 3) DE Tevin Elliott
Strength of the defense: Speed, End Rotation
Weakness of the defense: Pass Defense, Pass Rush

Defensive Line

State of the Unit: The defensive front is only missing one big player, but the loss is huge. Gone is future NFL starter, Phil Taylor, a massive playmaker on the inside who came up with 62 tackles with plenty of plays in the backfield. Overall, the line was lousy at getting to the quarterback and was mediocre against the run, but three starters are back.

Who can replace Taylor on the nose? 6-2, 315-pound senior Nicholas Jean-Baptiste started most of last year at tackle finishing with 31 tackles with a half a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss. He’ll never get to the quarterback, but he’s a very strong, very tough veteran with bowling ball size and good leverage for the middle. The former walk-on isn’t a Taylor-like talent, but he should be effective in the role. 6-1, 290-pound junior Nick Johnson isn’t all that big for the position, but he should be ready to step in as a key reserve after coming in from Navarro College. The JUCO transfer is strong and compact; he won’t be moved around.

With Jean-Baptiste moving over, 6-4, 275-pound senior Tracy Robertson will start at tackle after getting the call for the first three games of last year and in the bowl game on the inside, while starting most of the rest of the year on the end. Not an elite pass rusher in any way, he failed to come up with a sack or a tackle for loss while making 17 tackles. He has the quickness for the interior to do far, far more to be disruptive. 6-2, 300-pound junior Kaeron Johnson brings more size to the interior after moving over from fullback. He might not be polished, but he’s strong.

6-2, 230-pound sophomore Terrance Lloyd isn’t all that big, but he’s fast and very, very promising. He was going to be a big part of the mix as last year went on after making 13 tackles with a sack in the first half of the year, and then he got hurt with a knee injury and missed a bulk of the midseason, but now he’s ready to become a major factor in the rotation on one end, while pass rushing specialist Tevin Elliott has the skill and the burst to be a statistical star. The team’s leading sacker last season with five, to go along with seven quarterback hurries, nine tackles for loss, and 36 tackles, the sky’s the limit. The former linebacker has tremendous speed and should see plenty of starts.

Junior Gary Mason Jr. will get a look on the other end after making 21 tackles with a sack, three tackles for loss, and an interception. He has the talent and the ability to be a top-shelf pass rusher if the motor is running, and at 6-4 and 265 pounds he has the size to be a run stopper. Adding even more size to the outside is 6-6, 270-pound senior Zac Scotton, a long, lean end who’s great in the classroom, earning Academic All-American honors, and has the talent to do far more than make the nine tackles and sack he came up with last year.

Watch Out For … Lloyd. He was just starting to come into his own when he got hurt, but now he’s healthy and should show off the ability to get to the quarterback on a regular basis.
Strength: Experience. Not only is the line full of veterans, but there’s good depth to count on. There should be a terrific rotation on the outside while the interior should be decent with a little bit of time.
Weakness: Pass rush. Considering how much teams bombed away on the BU secondary, the line has to provide far, far more help. Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase isn’t good enough to complete 18-of-23 passes for 242 yards, but he got ten days to operate.
Outlook: There’s plenty of good size and lots of experience, but the production just isn’t there. Yes, the Bear line is full of decent veterans and has the potential to be solid, but losing Taylor is a problem and there has to be far, far more done against the better offenses.
Unit Rating: 6

Linebackers

State of the Unit: The defense will work around between a 4-2-5 and a 4-3, but it’ll mostly go with two linebackers … that’s a plus. The Baylor linebackers have been okay, but they missed a playmaker like Joe Pawelek who could take over the corps and make key stop after key stop. This year’s corps, especially with two starters, should have what was missing last year.

Senior Elliot Coffey is a rising star who should put up huge stats in the new system. An outside linebacker by trade, he made 61 tackles with 4.5 tackles for loss last season showing off his speed and toughness in a good year. The 6-0, 230-pounder is built for the middle where he can use his size and intelligence to be the quarterback the front seven, or six, needs.

In an interesting move, former quarterback Brody Trahan turned out to be a whale of a linebacker. He only made four tackles last year, but the sophomore showed this spring that he’s ready to take on the full-time role on the weakside to use his speed and athleticism. Smart, he’s not going to make a slew of big mistakes even though he’s relatively new to the position, and he should be able to get into the backfield on a regular basis. At 5-11 and 215 pounds, though, he doesn’t have the raw bulk to be a thumper against the run.

6-2, 200-pound sophomore Prince Kent came to Baylor as a safety and now will be a smallish linebacker. Really, really fast, he led the team with two interceptions as a true freshman to go along with eight tackles, and now he’ll rotate with Trahan on the weakside while serving as a top special teamer. He’ll see plenty of action on the outside, while 6-1, 225-pound redshirt freshman Bryce Hager will be a backup on the inside. Very smart, he has the makeup and the tackling ability to be fantastic in the middle, but it would be nice if he was a little bigger. He won’t miss a stop, but he’ll have to prove he can hold up.

Junior Rodney Chadwick is a 6-0, 230-pound veteran who made 24 tackles with two sacks and three tackles for loss as a key reserve. He got a start against Oklahoma State and he can hold up well on the inside, but he’s mostly going to be a backup who rotates in to help keep Coffey fresh.

Watch Out For … Coffey. Phil Bennett raves about his new man in the middle and will run the defense around getting him in on as many big plays as possible.
Strength: Quickness. The idea is to use two very athletic, very active linebackers to clean up everything the line can’t get to. Coffey and Trahan both qualify, and there are some smallish, safety-like reserves waiting in the wings to show what they can do.
Weakness: Bulk. Coffey and Chadwick go 230 pounds, but for the most part this is a light group of linebackers. This group will be fine against the run, but it’ll be beaten up from time to time (cough … Illinois … cough).
Outlook: The two in the 4-2-5 will be extremely active and should put up a ton of stats. There isn’t a lot of quality depth to use three linebackers on a regular basis and be great, but Coffey is on the verge of being special and Trahan should be terrific over the next three years.
Unit Rating: 6

Defensive Backs

State of the Unit: And here’s the problem. The run defense wasn’t great, but it had its moments. The secondary, though, couldn’t stop anyone allowing 265 yards per game while finishing tenth in the Big 12 in pass efficiency defense. Yes, the secondary only gave up 16 touchdown passes, but it also allowed opponents to complete 66% of their passes while not doing nearly enough on third downs to get off the field.

In the new defense, the Bears will use a hybrid safety/linebacker in a nickel back role. 6-0, 200-pound sophomore Ahmad Dixon was the team’s top recruit and a major coup for the program, and while he only made 16 tackles and didn’t make any plays when the ball was in the air, the sky’s the limit for the big hitter. One of the top safety prospects in the country a few years ago, he could’ve gone anywhere with decent size, great speed, and the linebacker-like ability to come up with the big pop. Also working in the position is 6-1, 220-pound sophomore LeQuince McCall, an ultra-quick linebacker who made 22 tackles with a sack. A great hitter and with excellent range, he’s built for the new spot.

Junior Chance Casey came up with a good year as a tackler with 48 stops, but the corner only came up with one pick and three broken up passes. At 5-11 and 185 pounds, he has decent size and tremendous speed, winning the Texas state champion as a hurdler, the tools are there. Now he needs to make more big plays and has to start shutting down the better receivers. 5-9, 175-pound senior Romie Blaylock hasn’t been able to do more than be a key backup and a special teamer, making just nine tackles with two broken up passes. He could see time in dime packages.

Working on the other side will be sophomore Tyler Stephenson, a rail-thin 5-11, 165-pound flash of lightning who earned Big 12 All-Freshman honors making 21 tackles with a tackle for loss and three broken up passes. On a team full of fast former track stars, Stephenson takes things to another level. At the AAU National Meet, he tore off a 37.67 in the 300-meter hurdles and ran the 110-meter hurdles in 14.04.

The safety situation is a bit iffy losing Tim Atchison at free safety and Byron Landor as the Hero or strong safety. 6-1, 195-pound sophomore Sam Holl is a big-hitting prospect at the deep safety spot. He got his feet wet as a true freshman making two tackles as a special teamer, but he’s well past the hamstring injury that bothered him early in the season and should be one of the team’s top tacklers. 5-11, 195-pound junior Mike Hicks pops like a linebacker and will get the job at Cover Safety after making 28 tackles with an interception. Very physical and very tough, he should step into a starting role and shine right away.

Watch Out For … the safeties. It’s asking a lot to replace the 127 tackles and all the big pops Landor provided, but Holl and Hicks are extremely tough and they appear to be ready to take over without missing a beat.
Strength: Corner speed. No one in college football can outrun Stephenson, while Casey is fast enough to hang with any speed receiver. The outside defenders can flat-out fly, but now the need to be better at …
Weakness: Making plays when the ball is in the air. The secondary stopped Sam Houston State, Buffalo, Kansas and Rice, and it kept Texas from throwing a scoring pass. Everyone else had fun with Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma going ballistic. The secondary hasn’t done much of anything over the last several years, and this group gets another defensive back in the mix to help the cause.
Outlook: A poor pass rush hasn’t helped the cause, but with five defensive backs in the regular mix, the secondary will have plenty of athletes and lots and lots of speed to try to improve the nation’s 114th ranked defense. There won’t be a night-and-day improvement, but there’s too much quickness to not be better.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Special Teams

State of the Unit: The BU kicking game was a major problem in 2009 and was hoping for a little bit of luck last year. In stepped Aaron Jones and now the weakness should be a major strength. Showing off a strong leg, Jones rewrote the school’s record book hitting 19-of-27 field goals including a 50-yarder. He missed a few too many early on from makeable distances, but he’ll be trusted on more and more deep kicks and he should be in the hunt for all-star honors. If needed, he can punt.

Replacing Derek Epperson and his 43.7-yard punting average will be a problem. The three-time All-Big 12 star was a weapon, and now it’ll be up to freshman Spencer Roth to try to fill the huge shoes. While he doesn’t have the gig quite yet, the 6-6, 220-pounder has a huge leg and should be able to blast away. Senior Ben Parks will also be in the mix for both the punter and kicker jobs. With a great leg, he can blast away on kickoffs and could handle the longer field goals if needed.

The return game sputtered last year, and now it’ll be up to receivers Josh Gordon and Darius Jones on kickoff returns, but Terrance Williams might get a few chances after averaging 21.4 yards per try. Williams averaged 11.2 yards per punt returns, and now Kendall Wright will get a shot even though he averaged 2.5 yards on his two returns.

Watch Out For … Roth. Baylor always has stars at punter and had the luxury of Epperson over the last several years, and now the spotlight will be on Roth to be terrific.
Strength: Jones. He missed a few too many kicks with eight misfires, but he showed enough as a true freshman to rely on. He should be a weapon for the next three years.
Weakness: Coverage teams. The punt coverage squad was awful allowing 12.5 yards per try, and while allowing 21 yards per kickoff return wasn’t too bad, giving up three touchdowns was a problem.
Outlook: The kicking game turned out to be fantastic, but the coverage teams were lousy and the return game was non-existent at times. There’s speed from the returners and Roth is a promising punter, but there’s work to be done.
Unit Rating: 6  

- 2011 Baylor Preview | 2011 Baylor Offense
- 2011 Baylor Defense | 2011 Baylor Depth Chart