2013 Baylor Preview – Defense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Baylor Bear Defense
Preview 2013 - Defense
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What You Need To Know: There's lots and lots of speed, lots and lots of athleticism, and enough experience to come up with a great year, but it's Baylor – the defense is going to get torched. With the second-worst D in America – allowing 502 yards per game – and doing next to nothing against the pass even with a slew of all-star talents, it's going to be another work in progress. Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett's D will stick with a 4-2-5 alignment for the most part, and the hope will be for the five defensive backs to start coming up with more stops in the pass-happy Big 12. The run defense wasn't awful, and linebackers Bryce Hager and Eddie Lackey should be as strong as any twosome in the conference, but the pass rush needs to be better and more consistent and the secondary can't be so miserable each and every week.
Star of the defense: Junior LB Bryce Hager
Tackles: Bryce Hager, 124
Sacks: Chris McAllister, 6
Interceptions: Eddie Lackey, 4
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore NT Beau Blackshear
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore S Terrell Burt
Best pro prospect: Senior S Ahmad Dixon
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Hager, 2) Dixon, 3) LB Eddie Lackey
Strength of the defense: Athleticism, Linebacker
Weakness of the defense: Pass Defense, Consistent Pass Rush
The line didn't generate much of a pass rush, but it got a big year out of senior Chris McAllister, who came up with a team-leading six sacks with 7.5 tackles for loss and 45 tackles. The former linebacker is extremely quick off the ball with sub-4.6 speed and 6-3, 255-pound size, and he's coming in hot after starring in the bowl win over UCLA with two sacks and 4.5 tackles with a broken up pass. He'll be backed up by 6-3, 245-pound sophomore Jamal Palmer, a promising pure pass rusher who saw a little time as a true freshman making four tackles.
Back on the other side of McAllister is 6-3, 245-pound senior Terrance Lloyd, a veteran pass rusher who had a good all-around year making 50 tackles with four sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. He's a good veteran, but he has too much speed, too much athleticism and too much explosion to not be more of a devastating playmaker on the outside. Behind him is the massive 6-9, 270-pound Shawn Oakman, a Penn State transfer with a world of next-level upside. The sophomore ended up having to miss all of last year, but he has the size, athleticism and frame to become a special defender somewhere up front.
Expected to grow into a top interior presence is 6-5, 275-pound sophomore Javonte Magee, a good-looking all-around prospect who got his feet wet as a true freshman making ten tackles, but the former superstar recruit should be a dangerous interior pass rusher with a great motor and elite quickness off the ball. He'll be joined in the interior by 6-4, 300-pound sophomore Beau Blackshear, a nose tackle who came up with 15 tackles in the rotation with a tackle for loss. He's not going to be a pass rusher, but he's good enough to hold up against the run and serve his role. Also in the rotation will be 6-2, 290-pound sophomore Suleiman Masumbuko, a good prospect with a great base; it'll take an effort to move him off the ball. Mostly a special teamer last year, he made just one tackle.
Watch Out For … JUCO transfer Terell Brooks, a 6-4, 305-pounder from Navarro College with the upside and talent to turn into an anchor. After starting his career at North Texas, he made 46 tackles with 11 tackles for loss in his one year at the JUCO level.
Strength: An improved pass rush. With Oakman expected to become a factor, Lloyd and McAllister should be able to do more with their experience and speed likely to come into play. It's still not going to be a devastating pass rush, but it should be better with the two starting ends cranking up around 15 sacks.
Weakness: Consistency against the run. The run defense was far, far better last season, and it stepped up and rocked against UCLA allowing just 33 yards – helped by six of the team's 19 sacks – but it allowed 251 yards and seven scores against Texas and gave up over 200 yards in six of the final ten regular season games.
Outlook: After a disastrous 2011, the line did a far better job against the run. The pass rush was maddeningly absent at times, but it should be better and the overall talent level has quickly improved across the front four. It's still not going to be a dominant line, but it won't be a painful liability.
Unit Rating: 6
Junior Bryce Hager came up with an All-Big 12 caliber season with a team-leading 124 tackles with four sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. The 6-2, 235-pounder did it all in the middle with the raw speed to be used as a pass rusher and the toughness to hold up time and again as one of the few positives against the run. While he makes a few too many plays down the field, and he needs to do a bit more in pass coverage, he doesn't miss a stop and is a great leader for the defensive front. He'll be backed up by redshirt freshman Aiavion Edwards, a 6-1, 225-pound speedster with outstanding skills. With one of the strongest lower bodies on the team, the former defensive back will play bigger than his size.
Senior Eddie Lackey finished second on the team with 104 tackles with two sacks on the year to All-Big 12 honors. The 6-0, 225-pound former JUCO transfer isn't huge, but he has great range with terrific athleticism and all-around skills. Fantastic in pass coverage, he came up with a team-leading four picks with two going for touchdowns in the final two regular season games against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. He'll once again shine on the weakside, backed up by Kendall Ehrlich, a 6-1, 225-pound redshirt freshman with decent quickness and hitting ability.
Watch Out For … Raaquan Davis, the best of a good lot of new linebackers. The 6-1, 205-pounder is built like a safety but can play either of the two linebacker positions. Extremely fast and athletic, he'll be used as a pass rusher and a disruptive force in the backfield.
Strength: Lackey and Hager. It's not crazy to suggest that they might be the best linebacking twosome in the Big 12. These two combined for 228 tackles with 20 tackles for loss. The rest of the defense should be better built around these two great veterans.
Weakness: Proven backups. The Bears only use two linebackers, so depth usually isn't a big deal, but it'll be up to unproven redshirt freshmen to fill in the gaps if something happens to the two stars.
Outlook: The statistics are better than the actual production. Lackey and Hager will put up huge numbers because of the function of the defense, but they'll also make the plays after big gains. These two will tackle everything in sight, and they'll be terrific, but it's partly because the have to do a little of everything.
Unit Rating: 7
The secondary was bombed on time and again, but there's talent returning led by senior Ahmad Dixon, who does a little bit of everything as the deep safety making 102 tackles with two picks and a sack. The 6-0, 205-pounder has great range and is seemingly in on every play doing a great job in the open field. A top recruit a few years back, he has played up to the hype and should end up making lots of money working on Sundays – he has that kind of range, athleticism and hitting ability.
Back as the team's nickel back is senior Sam Holl, who followed up a 113-tackle 2011 campaign with 85 tackles with three picks and seven broken up passes. A good hitter who makes big things happen, the 6-2, 210-pounder is more like a smallish linebacker than a true safety, but he tackles as well as anyone on the defense. He'll be joined at safety by sophomore Terrell Burt, a good-looking young player who saw time in every game of his true freshman season with 5-10, 185-pound size and track speed. He came up with just five tackles, but stepping in for Mike Hicks, he should put up huge numbers.
The corners have to be far better, but that comes from staying healthy. The combination of seniors K.J. Morton and Demetri Goodson will combine at one spot. The 6-0, 200-pound Goodson started the first three games of last year before suffering a broken arm. He hasn't had much luck, suffering a bad ankle injury in 2011. If he can stay healthy, he's a good-sized, physical coverman who made 16 tackles and a pick in his limited time. Morton came from the College of the Sequoias as a good-looking safety, but he's a corner starting for the first half of last year before getting knocked out with a groin injury. With a 42" vertical he's a difference-making athlete who made 32 tackles with a pick before getting hurt.
5-11, 190-pound senior Joe Williams took over for Goodson and started the final ten games of last year making 52 tackles with three picks and a team-leading 12 broken up passes. He earned Second Team All-Big 12 honors after coming in from Fort Scott CC. While he wasn't a lockdown defender in coverage, he's a ball-hawker with great makeup speed. He's the No. 1 corner, backed up by 6-2, 200-pound redshirt freshman Xavien Howard, with good size and nice ball skills. Athletic, he could move to either safety spot.
Watch Out For … Austin Jupe, the strongest of a deep group of defensive backs. The 6-0, 180-pounder is an elite athlete with track star speed and quickness. While he could end up as a lightning fast corner, he's destined to work at safety.
Strength: Speed. This is almost literally a track team in the secondary. All five spots have tremendous speedsters who can all get around the ball in a hurry, and with great athletes across the board, getting burned deep shouldn't be a problem, but …
Weakness: Getting burned deep. There wasn't any help from the pass rush, but this group gave up way, way, way too many yards, getting destroyed by Geno Smith and West Virginia and allowing 36 touchdowns on the year. The Baylor secondary allowed fewer than 260 yards against Kansas, who threw for 96 yards and two picks, but that was it.
Outlook: The talent and athletes are better than the production. Dixon and Holl are all-star talents, and a healthy Morton and Goodson could make a difference, but Baylor gives up an enormous amount of passing yards. That's what it does.
Unit Rating: 6
The placekicking was a bit spotty, to be kind, with senior Aaron Jones hitting 16-of-27 field goals, with two getting blocked. While he has a deep leg, nailing two shots from beyond 50 yards including a 58-yarder, but he went just 7-of-17 from 30-to-49 yards. He's a veteran with plenty of experience, but he has only hit 45-of-71 career field goal attempts.
After a rough year for the punting game, junior Spencer Roth came back with a stronger season averaging close to 44 yards per kick with 13 kicks put inside the 20. At 6-4 and 225 pounds he's a huge kicker with a big leg, and now he has two seasons of experience.
Junior Levi Norwood is back as the main punt returner after a nice season averaging 10.4 yards per try, while Darius Jones will take over the kickoff return duties after averaging 23.1 yards per try.
Watch Out For … Jones. He keeps getting the gig because of his great range and experience, but he has to be better. There were too many makeable misses, and while he'll occasionally hit a bomb, he has to hit all the 37-yard shots, too.
Strength: Experience. Everyone is back. Antwon Goodley won't be returning kickoffs, but everyone else of note returns including all the kickers and top returners. There's a chance the special teams could turn the corner and be a plus.
Weakness: Coverage teams. Consistent kicking is an issue, but the coverage teams have to be stronger after allowing 22.5 yards per kickoff return and 13.8 on punt returns. The defense doesn't need any more to deal with.
Outlook: The special teams have been hit-or-miss under Art Briles. A success at times a few years ago, they've been mediocre over the last few seasons. Basically, everyone is back, everyone is decent, but everyone has to be a lot better.
Unit Rating: 5.5
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