Baylor Preview 2006 - Defense
Baylor Bears
Posted Aug 1, 2006

Baylor Bears Preview 2006 - Baylor Bears Defense

What you need to know ... The Bear defense shouldn't be all that bad with a strong secondary and enough options among the front six to find the right pieces as time goes on. This isn't going to be the type of D that stops anyone cold, but it'll be strong against the pass and there's size up front to hold up better against the run. There need to be more playmakers up front, and defensive coordinator Bill Bradley is hoping for the new starters at linebacker to add more athleticism while the experience on the line should account for something.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Marcus Foreman, 58
Sacks: M.T. Robinson, 3
Interceptions: C.J. Wilson, 5

Star of the defense: Senior CB C.J. Wilson
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior DE Julian Hill
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore FS Dwain Crawford
Best pro prospect: Wilson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Wilson, 2) DE Marcus Freeman, 3) Crawford
Strength of the defense: Secondary, particularly cornerback
Weakness of the defense:
Linebacker experience

Defensive Line
The line will rotate several players in an attempt to generate some sort of production. The run defense wasn't horrible last season, but it was hardly a rock allowing 162 yards per game and there weren't nearly enough big plays in the backfield. End Marcus Foreman is the best of the bunch with good all-around skills, but he needs to be more of a pass rusher. Tackles M.T. Robinson, Vincent Rhodes, Klayton Shoals and Quincy Jenkins have Big 12 size, and now they have to play at a consistent Big 12 level.
The key to the unit: The rotation has to mean more overall production. Staying fresh shouldn't be a problem for anyone with as many as eight players seeing meaningful reps each game.

Defensive Line Rating: 6.5

Projected Starters
- DE Marcus Foreman, Sr. - 58 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 7.5 TFL, 3 broken up passes, 4 quarterback hurries
Foreman has all the tools to be one of the Big 12's best all-around ends. He's not huge at 6-2 and 248 pounds and could stand to hold up better against the run, but he's a good tackler and a decent pass rusher. After a year of starting experience, he should be a more aggressive speed rusher.

- NT M.T. Robinson, Sr. - 15 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 TFL, 3 quarterback hurries
Robinson hasn't been a rock against the run over the last few seasons, but he has enough experience to do more. One of the team's top sackers last year, he showed surprising interior quickness and even picked off a pass. At 305 pounds he's one of the team's biggest linemen and has to play like it.

- DT Klayton Shoals, Sr. - 4 tackles
Limited by a knee injury over the last few seasons, the former Iowa State Cyclone will now be a key part of the rotation after bulking up to 281 pounds. He's still not a big space eater on the inside, but he's strong for his size and should be a decent interior pass rusher.

- DE Julian Hill, Sr. - 22 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 2.5 TFL
It'll be Hill's job to replace Montez Murphy on the other side of Marcus Foreman. A good reserve last season, he got better as the season went on showing excellent promise by the end of the season. At 254 pounds, he has the size to hold up against the run, but his game is about quickness and athleticism.

Top Backups
- DT Vincent Rhodes, Soph. - 16 tackles, 2 quarterback hurries
The 310-pound sophomore will be a much bigger option than Klayton Shoals in the middle. He got a little bit of starting time last season and should prove to be a top player against the run at either tackle spot once he sees a little more experience.
- DE Geoff Nelson, Jr. - 13 tackles
A good reserve over the last few years with decent size and good quickness, the 252-pound junior has to be more of a pass rusher. He has the skills to get into the backfield on a regular basis, he just has to start doing it.

The two in the 4-2-5 needs to be more of a factor. It's a young linebacking corps, but it's more athletic than it has been in recent years and should do more in the backfield and against the pass. Antonio Jones and JUCO transfer Paul Tolbert should immediately upgrade the overall speed, while Nick Moore and Ben Hixson should be decent run defenders.
The key to the unit: Force more turnovers and be more disruptive.
Linebacker Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- Antonio Jones, RFr.
Jones redshirted last season and has to overcome a leg injury, but he has the potential to be a star right off the bat in the middle. He's a great athlete and should be a sure tackler, and now he has to show he's ready to be a steady leader as a pass rusher as well as a run stopper.

- Nick Moore, Jr. - 23 tackles
The former Georgia Tech transfer played in every game last season as a reserve and will now get the first look on the weakside. He's a tough 227 pounds with decent quickness and hard hitting ability. Can he be an all-around playmaker? He has to prove he can consistently make plays in pass coverage.

Top Backups
- Ben Hixson, Soph. - 6 tackles
Hixon saw a little bit of time as a freshman mostly on special teams. He's one of the team's biggest linebackers at 6-2 and 236 pounds, but he has enough quickness to be a decent option on the weakside behind Antonio Jones.
- Joe Pawelek, RFr.
Originally used as a small defensive end, the 6-2, 225-pound Pawelek will push for time in the middle. While he's not the athlete the other linebackers are, he's tough enough to hold his own against the run and be a big hitter.

Defensive Backs
The Baylor secondary turned into a major strength last season, but it has to replace all-star safeties and top tacklers Willie Andrews and Maurice Lane. That might not be as difficult as it might appear with JUCO transfer Brandon Stiggers and free safety Dwain Crawford expected to take over as the team's top tacklers. The corners are set with C.J. Wilson one of the best in the nation and Anthony Arline a solid number two man. There's good depth and several nice prospects waiting in the wings. 
The key to the unit: More big plays on third downs. The BU defense allowed offenses to convert 42% of their chances with most of the plays coming through the air. Even so, don't expect many big plays given up by this group.
Secondary Rating: 7.5

Projected Starters
- CB
C.J. Wilson, Sr. - 45 tackles, 5 interceptions, 5 broken up passes
Wilson went from being a promising reserve to an all-star earning All-Big 12 honors and turning into a viable All-America candidate. He's a solid tackler and an impressive ball-hawker. At 6-1 and 195 pounds, he has few problems with the bigger receivers and can hit like a safety, which he might be if other corner options emerge.

- OS Maurice Linguist, Sr. - 22 tackles, 1 interception
Expected to grow into one of the team's best defenders, Linguist had a down 2005 after suffering turf toe problems. Injuries have been an issue after having problems in 2004 with an ankle, but if he's healthy, he'll be one of the team's top tacklers and playmaker in the backfield.

- FS Dwain Crawford, Soph. - 14 tackles, 1 interception, 2 broken up passes
It's his time to shine after sitting behind Maurice Lane last year. The former star high school running back has been learning on the fly and should show off his tremendous speed and good size as one of the team's top tacklers.

- Rover Brandon Stiggers, Jr.
The JUCO transfer will take over for all-star Willie Andrews at Rover. He's a huge hitter who made 121 stops for Compton College in California last season after originally joining BU in 2004. A quick 6-0 and 188 pounds, Stiggers should be a tone-setter for the secondary from game one.

- CB Anthony Arline, Sr. - 24 tackles, 3 interceptions, 3 broken up passes
A top starter for the last two seasons with 34 total games of experience, Arline earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors after turning in a nice year on the other side of C.J. Wilson. He's a sure tackler and a decent one-on-one pass defenders with excellent size and good speed.

Top Backups
CB James Todd, Sr. - 26 tackles, 1 interception, 9 broken up passes, 2 TFL
As good as a starter, Todd has been a key backup corner over the last few seasons with a whopping 19 career broken up passes. Part of that means he's good, and part of it means that quarterbacks like to pick on him while staying away from the other side. He'll be a key third corner in the rotation starting out behind Anthony Arline.
- Rover Marlon Price, Soph. - 4 tackles
Price saw a little bit of time last year playing mostly on special teams. He's 6-2, 180 pounds, and has as much speed as anyone in the secondary. He could play either safety spot, or even be converted to corner if the coaching staff wants to play around.
- CB Alton Widemon, Jr. - 13 tackles
Widemon will be groomed for the starting job next year getting work behind C.J. Wilson. The Tulane transfer has starting experience from his Green Wave career and has proven to be a decent tackler. He has to show he can be a force when the ball is in the air.
- CB Braelon Davis, Jr.
Will he be back? A knee issue has kept the team's fastest player on the sideline, but if healthy, he's good enough to be a starting corner and move C.J. Wilson over to safety. He's a sprinter on the Baylor track team and needs to be back to give the secondary more options.

Special Teams
As long as punter Daniel Sepulveda's injured knee is OK, everything should be fine in the kicking game. Ryan Havens has a good leg and should be even better in his second year as the starting placekicker. The return game was among the best in America last year, but it needs two new returners with Carl Sims getting the first look at returning kickoffs and Queito Teasley looking to replace Willis Andrew as the main punt returner.
The key to the unit: Have a year like 2005. Replacing returners Willie Andrews and Shaun Rochon will be tough, but the system is in place to succeed.
Special Teams Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- PK Ryan Havens, Sr. - 16-23 FGs, 22-24 extra points
Havens showed off an accurate leg from close, but he doesn't have consistent range missing seven of 14 kicks from beyond 30 yards. He has a big enough leg to bomb away from deep, but now he has to prove he can connect.

- P Daniel Sepulveda, Sr. - 62 punts, 2,863 yards, 46.2 yards per kick, 13 inside the 20
Named the nation's best punter last year winning the Ray Guy Award, Sepulveda has to come back healthy after injuring his knee playing basketball. He's a big bomber with a career average of 44.85 yards per kick on a whopping 211 boots, and he has put 62 inside the 20. As long as his knee is fine, which it's supposed to be, he'll be one of the nation's best.

Related Stories
Baylor Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
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Baylor Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
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Baylor Preview 2006 - Offense
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