2013 Position Previews: Defensive Tackles

Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

The defensive side of the ball beckons as we start a new week in the position previews. My hope is to finish everything up this week, and we start today with the defensive tackles, led by our two starting sophomores.

I'm going to shift back to the old format today instead of listing things by starters and backups, but the starters will still be demarcated inside the chart by all caps. Their primary backups will be in italics. Things are changing rapidly on this front, so I can't guarantee the backups today will be the backups tomorrow.*
*A quick note-- defensive tackles are extremely difficult to write about in our defense because their primary job is to occupy blockers and let the linebackers behind make plays. That means I don't have a lot to share about what we're going to do schematically, so I'll focus on the players themselves.
Eligibility Remaining
No. Player Year Ht/Wt. Position 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
88 Terell Brooks
JR 6-4/305 Defensive Tackle
93 Suleiman Masumbuko SO (RS) 6-2/290 Defensive Tackle
98 Trevor Clemons-Valdez
SO (RS) 6-3/290 Defensive Tackle
95 BEAU BLACKSHEAR SO (RS)
6-4/300 Defensive Tackle
90 JAVONTE MAGEE SO 6-5/290 Defensive Tackle
99 Zorell Ezell RS-FR 6-2/285 Defensive Tackle
75 Andrew Billings FR 6-0/305 Defensive Tackle
96 Byron Bonds
FR 6-1/290 Defensive Tackle

Did you realize before today that we don't have a senior DT on the roster? A position of historic weakness for this program is turning quite rapidly into one of considerable strength. Javonte Magee, the former 5* defensive end, has bulked up as expected and moved inside. He follows Beau Blackshear, who did the same from a less-regarded starting point. Terell Brooks joins the team this year as a JUCO transfer along with Andrew Billings, the biggest DT recruit Baylor has gotten in a generation. Where before, we've had to sacrifice speed or strength to get size, we're now getting the complete package.

This is another situation where people looking to poke holes will call our defense inexperienced and our starters young. They will do so in a pejorative fashion, valuing experience in this instance over talent. They will be right in the facts, but they won't realize how exciting it is for Baylor fans to have such players and have them for a good while into the foreseeable future. That chart above is as sure a statement as I can imagine that things should get better on defense, and quickly.

Terell Brooks -- #88 -- JR -- 6-4, 305 pounds

Because several players, including Magee and Masumbuko, were absent from Saturday's scrimmage, Brooks actually played with the 2s. From my vantage point, he held his own against our starting guards. He was bigger than I anticipated, something that might cause him difficulties against guards better capable of exploiting leverage. All in all, he should give Baylor depth at the position, if nothing more, as part of a rotation five or six players deep, in theory.

Suleiman Masumbuko -- #93 -- SO (RS) -- 6-2, 290 pounds

Suleiman was one of those absent this weekend for the funeral of A&M's Polo Manukainui, and he's entering his third year at Baylor as the backup nose tackle, after spending last year as the backup nose tackle. He's never started for the Bears, but he's been a valuable player, regardless. He came to Baylor as a classmate of Brian Nance at Trinity HS in Euless, Texas. I've heard good things about his work ethic and run-stopping ability, though he is not what most consider a potential star at the position. Like Brooks, he should provide excellent depth.

Trevor Clemons-Valdez -- #98 -- SO (RS) -- 6-3, 290 pounds

Did you know TCV started 4 games for the Bears last year before we made the eventual decision to move Gary Mason, Jr. inside? It's true. And he acquitted himself about as well as you could expect from a lightly-recruited redshirt freshman, I think. Now, he's a year older and stronger after another offseason in Kaz's program, slated at present to back up Javonte Magee at the DT spot.

Beau Blackshear -- #95 -- SO (RS) -- 6-4, 300 pounds

As I said in the Scrimmage Recap thread on Sunday, for my money, Blackshear was the most impressive player on the first team defense. He abused the guards against whom he was pitted and could have had more than 2 sacks, if it was a real game. He's come a long way from the 3* freshman DE he once was, and he'll start for the Bears this season at nose tackle and should play extremely well. When our defense stepped up its game late in the season, Blackshear was a big part of that turnaround. I expect more of the same this season.

Like Brooks, however, he is a bit tall for the position and will have to work hard to make sure opposing guards and centers don't get their pad levels lower than he does. It will be interesting to see how Baylor plans to proceed over the next few years should Billings progress as we all expect. What a great "problem" to have!

Javonte Magee - #90 -- SO -- 6-5, 290 pounds

Not quite two years ago, we celebrated the commitment of San Antonio's Javonte Magee, one of the highest-rated defensive ends in the country for the 2012 recruiting class. If you name a BCS school, he probably had an offer. Getting him on campus was a major coup. Now, after a true freshman year in which he appeared in 10 games, he's making the move inside to defensive tackle to take advantage of his huge frame and raw strength. Because he was absent from the scrimmage Saturday, I didn't get to see him play, personally. All the reports are that he and Blackshear form an extremely physical combo inside for the Bears. They will be tested early by a Wofford team that loves to run the football, and we should know more about their potential shortly. I can't help but be excited.

Zorell Ezell -- #99 -- RS-FR -- 6-2, 285 pounds

Somewhat the forgotten man on the defensive line after redshirting last season, Ezell will try to break into the rotation at DT this season. He practiced with the threes on Saturday, if I recall correctly. It won't be easy for Ezell to earn playing time considering there are so many other talented players on this list, but if the worst thing we get out of his recruitment is a quality backup someday, I can't complain.

Andrew Billings -- #75 -- FR -- 6-0, 305 pounds

I shouldn't have to tell you who he is since you've probably read all about him before. Aside from Robbie Rhodes, he was the star of our 2013 recruiting class and the one player we absolutely had to have. The short post I did about him breaking Mark Henry's record is still the third most-viewed in the history of ODB. The fact that Briles has been so complimentary of Billings since he got to Baylor this summer makes me wonder if Baylor plans to redshirt him this year, after all. On Saturday, he played a bit with the 2s, a bit with the 3s, something I attributed to the fact that two players ostensibly ahead of him on the depth chart were gone.

Byron Bonds -- #96 -- FR -- 6-1, 290

Along with Brooks and Billings, Bonds arrives at Baylor as a member of our 2013 recruiting class. He will almost certainly redshirt this season, and he played with the 3s for the entire scrimmage on Saturday. He totaled 5 tackles on the day, tied for first on the team. It seems our third OL couldn't handle him. Bonds played football at the CFB factory in Allen, starting every game for the eventual state champions of Class 5A, Division 1.

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All together, this might be the best collection of talent Baylor has had at the defensive tackle position in recent memory. It is almost certainly the most promising group since our entry into the Big 12. Experience is an issue, clearly, but they'll have 3 games and 2 bye weeks to start the season and should be ready for Big 12 play. If you believe, as I do, that the biggest difference between the Haves and the Have-Nots in CFB is the quality of the defensive line, this group should help Baylor eliminate some of that gap. You can't look at it and tell me Baylor isn't moving in the right direction.

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