The depth chart posted today on BaylorBears.com has quite a few defensive changes, including one starter coming back, another sitting, and a couple of intriguing names to see.
Baylor posted its updated depth charts for the Iowa State game today and they are already getting quite a bit of attention in Baylor circles as much for who they do have as for who they don't. As you can probably imagine, all of the changes in the latest charts came on the defense, where Phil Bennett is apparently going to shake things up considerably for the second half of the season. Alas, that means Lache Seastrunk is not listed as the starter at RB.
First and foremost, if this lineup holds, Baylor will have a new MLB for the first time this season as Rodney Chadwick takes over for Bryce Hager. Chadwick was the primary backup last season at weak linebacker and also saw some time behind Elliott Coffey in the middle but hadn't played much this season. Whether this change is due to ineffectiveness-- Hager played well early in the season and leads the team in tackles but took a step back recently-- or some kind of unreported injury is anyone's guess.
Things are relatively stable up front with the only change being the switch of Beau Blackshear from backup DT behind Gary Mason, Jr. to backup NT behind Nick Johnson. Johnson's inconsistent play this season has been a source of serious problems for our defense so I'm in favor of anything our coaches want to do to help our defensive line. The DEs are still Chris McAllister and Terrance Lloyd, with true freshmen Javonte Magee and Jamal Palmer backing them up, respectively.
At the back of the formation, Mike Hicks will return to his spot at safety after missing the last three games (@WVU, TCU, @UT) due to injury. Briles teased his return last week but apparently decided not to use him. He's back now and starting next to Sam Holl at the safety position. His backups are true freshman Terrell Burt and senior Josh Wilson.
Hicks' return lets Chance Casey complete his transition from corner to safety and back to corner, where he will start this week opposite Joe Williams. I like having Casey at CB rather than S because there's never been a tackle Casey didn't want to avoid making at all costs. Darius Jones slides back one spot but will probably see significant time if/when we bring in another defensive back. Behind Casey and Williams are the aforementioned Jones and a newcomer to the depth chart, true freshman Xavien Howard. Howard joins 2012 classmates Magee, Palmer, and Burt in the two-deep and if he plays, he will burn his redshirt for this season. Rumor has it that Howard has been one of the most impressive corners on the roster in practice, something you probably don't expect given his light recruitment. He's listed at 6-0, 180 pounds, so he's a bit bigger than our other corners. It's interesting that Tyler Stephenson, who played against TCU but not this past week in Austin, is no longer listed on the depth chart. Sophomore Tuswani Copeland is listed as an "OR" with Howard.
Another first-timer on the depth chart this season is redshirt freshman Jemarcus Johnson. Johnson was held out the first few weeks of the season for undisclosed violations of team rules but has apparently served his time. Like Howard, Johnson is slightly taller than the DBs we've come to know at 6-1, 175.
Johnson could be a player to watch this week because of a rumor supposedly started on David Smoak's ESPN radio show in Waco today. Smoak reported that Sam Holl suffered the fourth concussion of his career against Texas last week and may have played the last game of his career. If that's true, and I don't know that it is, I wish Sam all the best in his endeavors going forward. The results weren't always what Baylor fans wanted to see but the nobody doubted his effort. Everything I've ever heard about Sam speaks highly of his character, and I'll be sad to see his career shortened like this. Again, if it's true, obviously. I'll keep you updated about that going forward.
With the additions of Johnson and Howard, Baylor has now played or listed 11 different freshmen and redshirt freshmen on the defense alone. The other 9 are Magee, Palmer, Blackshear, Burt, and Trevor Clemons-Valdez, who are all on the two-deep at this moment, as well as Suleiman Masumbuko, Anthony Webb, Josh Benenoch, and Devante Davis. 11 true and redshirt freshmen!
For the sake of comparison, we've played or listed 4 redshirt or true freshmen on the offensive side of the ball, including Spencer Drango, Desmine Hilliard, Pat Colbert, and Corey Coleman. Coleman has not played, so that's 3 that have.