So far this season, two freshmen from the 2012 recruiting class have played on defense in Javonte Magee and Terrell Burt. Neither has played as much as I'd like so far, particularly Magee, but Baylor decided to pull the redshirts on both players to help now on defense. It's a controversial concept because of the potential for depth issues in the future; redshirts you pull now are fifth-year seniors you won't have. Turnover in your program speeds up, which makes hitting on every recruit you sign and getting those kids into school much more important. Only the programs with the absolute highest talent level, the Alabamas of today or the UTs of a few years ago, can afford the gamble since they likely aren't keeping their best players five years, anyway. It can actually become a selling point for major programs that they play top talent immediately, even if only sporadically in their first season, and it allows coaches to keep promises made on the recruiting trail. Still, you're basically gambling that you get more benefit from playing a true freshman now than you would from a redshirt senior later, something that is false in the vast majority of cases.
I'd argue that Baylor's situation this year is different from the norm because repeated success off last season is so critical to what we're trying to do. Even after a 10-win season last year, Baylor still lacks legitimacy in the eyes of many. Those questioning whether we can sustain the heights of 2011 do so because of "one-man program" rap Baylor had with Robert winning the Heisman. Don't get me wrong, I'd never say that was a bad thing, it's just a perception we have to overcome now by repeating some semblance of success. What that "success" means is up to the individual; you and I probably aren't going to agree about how many games Baylor "needs" to win in 2012. I think we can agree it is important to win, though, and that the thing that will probably keep us from doing that as much as we'd like (if indeed we don't) will be our defense.
It seems now that Art Briles and Phil Bennett agree with the news from twitter that a defensive lineman from last year's class may have his redshirt pulled in the coming weeks. Here's the tweet I'm talking about:
I just wanna thank god for giving me a chance to play as a freshman #grindtime— the_gang_be_baylor (@BU_dewayne) October 9, 2012
That's Jamal Palmer's twitter account from last night. Here's tonight:
Another good day of work just bless for this chance to play #SicTCU— the_gang_be_baylor (@BU_dewayne) October 11, 2012
Palmer, as you may recall, is a weakside defensive end recruit from Boyd HS in McKinney, Texas. Looking at his recruiting profile on Rivals probably won't tell you anything all that impressive since it appears he wasn't heavily recruited or ranked all that highly. I can tell you, however, that the flaws seen in him by most of the recruiting services (size, run-stopping ability) probably won't manifest in the way we'll use Palmer if we use him. All we're going to ask him to do, I'd wager, is rush the QB. That's something he did extremely well in high school, a trend that has reportedly continued in practice.
It's also something we desperately need.
I can't speculate on what this means for any other players because I just don't know. I do know that Bennett mentioned after the WVU game that he needed to be more aggressive on third down, so it's possible that Palmer could see action in a pure pass rush set. I guess we'll all find out together.