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What If Wednesday: A Secondary With Depth?

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Liberty v Baylor Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Yeah, we all know that Liberty game sucked. The point of this article isn’t to keep looking back at that terrible loss as UTSA looms. This article also isn’t supposed to assign blame to the defensive backs that did play, which included 3 freshman starters, a walk on starter, and a wide receiver converted defensive back. Rather, this article is meant to show that, going forward, once some of the injuries and suspensions are resolved in the secondary, the Baylor defense will be FAR improved.. or at the very least make a few third down stops.

Going into Saturday’s game against Liberty, there were a LOT of injuries/suspensions in the secondary. Taion Sells was suspended for 3 games due to a violation of team rules. Senior safety Davion Hall was out, along with rising sophomore cornerback Grayland Arnold. In addition, sophomore safety Jordan Tolbert, freshman cornerbacks Raleigh Texada and Timarcus Davis, and freshman safety Tre’von Lewis all were still recovering from preseason surgeries. Further, Jameson Houston, who was supposed to start at cornerback, was listed out for injury the day before the game. Henry Black, the backup strong safety, and safety Rajah Preciado were both not at 100% for the Liberty game either. If my math is correct and I’m not missing anyone, that’s eight scholarship defensive backs that were completely out for Liberty and ten injured if you count Black and Preciado. It’s pretty easy to see why the secondary seemed... very off.

What would this game have looked like if some of these defensive backs were able to play? I think quite a bit different. There were so many Liberty third downs where every Bears fan was absolutely begging for a stop and Baylor just could not breakup a short pass. You have to imagine having some of the more experienced/talented players available, if for no other reason than to give guys a breather, would have made a difference on at least a few third down plays. It really wouldn’t have been possible to do much worse. Even Matt Rhule said as much in his press conference yesterday, claiming that if Taion Sells had not been suspended, he probably would have made a play or two that would have changed the outcome of a 3 point game.

Looking forward, this defense should improve substantially as players come back and the players that did play improve. Rhule said there were a lot of “lightbulb moments” in the practices following the loss for young players. Injuries should start shoring up too, as SS Davion Hall, DB Jameson Houston and DB Timarcus Davis are returning from injury. Safeties Rajah Preciado and Henry Black are also both expected to be at or near 100%.

This Baylor defense is going to be a work in progress. There still needs to be a lot of improvement on the pass rush front, which Rhule said is a point of emphasis this week in practice. But, the most glaring weakness from last week’s game—the secondary— should start seeing substantial improvements as the devastated depth chart recovers. Yes, the Liberty game should have been a win in the “what if” world of a slightly deeper secondary, but don’t give up on this team yet. Substantial defensive improvements should start to appear sooner rather than later and the offense showed they’re ready to win some games.