Whether its scheme, talent, coaching, or a combination of those factors, the Baylor defense has struggled for the majority of the season. Though some players have shined on the defensive side of the ball, the overall unit has given up far too many big plays. After 6 games it should be no surprise that the defensive groups receive lower grades than the offensive groups.
Defensive Line: C+
This group is home to the biggest bright spot of the season, James Lynch. He has been the most consistent playmaker and is the best player on the defensive side of the ball. Along with Lynch, Greg Roberts and BJ Thompson have also flashed some pass rushing ability the past few weeks, and both James Lockhart and Deonte Williams have been formidable in stopping the run.
Unfortunately, as whole the defensive line has not been disruptive enough. For the most part the Baylor defense has been unable to put pressure on the quarterback without bringing extra pressure, making the back end of the defense more vulnerable. In addition, a few players that fans counted on before the season have not been noticeable. Ira Lewis, Tyrone Hunt, and Xavier Jones each have proven to have playmaking ability, but thus far have not been able to showcase it this year.
Its hard to judge this group without knowing exactly what each and every individual play call is, and what keys and reads the linebackers need to make. However, even when taking that into consideration, I think its fair to say that most fans expected more from this group. Baylor has simply been gashed too many times for long yardage runs. Terrel Bernard has had some successful moments and is usually in the right position, but hasn’t laid the wood as much as you would have hoped early this season. In contrast, Jordan Williams plays with tremendous fire and has shown the capability of stopping the ball carriers dead in their tracks, however, too many times he is out of position due to overrunning the play. Clay Johnston has proven to be the most steady out of the bunch, but seems to be playing while nursing an injury.
I’ll start with the positives. Temple transfer, Derrek Thomas, has played outstanding so far; he has intercepted a pass, tackled well, and has been staying stride by stride when covering receivers. Next, this group is coming off their best game of the year. Raleigh Texada played well against Kansas State, and the secondary was able to come up with two turnovers.
Regrettably, beyond the few shining spots, its hard to argue that this group deserves a better grade. This group seems like it’s taking the place of the offensive lineman as the fanbase whipping boy. Some of that is due to optics. Only the sophisticated football fan realizes when a defensive lineman messes up, and the casual fan can point out when a linebacker didn’t do his job. However I can tell you from personal experience, when you miss a tackle in the open field that allows a touchdown, everybody and their momma sees it. I’m not sure there’s a lonelier feeling in all of team sports than when you are waiting for a PAT try after giving up a touchdown. Missed tackles, blown assignments, and communication issues have plagued the secondary all season long.
Too often I just scratch my head about this Baylor defensive scheme. I hate that we have our linebackers covering pass catching TEs 35 yards down the field (See OU). I dislike when I see Greg Roberts or Deonte Williams drop back into coverage. And I don’t understand why Ira Lewis and Bravvion Roy line up as 5 techniques in our 3-man fronts. I’m sure there are valid reasons for all of those moves, but they frustrate me. There is a glimmer of hope, however. Phil Snow’s defense improved dramatically last year as the season progressed and hopefully that will be the case again this year. There are 6 games left and plenty of time for this unit to change these midterm grades before the final test results come back.