Baylor’s defense was supposed to be the strength of our team this season as most of the starters returned. However compared to expectations, they have underperformed. This doesn’t mean the defense has been playing poorly, just not up to the elite standard consistently. Our D is good, but not great. Can they move up a tier to being a great defense? Based upon what they showed last game I would say yes. I certainly hope they start consistently clicking as our opponents the second half will most definitely challenge the D more than the first half opponents did. The good thing is that we have been able to take advantage of the first half of the season to get some key members healed up on the D along with their playing together and becoming more cohesive. As Travis pointed out in his excellent article on Monday, Bernard has begun to play up to his preseason expectations. His play making ability and leadership are vital as we face some formidable offensive opponents over the next 6 games. Let’s grade the D based upon the first 6 games:
Overall Defense - B
Defensive Line - B-
We have been pretty average giving up 145.7 yds rushing per game. This is 66th in the FBS. But when you break that down to giving up 3.6 yds per carry, it’s not too bad. West Virginia was a shot in the arm for our D Line and hopefully evidence of what we will see moving forward as we only gave up 90 yds rushing and a paltry 2.4 yds per carry average. Add to that the doubling our sack output for the season during the WVU game (from 6 to 12) with the D line recording 5, I’m very encouraged. Aki played like the run stopper/disrupter that I thought he would be and is on track for All Conference recognition. There is definitely room for improvement but because of their performance agains WVU, this D Line can end the season with a high B or even low A grade.
Linebackers - B+
With 2 legitimate All Conference performers in Bernard and Pitre, it was hard not to give this group an A-. Doyle and Jones are having good seasons as well, but I held back on the higher grade because I think this unit can and will improve...particularly with Bernard playing at a high level. Of course as the D Line continues to play better, that will help free up our monster ‘backers. Fun times ahead!
Secondary - B
I debated on giving this group a higher grade than a B as they have been consistent in containing opponents passing games. Currently they rank 15th in the FBS, giving up 175 yds passing per game. But, I’m still not sold enough to give them a higher grade as they haven’t been tested by a really good QB this season. JT Woods is certainly playing at an All Conference level (individual grade A) and the secondary leads the conference in interceptions with 8, but they still need to show how they will respond when an opponent has a slinger in the pocket. As the D Line improves and puts more pressure on the opponents QB’s, this should help our secondary. If D-back Coach Curtis (my next door neighbor) is reading this, you’re doing an “A” job!
All in all I’m encouraged by our defense. I think they have shown steady growth over the season and will continue to get better. What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Grades?
I’ll be dropping my BNT’s Bold Prediction for the BYU game on Twitter @BearNTex this Friday.