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Baylor Football 2014 Position Preview: Safeties

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Our final position on the defense looks at the safety position after the departure of Ahmad Dixon.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Another day, another position of relative turmoil for the Baylor defense.  Once again we'll be called upon to replace a long-term starter now that Ahmad Dixon is wearing a star on his helmet.  Thankfully, unlike other spots where the starters are somewhat murky, we know exactly who will take the field with the team defense against SMU.  Behind that, though ..

Eligibility Remaining
No. Player Year Ht/Wt. Position 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
32 Collin Simpson
SR 5-8/210 S
13 Terrell Burt
JR 5-10/185 S
28 Orion Stewart
SO 6-2/200 S
26 Taion Sells
SO 5-10/185 S
12 Alfred Pullom
RS-FR 6-2/185 S
18 Chance Waz
FR 5-10/175 S
35 Franklin Mallory
FR 6-1/185 S
41 Calvin Hill
FR 6-0/180 S
29 Jarrod Hoym
FR 5-11/190 S

With Dixon, Collin Simpson, and Cody Wetzel (I think) leaving to graduation last year, Anthony Webb now a RB (and injured for the season), and Patrick Levels now a nickelback, this chart has turned over quite a bit from a year ago.  Thankfully, only one of those guys (Dixon) got any playing time at the position.  In their place are 3 walk-ons (Mallory, Hill, and Hoym) and Waz, a player that I'm starting to think has a really good shot of seeing time as a true freshman this year.

The starters here are basically set with Burt, once of the most experienced players on the defense despite just being a junior, and Stewart, who stepped in for Dixon when Hager went down last year, coming back.  They're both reportedly healthy and playing extremely well.  We'll start there and format things like we did yesterday:

Terrell Burt -- JR -- #13 -- 5-10, 185 pounds

It only seems like Burt has been here forever because he's played all 13 games each of the last two years.  Never having redshirted, Burt is one of the rare third-year juniors on our team.  He started the entire season a year ago at cover safety and will do so again this year.

Tackles Def Int Fumbles
Year School Conf Class Pos G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
*2012 Baylor Big 12 SO DB 2 3 5 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
*2013 Baylor Big 12 SO S 36 25 61 1.5 0.0 2 63 4 0
Career Baylor 38 28 66 1.5 0.0 2 63 0 4 0 0 0 0
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CFB: View Original Table
Generated 8/22/2014.

I understand there are a lot of questions about Burt stemming from the way he finished the season against UCF.  To put it mildly-- that wasn't his best game as a Bear.  I'll remind you that he reportedly played that entire game with a separated shoulder or something of that nature, though, so maybe we shouldn't judge too harshly.  In the preceding 12 games, Burt was a big part of Baylor's turnaround as a safety valve for the corners, and he actually had a fairly good statistical season.  Bennett likes him because of his recovery speed and his awareness down the field, two assets that should help cover up some of the inexperience of his cohort Orion.  This is still the same guy that helped win the TCU game, and he'll show it.

Orion Stewart -- SO -- #28 -- 6-2, 200 pounds

Bennett calls him a returning starter despite the fact that he'll technically be stepping in for Ahmad Dixon at Baylor's "down safety" position, which basically means strong safety.  Stewart started two games last season, including the regular season finale against Texas, and contributed greatly in several others.  His interception return for a TD against TCU was one of several defensive highlights from that game, without which we may not have won.

Tackles Def Int Fumbles
Year School Conf Class Pos G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
*2013 Baylor Big 12 FR S 1 25 14 39 0.0 0.0 1 82 82.0 1 4 0
Career Baylor 25 14 39 0.0 0.0 1 82 82.0 1 4 0
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CFB: View Original Table
Generated 8/22/2014.

I'm not worried about Stewart nearly as much as you might expect.  I think he has the size and speed to replace Dixon and may, in pass coverage, be an improvement.  The only area where I am worried is in run support; it's probably not reasonable to expect anyone to replace Dixon in helping stop the run.  He was a monster in that regard.

How these two work together will determine a lot about Baylor's defense this season.  With a strengthened defensive line, the dropoff from Dixon to Stewart against the run may not be noticeable.  It may be, too.  We just won't know until we face a team committed to running the football.  Against the pass, I imagine this duo might actually be better than a year ago, simply because Burt has another year of experience.  Dixon wasn't great against the pass (with the exception of that interception in Manhattan, obviously), so we're not asking much from Stewart there.

Taion Sells -- SO -- #26 -- 5-10, 185 pounds

Alfred Pullom -- RS-FR -- #12 -- 6-2, 185 pounds

Per the latest depth chart, Sells and Pullom are the backups to Burt and Stewart, respectively.  You could probably tell by looking at their sizes that would be the case, since Burt/Sells and Stewart/Pullom fit the respective archetypes for their positions.

We haven't heard much about these guys because there's probably not that much to say.  Sells reportedly challenged for time last year without ever breaking through.  Pullom was redshirting and presumably third behind Dixon and Stewart.  They'll get time if/when Baylor blows someone out or one of the guys ahead of them gets hurt.

Chance Waz -- FR -- #18 -- 5-10, 175 pounds

I'm separating Waz from the next group because it sounds like he might actually play this season instead of redshirt. Waz actually led the team in tackles in the scrimmage last Saturday, meaning he was A) playing really well, B) playing a lot, or C) a combination of the two.  To be honest, a lot of the buzz around him reminds me of what we were hearing about Burt two years ago, so don't be surprised if he plays in something of a similar role on special teams and as a backup.  The fact that we only have 4 rotation players ahead of him, assuming we have those four, makes that even more likely.  You don't want to get caught with your pants down should someone get injured.  If Waz is ready to play, I think he'll play, though I have him listed above as redshirting.

Collin Simpson -- SR -- #32 -- 5-8, 210 pounds

Franklin Mallory -- FR -- #35 -- 6-1, 185 pounds

Calvin Hill -- FR -- #41 -- 6-0, 180 pounds

Jarrod Hoym -- FR --#29 -- 5-11, 190 pounds

If you have basically any knowledge about any of these guys beyond that they are all walk-ons, you know more than I do.

*Note-- my PC's keyboard crapped out about this point, so things are about to get very sparse up in here.

I'll come back later and update the rest of the chart once I get things figured out technologically.  Suffice to say for now that Baylor has two definite starters, two probable backups, and a freshman wildcard who may see some time.  It's not an ideal situation to have relatively little depth here, and I expect that is something Baylor will address in this recruiting class, either through a JUCO transfer or another HS commit.