The defensive tackle position is one of the hardest positions to recruit and find the depth most teams need to excel in the trenches. While the Bears are no quite at a great level of depth, you can see the beginnings of work the coaches have been doing on the recruiting trails, in the weight room and on the back practice fields. They will need those projects to take some big steps this year, as both starters from last year are gone, and there is precious little experience.
The two starters at the Spring game were a couple of Johnsons, Kaeron and Nick. Kaeron is a senior with some experience, just little of it at defensive tackle. He started his Baylor career on defense, but during his sophomore year, played primarily as the starting fullback, clearing the way for Jay Finley. Last year though, he came back to the defensive side of the ball and played every game for the Bears.
Joining Kaeron at the position is Nick, a Navarro Junior College transfer, who is in his second year with the Bears. He started 2 games last year for Baylor and played well at times in the rotation. The two Johnsons started one game together last year, against Oklahoma. We all remember how that worked out.
Behind the two senior linemen are a bunch of potential and question marks. Two red-shirt freshman finish out the two-man-depth chart; Trevor Clemons-Valdez and Beau Blackshear. Both of these freshman were very spoken of very highly during their first spring with the Bears, but were redshirted to give them a year to grow.
Blackshear put on over 55 pounds in his redshirt year, and is up to a very lean looking 285. During the spring game, he looked nimble and got some decent push against the first team offensive line, but struggled with double-teams and some of the larger lineman the Bears have. I think he will be a very good pass-rushing defensive tackle, but might struggle a bit in the run game at first.
Clemons-Valdez is the other primary backup in the tackle rotation. He has a bigger frame and is strong than Blackshear, but you can tell he does not have the strength of the seniors he is backing up. Valdez has a ton of potential and could develop into an all-around tackle for the Bears.
Joining those two in the tackle rotation are two more redshirt-freshman in Donald Bryant and the player with probably the most upside out of all of the tackles, Suleiman Masumbuko. Bryant is the slightest of the four freshmen and is the player that will need the most work. He got pushed around quite a bit during the spring game.
Masumbuko came to Baylor as a high 3-star player, ranked the 36th best defensive tackle. He has put on some great weight and really showed flashes of brilliance in the spring game, man-handling double-teams and getting into the backfield to disrupt ball-carriers and quarterbacks alike. The question I have about him is the consistency, and his stamina to makes those flashes much more prevalent. I think he will get some good playing time this year, and I can't wait to see what he does.
The Bears also have some additions coming in the fall that could be very helpful. Knowing their lack of experience at the position, Baylor did sign another junior college player to help out. Joey Searcy was expected to be in Waco in January, but his grades were not in order enough to allow that to happen. He has still not shown up in Waco, but they are still hoping for his services for the fall. If he shows up, the Bears tackle position will have a much better outlook.
Joining Searcy in the 2012 recruiting class was Zorrell Ezell, a 3-star tackle from Humble, Texas who is probable red-shirt this year. While those were the only two players designated for tackle in the recruiting class, a man we will speak about more in a future position preview could have an impact here as well. Javonte Magee is coming to Baylor as a defensive end, but has the size (6-foot-6, 275 pounds) and the strength to play inside if the Bears need him to. He certainly is an interesting weapon for the Bears and Defensive Coordinator Phil Bennett.
As we spoke about during the offensive line preview, the Bears recruiting for 2013 have yet to yield a commitment from a defensive tackle. The Bears have 5 red-shirt freshmen though, so I don't expect a very large class, but there are some top level guys available, both in high school and junior college. I think it is more likely the Bears get a junior college transfer or two than more than 1 high school player.
Current Depth Chart:
1. Kaeron Johnson – 6-2, 300, SR / Nick Johnson – 6-2, 295, SR
2. Trevor Clemons-Valdez, 295, rFR / Beau Blackshear – 6-3, 285, rFR
3. Suleiman Masumbuko – 6-2, 300, rFR / Donald Bryant – 6-2, 270, rFR
1. Joey Searcy – 6-0, 295, 3-star DT (JUCO, Unranked)
2. Zorrell Ezell – 6-1, 255, 3-star DT (57th ranked)
2013 Recruits Offered:
1. Scott Pagano – 6-4, 275, 4-star (26th ranked)
2. Andrew Billings – 6-1, 301, 3-star (36th ranked)
3. Jacobi Hunter – 6-0, 285, 3-star (70th ranked)
4. Quincy Russell – 6-4, 315, JUCO (Unranked)
5. Abens Cajuste – 6-3, 305, JUCO (Unranked)
6. Jordan Turner – 6-4, 315, JUCO ( Unranked)
7. Ben Hughes – 6-3, 300, 4-star (30th ranked) (Not Offered yet)