What to Expect from the Baylor Bears Part 3

While the Bears offense loses three of its biggest parts, the defense returns mostly intact. What can we expect from defense in its second year under Coach Bennett?

Let's just get this out of the way early. The Bears defense was very bad for most of the year, especially in losses against Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. The Bears finished 115th (out of 120) in opponents points per game at 40.3. Here is a quick recap of the Bears performance in Total Defense the past two seasons.

Points/ Game

Yards/ Point

Red Zone Stops

Rushing/ Game

Rush Yards/ Attempt

Passing/ Game

Yards/ Attempt

Baylor 2011

40.3

12.7

15.15%

206.8

5.3

305.2

7.7

National Rank

115

98

86

104

111

119

91

Baylor 2010

32.8

13.9

15.79%

177.5

4.6

278.2

7.6

National Rank

95

68

75

81

73

115

86

Pretty much every stat is in the bottom 35 of all of NCAA for the 2011 season. Not good. However, to say that is was all bad is incorrect. The Bears, especially in the last part of the season started turning the ball over at a very good level. In the last three games (which include the bowl game), the Bears averaged 4 turnovers per game, which was good for third in the nation.

Also, the Bears defense was on the field a ton, partly due to their own performance, but also because of an explosive offense. The defense was on the field an average of 52.86% of the time, the 20th highest percentage in the NCAA. In 2010, when the Bears featured a less explosive offense, they were in the middle of the pack, at 50.90% good for the 51st highest rate. So, the opposition was getting more players per game, but how many?

Rushing Attempts

Passing Attempts

Plays Per game

3rd Down Conversion Stop %

4th Down Conversion Stop %

Baylor 2011

39.2

39.4

80.1

48.97%

33.33%

National Rank

80

117

115

111

112

Baylor 2010

38.8

36.6

77

53.76%

42.11%

National Rank

91

111

115

106

83

So, the opposition was getting an extra 3 plays per game, but it also looks like the defense did itself no favors by not doing a better job on 3rd down. They struggled even worse in their losses, as they only stopped the opposition 40% of the time, versus roughly 54% of the time in wins. Personally, getting our 3rd down defense better is the biggest thing that the defense could do. That will take care of a lot of issues. In Bennett's three years at Pittsburg, his defense averaged a 63% stop rate on 3rd downs. The national average was roughly 60% in 2011. I don't think the Bears will make a 12% or greater jump this season in their stops, but I do think a 4-6% bump is very feasible mainly due to better defensive back play throughout the season.

The other area where I have hope is in terms of turnovers. As we mentioned, the Baylor defenders averaged 4 turnovers per game over their last 3 games of the 2011 season. That would be an incredible rate to continue (National leader was Oklahoma State with 3.4 turnovers per game). On the season, they averaged just 1.4 turnovers forced per game; however, I think that .5 more turnovers per game are not asking too much. Two turnovers per game would get them in the top 40 in the NCAA.

Now, let's take a look at each of the positions independently.

Defensive Tackle –

The Bears suffered a huge loss this week, losing one of their senior starters in Kaeron Johnson to a back injury that will end his career. The Bears line was already pretty thin, and with the non-arrival of Joey Searcy, the Bears will have to depend on a handful of red-shirt freshman to step up and get meaningful snaps.

This is the biggest concern for the Bears, as their rushing defense was atrocious last year. The two most important positions to your rush defense are defensive tackle and linebacker. The tackles have to keep the lineman from getting to the second level. Luckily, the Bears at least have some size backing up Kaeron with Trevor Clemons-Valdez and Beau Blackshear. They are also awaiting word on the newest member of the team's eligibility, Jason Osei, a 26-year old from England.

Defensive End –

The Bears return two players that have starting experience, and the tools to be much better pass-rushers than they have shown. They also welcome the best defensive recruit in recent years in Javonte Magee, who will give the Bears an NFL-sized end who could be a huge factor for the Bears. Personally, I am bullish on the ends, and I think the sack % and run containment will be much better this year.

Linebacker –

Two new-starting linebackers will be getting their first major playing time against SMU on Sunday with sophomore Byrce Hager earning his first start after playing special teams last year, and junior college transfer Eddie Lackey appearing for the Bears for the first time. I am a Hager fan, and I think he will be a very good linebacker for the Bears. Lackey has incredible range and speed for the position, but he is small and will need to fight through blocks to have a real big impact.

The Bears have some experienced depth behind them, with two players that started at times last year behind them in Brody Trahan and Rodney Chadwick. I think this position will be about the same as last year to start the year, but shows much more upside as we get into conference play.

Cornerback –

This is the position I am most excited about, with K. J. Morton coming off of a tremendous end to the regular season, and a great position battle between Joe Williams and Demetri Goodson on the other side. Williams was the starter last year and did a solid job I thought, so if Goodson can beat him out, that speaks to the depth the Bears have at this position moving forward. With all three of these players going through their first full off-season with the Bears, I am expecting great improvement and more variety in schemes and coverages in 2012.


Safety –

As we discussed in our position preview series, there is a chance that the safeties were not as bad as we thought last season. That would have been difficult for me to accept last year, as I probably yelled more at the two safeties than anyone else on the team. But, how much was truly their fault versus the corners with little to no preparation in the offseason. My hope is that Mike Hicks and Sam Holl were not at fault for most of those coverage breakdowns and that they fix those mistakes. If they can just cut those down in half, the Bears pass defense has a chance of being much better in 2012.

In conclusion, I think the Bears defense will be slight better next year, due to having a better understanding of the Bennett scheme, more talent in the defensive backfield, and better overall depth all around the field. You can expect a slightly better 3rd down defense, and an additional turnover every two games. Hopefully, the Bears can get down to around 34 points per game allowed.


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