2015 Early Depth Chart - Defense

With the 2014 season all wrapped up, it is time to start looking ahead to what 2015 might bring us. 9 starters are coming back to a young and growing Baylor defense. What can we expect in 2015?

The 2014 Baylor Bears football season is over, with a second consecutive 11-2 campaign featuring a Big 12 title on the books. The Bears will return the bulk of their 2-time defending champion squad, but will lose several key starters going into next season. What positions are we losing key starters or contributors at and what type of changes could we see in terms of positions for certain players going into 2015? We looked at the offense earlier this week, now it is time for the defense.

First off, let’s take a look at what the depth chart will look like without the graduating seniors. This will allow us to see the holes that we have and see what the logical backups (with their 2015 classification). I will include injured players where they would have fit in a best case scenario, and talk about how the Bears reshuffled certain positions to fill gaps.

Baylor Defensive Depth Chart
First Team
Second Team
Pos # Name Class # Name Class
RE 2 Shawn Oakman SR 15 Brian Nance SO
NT 75 Andrew Billings JR 96 Byron Bonds JR
DT 95 Beau Blackshear SR 90 Javonte Magee JR
LE 92 Jamal Palmer SR 56 KJ Smith SO
WLB 11 Taylor Young SO 20 Aiavion Edwards JR
MLB 5 Grant Campbell SR
NB 48 Travon Blanchard SO
CB 9 Ryan Reid JR 2 Tion Wright JR
DS 28 Orion Stewart JR 12 Alfred Pullom SO
CS 13 Terrell Burt SR 26 Taion Sells JR
CB 18 Xavien Howard JR 24 Terrence Singleton JR

The Bears are only losing two players from their ENTIRE 2-deep roster, including none on the defensive line or defensive secondary. To put it bluntly, that is ridiculous. Baylor will have to replace two key starters in Bryce Hager and Collin Brence, but return the rest of their defensive rotation. With little to replace in 2/3rds of the defense, what newcomers could make an impact that are now eligible?

Defensive Line: Tackle Andrew Morris (rsFR), Tackle Ira Lewis (rsFR), End Josh Malin (rsFR), End Jamie Jacobs (rsFR), End Greg Roberts (rsFR), Xavier Jones (rsFR)

With 6-redshirt freshman sitting out 2014, the Bears have a large group of players ready to step into larger roles. This might be one reason why the Baylor coaching staff has not focused on the defensive line in the 2015 recruiting class. With all 8 players returning, the question will be who could make a move up the depth chart. Swing End/Tackle Josh Malin could be a guy that makes an impact early, as he profiles a lot like Beau Blackshear, at least early in his career.

Rush ends Jacobs and Roberts could also be looked at in pass rushing situation, as their speed off the edges could be needed. The tackle rotation will probably be pretty set, especially with Suleiman Masumbuko and Trevor Clemons-Valdez not even listed on the depth chart.

With Shawn Oakman and hopefully a fully healthy Jamal Palmer anchoring the outside, and the excellent duo of Andrew Billings and Beau Blackshear handling the middle, the starting lineup is pretty much set. The second unit could see some changes, especially if Palmer can’t get healthy and K.J. Smith is put back into the starting lineup.

Linebacker: ND Cordell Dorsey (rsFR), LB/NB Clay Johnston (FR)

Despite the loss of two starters, the Bears really don’t have a ton of new options coming to the rescue. Most of their options will be going into their sophomore year with Travon Blanchard, Xavier Phillips, and Raaquan Davis getting minimal playing time in 2014. Sophomore Taylor Young will likely be the starter at one of the three positions, with Aiavion Edwards and Grant Campbell the favorites to land at the other linebacker spot.

The nickel back position is a little trickier, unless Travon Blanchard takes a big step forward and takes the position over. You could also see a player like Terrence Singleton put it together and make a run at either the nickel back spot, or push a returning starter at safety here. For the second year in a row, this will be the biggest question mark going into spring practice.

The Bears have a few options here outside of Blanchard, with Patrick Levels and Raaquan Davis high up the list. The Bears could also shuffle players in the secondary to bring Orion Stewart, Terrence Singleton Jameson Houston or even J.W. Ketchum down to the nickel back position.

Secondary: CB Jourdan Blake (rsFR), CB Verkedric Vaughns (rsFR), CB Jordan Tolbert (FR), CB Tony Nicholson (FR), S J.W. Ketchum (FR), S Jameson Houston (FR)

With all 8 players returning from the depth chart returning for 2015, there are not as many questions about the secondary. However, the performance late in the season could put some players in different positions or roles. Also, the presence of several key freshman (and some high caliber recruits at this position still looking at the Bears, including Kris Boyd and Holton Hill) there will probably be some shuffling here. The problem is, where do you start?

The Deep Safety position seems set with Orion Stewart having the best year of any secondary player, but the same thing could have been said last year about Terrell Burt and the other safety spot. Both Taion Sells and Alfred Pullom got quite a bit of playing time due to injury in 2014, so they could be looked at to take on larger roles. The Bears also used Chance Waz in 2014, instead of redshirting him, so is he ready for a larger role?

Finally, could the Bears move a player from another position (Davion Hall) or take one of their true freshman (JW Ketchum) and put them out there early in 2015? There are a lot of questions for a unit that is returning 100% of its contributors, but the results from last season dictate that.

Baylor Projected Defensive Depth Chart
First Team
Second Team
Pos # Name Class # Name Class
RE 2 Shawn Oakman SR 15 Brian Nance SO
NT 75 Andrew Billings JR 96 Byron Bonds JR
DT 95 Beau Blackshear SR 90 Javonte Magee JR
LE 92 Jamal Palmer SR 56 KJ Smith SO
WLB 11 Taylor Young SO 45 Xavier Phillps FR
MLB 20 Aiavion Edwards JR 5 Grant Campbell SR
NB 48 Travon Blanchard SO 21 Patrick Levels JR
CB 9 Ryan Reid JR 2 Tion Wright JR
DS 28 Orion Stewart JR 12 Alfred Pullom SO
CS 13 Terrell Burt SR 26 Taion Sells JR
CB 18 Xavien Howard JR 24 Terrence Singleton JR

In all honesty, I wanted to make a bunch of sweeping changes to the lineup, putting Davion Hall as the strong safety and moving Orion Stewart to Terrell Burt’s spot, or putting Terrence Singleton there and moving Stewart to nickel back. However, I just don’t see the Bears coaching staff making that many changes. It is not what they have done. In fact, the Bears have seen minimal switches over the past few years, outside of Sam Holl and Ahmad Dixon (which worked out very well for both players). The safe bet is for the Bears to bring back a mostly intact defense and bet on a young defense improving in the few weak areas they had in 2014.


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