The second part of our preview series flips to the other side of the ball, after starting with the Bears quarterback position and improving depth heading into 2017. This time though, we look at another position with depth and injury concerns and one that needs to be rebuilt. We are talking defensive tackle, where the Bears had to shift from a 4-man front to a 3-man front due to the loss of Andrew Billings and two key junior college players in the spring.
Beginning the year, Ira Lewis and Bravvion Roy were at the top of the depth chart, but injuries to Roy and declining play from Lewis after a fast start left the door open for Tyrone Hunt to make a move inside from defensive end. Hunt started the bowl game against Boise State, putting up 5 tackles and 2 sacks in a defensive MVP performance.
With the entire depth chart returning for Baylor in 2018, the Bears could also get the addition of a key contributor from seasons ago. Byron Bonds started 7-games in his true freshman season in 2013 and played in 32 games his first three years before injuries kept him on the sidelines in 2016. His return to the lineup would be a big boost for the Bears, in need of more bodies up front.
Phil Snow and the former Temple defensive staff are expected to bring more of a 3-man front to Waco this year, but one that is very different than the 3-4 look from 2016. With a nose tackle, and two defensive ends, Snow has traditionally shown a 4-man look with a rush linebacker off the edge. This will be a new wrinkle (and discussed in detail when we get to the defensive end spring look) for the Bears defense.
This transition could see more bulk on the defensive line, especially with Hunt able to switch back and forth between tackle and end. As a group, the 2016 season was disappointing. The leading tackler was Ira Lewis with 21 tackles. He also led the group with tackles for loss (5). Tyrone Hunt was second in tackles and led with 2 sacks.
In total, the defensive tackles had just those two sacks, and 13.5 tackles for loss.
2018 Defensive Tackle Roster
|Cody George (WO)||SO||6-2||275|
With depth on the defensive line needed, the Bears had quite a few spots to fill across the line. How the Bears filled these spots is interesting though, as they recruited bigger athletes that could move all around the line in different roles.
The lone true defensive tackle in the class is James Lynch, who at 6-feet-4.5 inches tall and 275 pounds has good size to play inside. The five signings classified as defensive ends by Scout.com could play anywhere on the line.
The new Baylor staff wants height, length and positional flexibility for their defensive ends. Justin Harris (6-6), Cole Maxwell (6-5), and Chidi Ogbonnaya (6-5) are all very tall and athletic with the frames to end up around 290-310 pounds. This is critical for the Bears future, especially as they look to have home-grown pass rushers.
2017 Recruiting Class
|James Lynch||3||39 (DT)||6-4.5||275|
|Justin Harris||3||45 (DE)||6-6||250|
|BJ Thompson||3||155 (DE)||6-6||210|
|Cole Maxwell||3||153 (DE)||6-5||225|
|Chidi Ogbonnaya||3||149 (DE)||6-5||245|
|Demarco Artis||3||64 (DE)||6-3||220|
Out of that list, Artis and Thompson are the least likely to move inside, as Artis is more of a rush linebacker spot, and Thompson could play tight end as well. A core of Lynch, Maxwell, Harris and Ogbonnaya give the Bears tremendous upside and potential on the interior of the line.