The Bears are in the midst of their first spring camp under new coach Matt Rhule. The Bears are installing a new defensive scheme under defensive coordinator Phil Snow. Let's breakdown each position as it stands in the preseason and predict what could change in the fall. Players in italics are non on scholarship, while bolded players are returning starters.
While the Bears might lack numbers at the defensive tackle position, they return all key players from the 2016 rotation. Ira Lewis and Bravvion Roy played the bulk of the snaps early in the season before injuries began to wear them down. Andrew Morris and Michael Johnson received more playing time as the year went on.
Signee James Lynch will join the program this summer, looking to make a quick impact on the depth chart. In passing down, several of the defensive ends listed below will more than likely slid down to the tackle position to give the Bears more pass rushing on the inside.
The Bears deepest and most experienced position on defense might be defensive end, with returning starters KJ Smith and Greg Roberts leading the way. Tyrone Hunt played quite a bit on the interior of the defensive line as well, with Xavier Jones and Jamie Jacobs playing quite a bit. Former key reserve Brian Nance has returned to the program as well, giving the Bears 6 players with extensive experience.
Junior James Lockhart will sit out the season after transferring from Texas A&M. Baylor will also be welcoming in a large group of athletes in the fall with Justin Harris, Demarco Artis, Chidi Ogbonnaya, Cole Maxwell, and possibly BJ Thompson (who could play at TE) joining the program for the fall.
Baylor will have a ton of potential waiting their turn behind a very experienced group. 1-2 of the freshman might be able to play next year, with Justin Harris being the most likely to contribute early.
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An All-Big 12 player the last two seasons, Taylor Young looks to rebound from injury issues his junior year to finish off a stellar four-year career for the Bears. He is the star, and leader of the defense. Young's spot if the only one that is secure, as several players battle to earn the other starting spots on each side of Young.
Willams, Johnston and Jones Jr. all played for the Bears in reserve roles in 2016, with Johnston and Williams stepping up later in the year. Newcomers Bryson Jackson and Terrel Bernard could also step into larger roles, though both could use a redshirt season to gain weight and strength.
The biggest question mark for the Bears defense right now is Travon Blanchard, who is suspended indefinitely due to allegations of abusing his girlfriend. With Baylor investigating, Blanchard is not allowed to be a part of the team. Eric Ogor is the Bears only other scholarship player listed at the position, though Clay Johnston could also move here if he loses out on the outside linebacker position. Safety Jalen Pitre is another name to watch here, as he gets more reps at the position this spring.
There is a reason the Bears took a large defensive back class, as depth at the cornerback position is limited. Arnold, Vaughns, and Houston all started opposite of Ryan Reid last year, so two of those three are most likely to start. Tolbert, who was considering transferring earlier in the spring, is back to provide depth.
Signees Harrison Hand and Timarcus Davis will both be in camp this fall, and both could move up the depth chart quickly.
The Bears are loaded at safety position, with three seniors with starting experience. Hall and Sells are most likely the starters, with Waz and Henry Black as key reserves. Black is even getting reps at cornerback, mainly due to lack of depth at that position. Miller and Blake have been depth options during their time, mainly playing special teams. Texada was one of the rare redshirt freshman last year, and has a ton of upside. He is a guy to watch in the future along with signees Trevon Lewis, Ashton Logan and Jalen Pitre (who could both move up to nickleback).