Baylor Preview: Defense

Baylor looks to gain traction defensively against Texas.

As prolific as the Bear offense has been, the defense, under second-year coordinator Phil Bennett, has struggled. Per S&P+, the Bears are employing the nation's 107th defense. And they don't look better when measured through conventional statistics. Baylor allows 41.6 points and almost 560 yards per game, including 372.4 passing yards per contest. Opposing passers have completed 67.6 percent of their throws against the Bears with an 18-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. At the same time, the Bears have allowed opponents to rush for 186.6 yards per game at 4.4 yards per carry, and have made just eight sacks in five games.

So there's plenty of blame to go around. The struggles against the running game, as well as the low number of sacks, can be placed somewhat on the front line. The Bears have run both three-man and four-man lines, but ran mostly the latter against TCU. Chris McAllister (6-2 255) and Terrance Lloyd (6-3 235) are tied for the team lead with two sacks apiece. Nose guard Nick Johnson (6-2 295) has come on a bit of late, making eight tackles in the last three weeks. And moving defensive end Gary Mason Jr. (6-4 265) down to tackle has paid off, as Mason has 13 stops, including 3.5 in the backfield. He had seven tackles last week against TCU.

Middle linebacker Bryce Hager (6-1 235) has probably been the steadiest performer in the linebacking corps, making 61 tackles, including five for loss and two forced fumbles. But JUCO transfer Eddie Lackey (6-0 220) showed his potential with a nine tackle, four tackle-for-loss, one sack performance against West Virginia. Ahmad Dixon (6-0 210) plays the "Bear" position, essentially a hybrid nickel/linebacker spot. He has 48 tackles so far this season.

The defensive backs haven't been able to keep up with the guys they've been covering. K.J. Morton (5-9 175) had four interceptions a year ago, while Joe Williams (5-9 190) regained the starting job he held a year ago after starting the season off as a reserve. Safety Sam Holl (6-1 200) is the more physical of the safeties and is a big hitter. Cover safety Chase Casey (5-11 185) is a former cornerback with speed. He's a former member of the Baylor track team. Casey made 13 tackles a week ago.

Punter Spencer Roth (6-4 225) is among the Big 12's best. He leads the league in punting average at 46.8 yards per punt, with half of his punts traveling 50 yards or more.

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