Posted by Tom Fornelli
College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers. Today, we look at Baylor, who opens its practice on February 28.
Spring Practice Question: Can Baylor's defense catch up to its offense?
A lot of things went well for Baylor in 2010. With Robert Griffin III back for an entire season and the offense firing on all cylinders. The Bears rode their offense to a 7-6 record and the school's first bowl appearance since the 1994 Alamo Bowl. In other words, under Art Briles, it seems as if Baylor is headed in the right direction.
There's still quite a bit of work left to do, however. Yes, Baylor had a winning season, but at one point the Bears were 7-2 before losing their final four games of the season. In those final four losses, Baylor gave up an average of 47.0 points per game, which is precisely where the problem lies. Yes, Baylor was able to post 31.2 points a game on offense in 2010, but the defense gave up an average of 30.5.
Not exactly the best formula for success. In fact, teams scored over 40 points against Baylor six times in thirteen games. It's hard to win consistently that way, which is why the focus for Baylor this spring will be on improving the defense. That's where the team's new defensive coordinator, Phil Bennett, comes in. Bennett comes to Waco after spending the last three seasons at Pitt, where he was the defensive coordinator for one of the best defenses in the Big East.
Of course, the offenses of the Big East and the offenses of the Big 12 aren't really comparable, and that adjustment will be Bennett's biggest challenge.
As will be overhauling a secondary which was a problem area for the Bears in 2010. Both of the team's starting safeties, Tim Atchison and Byron Landor, have left which means two new starters in 2011. The good news is that Briles has brought in some talent in his first two recruiting classes. Ahmad Dixon and Prince Kent were two highly-touted recruits in the class of 2010, and both will have their shot at living up to their potential this season.
Bennett has said that he plans on running a 4-3 defense in Waco, but considering the recruiting success that Baylor has had in the secondary the last few seasons, and the passing offenses of the Big 12, you do have to wonder if it'll be more of a 4-2-5 scheme when it's all said and done. Of course, if a young defensive line that will feature two sophomores in Terrance Lloyd and Gary Mason Jr. on the ends, can mature and get better at pressuring the quarterback, then a 4-3 may stick.
Will Bennett be able to mold Lloyd and Mason into the type of pass-rushers he had at Pitt? If he can help these guys become a Jabaal Sheard or a Greg Romeus, it would be a huge boost to the team's defense.
After all, Bennett doesn't have to turn this unit into a defense that is only giving up 10 points a game. The offense is going to score a lot of points for Baylor in 2011, but if the defense can start holding teams to about 24 points per game, then Baylor is going to rack up quite a few wins in 2011 and get back to another bowl game.
The work begins next week.