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Baylor Football

Baylor's defensive depth chart nearly restored in time for Oklahoma

September 21, 2017
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In seven games leading up to his outing against Baylor, Duke quarterback Daniel Jones was averaging 233.7 yards passing and 58.6 yards rushing with 18 total touchdowns on 63-percent passing.

He's not the playmaker that Heisman favorite Baker Mayfield is in regards to distributing the football around the yard, but Duke quarterback Daniel Jones is eligible to be classified as one of the better quarterbacks Baylor's defense will face in the 2017 season, and their performance against the sophomore was something to take note of.

After showing slight improvement from week one to week two, the Bears took additional steps forward as a unit, collecting 5.0 sacks and 12.0 tackles for loss, forcing their first two turnovers of the season, and holding Jones to 170 total yards on 57.1-percent passing and zero touchdowns. He rushed the ball 11 times for -14 yards.

It's even a bigger step when you consider Baylor's week one opponent scored 48 points whil a QB named Buckshot gave the Bears an unwanted reality check, connecting on 44 of 60 passes for 447 yards and four total touchdowns.

Jim Black
Senior safety Taion Sells is set to play his first game since 2015 on Saturday against Oklahoma.

But the past is the past for a reason and, more importantly, the present gives the defense an additional push of the reset button on the depth chart. From week one to week three, Baylor saw a large portion of their defensive backfield return from injury with Jameson Houston, Davion Hall, Henry Black and Rajah Preciado, three of which were inserted into the lineup as starters.

Now the Bears will be beneficiaries of the return of Grayland Arnold and Taion Sells who were both noted as the starters in fall camp by Matt Rhule.

“I’d say we think it is perfect timing with conference play beginning," Rhule said. "As we said to our players, this nine-game stretch is really where we find out who we are and what we’re going to do.

"Defensively, we’re not good yet, but we’re getting better, and adding a guy like Grayland in really helps. What we’ve done is add in some depth after the unfortunate injuries and suspensions. Now, once you hit conference play, you feel like you have four, five, or six corners that can go into the game."

Missed tackles and blown assignments won't be stats that are found in the box score, but a combination of the two against Duke by the secondary were easy to highlight as the difference in a 14-point game. Three went for touchdowns.

And as it should be, that is the fear of playing defenders who haven't seen live action yet this season going up against an offense like Oklahoma and a playmaking quarterback like Mayfield.

"On defense especially, you have to practice to be good," Rhule said. "It really usually shows up in missed tackles. The one thing that was nice about Grayland and Taion was, up until a week before the first game, they were our starters and they were practicing every day. So they’ve got a ton of reps."

That wasn't the case for senior Davion Hall who started for the Bears at safety in games two and three.

All three of those long runs, normally we would think that those balls would be down for a six, seven, eight-yard gain, but we weren’t able to make the play which is part of just growing them as a team and developing them.
- Matt Rhule

Hall missed the entirety of both the spring and fall camps. He flashed physicality at times against Duke, but in some crucial instances, he whiffed.

Now the hope is that the three-week layoff from contact doesn't impact the performance of Arnold and Sells who are likely to be inserted into the starting lineup and at minimum receive a significant portion of playing time.

"You just worry about missed tackles, and that’s one of the things that showed up," Rhule said.

"A couple of the guys that haven’t practiced all preseason last week missed tackles on those long runs. All three of those long runs, normally we would think that those balls would be down for a six, seven, eight-yard gain, but we weren’t able to make the play which is part of just growing them as a team and developing them. That’s why you need to practice during the preseason.”


Oklahoma relying on passing game early in 2017

Losing running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon to the NFL meant that Oklahoma's running game was likely to take a step back in 2017 after a season where the Sooners rushed for 237 yards per game with 30 rushing touchdowns in 13 games. The Sooners rushed 50 times for 253 yards and four touchdowns against the Bears last fall.

Todd Nickle

That is definitely the case through three games in 2017 as the Sooners are averaging 160 yards on the ground with just 104 yards on 2.8 yards per carry in a victory over Ohio State. In their other two outings against UTEP and Tulane, the Sooners rushed for 180 and 197 yards.

The offense hasn't slowed much from an overall offensive standpoint, however, as the Sooners still tallied 490 yards and 31 against the Buckeyes and scored over 50 points in their two other non-conference matchups.

The success all goes back to senior Baker Mayfield and offensive coordinator slash head coach Lincoln Riley. Mayfield has yet to throw an interception on the season and, as expected with Riley's roots, is throwing the ball all over the field to the tune of 348.6 yards per game and 10 touchdowns on

“He’s a guy that, as he scrambles, he’s always looking to throw," Rhule said. "There’s a lot of guys that, when they scramble, they look to run, but he looks to throw. That tests not only your athleticism but also your discipline to make sure you don’t give up the big play."

Because of that ability, at this point in his career, it's almost a surprise that he hasn't received the nickname of "Big Play Baker." Not to go all Johnny Football, but Mayfield's highlight film is at least in the same stratosphere.

We have to eliminate the big plays, and part of that is staying disciplined, staying on our men, and not giving them a cheap one because they’re tough enough to beat just in terms of execution.
- Matt Rhule

"You just worry about missed tackles, and that’s one of the things that showed up. A couple of the guys that haven’t practiced all preseason last week missed tackles on those long runs. All three of those long runs, normally we would think that those balls would be down for a six, seven, eight-yard gain, but we weren’t able to make the play which is part of just growing them as a team and developing them. That’s why you need to practice during the preseason.”

After giving up three explosive touchdowns to Duke on the ground, Mayfield will take a different approach and look for big plays through the air.

"There’s no better big-play offense," Rhule said. "They see you in a coverage, they go right to a beater to beat that coverage. We have to eliminate the big plays, and part of that is staying disciplined, staying on our men, and not giving them a cheap one because they’re tough enough to beat just in terms of execution.”

In 2016, Mayfield completed 20 of 25 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns against the Bears.

Discussion from...

Baylor's defensive depth chart nearly restored in time for Oklahoma

6,530 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 6 yr ago by Pale Rider
Forest Bueller
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Grayland is a badass in the making.

He will help.
By the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved.
Pale Rider
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Hope so. We'll need all of the help[ we can get this week, for sure and certain.
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