Baylor football’s 2018 roster is close to finalized, but head coach Matt Rhule’s defense still has plenty of question marks left to answer.
The defense loses star linebacker Taylor Young and edge rusher Brian Nance. Safeties Taion Sells and Davion Hall are also gone, but there was rotation at the position anyway. Otherwise, there’s plenty of depth that needs to develop.
There is some strong young talent at a few positions. Defensive tackle James Lynch and cornerback Harrison Hand flashed star potential as freshmen. Redshirt freshman Tre’Von Lewis and transfer James Lockhart could join next season.
Here’s our way-too-early guess at how the 2018 Baylor defensive depth chart will look:
- Greg Roberts, Sr.
- James Lockhart, Jr.
- Jamie Jacobs, Sr.
Notes: This position was a revolving door last season because of injuries. Roberts is the safe back after posting 19 tackles and 4 tackles for loss. Keep an eye on Lockhart, a Texas A&M transfer who sat out last season.
- Ira Lewis, Sr,
- James Lynch, So.
Notes: The interior defensive line might sneakily become one of Baylor’s biggest strengths. Lewis could contend for All-Big 12 next season. However, Lynch is a rising superstar. In the last six games, Lynch posted 5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks as a reserve. With a more featured role, Lynch’s production should increase.
- Bravvion Roy, Jr.
- Tyrone Hunt, Jr.
Notes: Roy and Hunt will mesh with the nose tackles to eat up space on the interior. Roy is a huge presence, and Hunt has a great motor. Both will get plenty of burn and open things up for the less talented defensive ends.
- Xavier Jones, Sr.
- Deonte Williams, So.
- B.J. Thompson, So.
Notes: Jones missed much of the season with an injury, but still posted 1.5 sacks in the spot. Williams split time with Brian Nance at the position, and neither managed to be disruptive enough. This position will be an open competition.
- Jordan Williams, Jr.
- D.J. Artis, So.
Notes: Weakside is the biggest hole on the defense after Taylor Young graduated. Williams played well in stretches and finished with 38 tackles. He’ll have to maintain it for an entire season now. Artis originally committed to Florida State, and Rhule believes he can help now.
- Clay Johnston, Jr.
- Lenoy Jones, Jr.
Notes: Johnston enjoyed a breakout season before succumbing to multiple injuries down the stretch. He should be the leader of the 2018 defense. Jones showed versatility in Johnston’s absence, and should find snaps somewhere at linebacker.
- Jalen Pitre, So.
- Eric Ogor, Jr.
- Henry Black, Jr.
Notes: Pitre will always be a special presence in Waco, considering he’s the only recruit who did not decommit after Art Briles was fired. Ogor struggles with consistency. However, he can still be a tremendously dangerous presence off the edge.
- Harrison Hand, So.
- Jameson Houston, Jr.
- Raleigh Texada, So.
Notes: Hand was a relative no-name coming out of New Jersey in 2017, but he quickly became the best freshman on Baylor’s defense. The sophomore finished third on the team with 42 tackles, and added 9 passes defended. Houston and Texada are rotation-type players.
- Chris Miller, Jr.
- Tre’von Lewis, Fr.
- Christian Morgan, Fr.
Notes: Safety was a huge weakness for Baylor, but the staff believes Miller is a playmaker at the position. He was one of the hardest hitters in his recruiting class. Lewis was one of Rhule’s first recruits at Baylor. His film proved he has instincts to be a star. Lewis should get some run after a redshirt season.
- Verkedric Vaughns, Sr.
- Rajah Preciado, Jr.
- Blake Lynch, Jr.
Notes: Baylor has few answers at safety. Vaughns and Preciado both played significant snaps last season. Neither was especially impressive. With a season under their belt in the system, they should get much better.
- Grayland Arnold, Jr.
- Derrek Thomas, Sr.
- B.J. Hanspard, Fr.
Notes: Baylor surprisingly has great options at cornerback. Thomas is a Temple grad transfer, and Hanspard was one of the best cornerback recruits in the state. However, Arnold is growing into a shutdown option at the position. The Bears are set at starting cornerback.
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