Football

Schedule Challenges: Linebacking Baylor Bears

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After an 11-3 season which included appearances in the Big 12 Championship and Sugar Bowl, Matt Rhule left Baylor in order to become the head coach of the Carolina Panthers. That wasn’t the only major loss from the 2019 Bears as nine defensive starters from BU’s matchup with Texas either graduated or left for the NFL.

Baylor hired LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda to replace Rhule, the first head coaching job for someone whose name seemed to pop up on the coaching carousel year after year. As a defensive specialist, he’ll have a small leg up on the tall task of replacing most of the defense. However, he’ll have a good place to start with linebacker position, his specialty.

Despite losing its entire defensive front and several key defensive backs, the Baylor linebacker corps has several quality pieces to work with. One returning starter is Terrel Bernard. 

Bernard had 112 total tackles in 2019, with 9.5 for loss to go along with 4.5 sacks. He earned All-Big 12 Second Team honors, and Athlon Sports put him on their preseason All-Big 12 First Team. 

If he’s the only returning linebacker, what about the rest of the group? Aranda bolstered it with two transfers who could find themselves within the starting lineup this season.

The first is Iowa transfer Dillon Doyle. After his father was released from his duties as strength coach at Iowa following allegations of mistreatment of players within the Hawkeye football program, Doyle entered the NCAA Transfer Portal.

Dillon played in all 13 games for the Hawkeyes in 2019 after utilizing the four-game redshirt rule in 2018. He totaled 23 tackles with 0.5 for loss and was primed to start for Iowa before he entered the portal. 

Doyle will need to receive a waiver to be immediately eligible. If he is, he’ll be part of a formidable duo for Baylor at off-the-ball linebacker. 

What about the position that K’Lavon Chaisson played for Aranda at LSU this past season? That’s where Arkansas State grad transfer William Bradley-King comes into play.

Bradley-King earned All-Sun Belt First Team accolades for a 2019 season that included 49 tackles, 13.5 of them for loss, and 8.5 sacks. He probably isn’t James Lynch, but he rounds out a strong frontline linebacking group.

Aranda‘s defensive coordinator also focuses on the linebackers. Ron Roberts joined the BU staff after coordinating several good defenses at Louisiana-Lafayette. Additionally, Texas high school coaching legend Joey McGuire had his responsibilities shifted to coaching outside linebackers. 

For a defense almost starting from scratch in 2020, Baylor has several pieces that can cause problems for opposing offenses. How the Baylor staff puts together the rest of the starting 11 will go a long way toward determining how much those linebackers make a difference this year.