The picture of Baylor’s secondary isn’t nearly complete, but coach Art Briles likes the image that’s forming.
There are some big holes to fill with all-Big 12 senior free safety Jordan Lake and strong safety Jeremy Williams gone, but Briles believes that once he gets everybody back from injuries in the fall, the secondary could be a strong point.
“Once we get our full group of guys, we’re going to be in good shape,” Briles said. “But the good thing for the guys who are out there is that they’ve gotten some valuable reps. A lot of these guys are making the best of their opportunity.”
Briles has been working with a short deck since safety Anthony Moore has been out with a broken leg, cornerback Antareis Bryan has missed most of spring drills with a foot injury, and safety Byron Landor hasn’t participated in spring drills following knee surgery.
All three players are expected to be ready for preseason drills in August. Meanwhile, some other players have delivered impressive performances in the spring.
After transferring to Baylor for the spring semester, freshman strong safety Prince Kent has made a strong impression with his combination of size and speed. Kent originally signed with Miami out of Norcross, Ga., but attended Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy instead.
“I played a little cornerback when I first got here, but they felt I could help the most at strong safety,” Kent said. “I like to play aggressive and make big hits. I think that playing at prep school last fall helped me mature.”
Kent is glad he could transfer to Baylor at mid-semester to give him a greater opportunity to make an impact in the fall.
“I’d like to contribute right away,” Kent said. “I feel like I’ve been a part of this team from Day One. I’m very glad that I’m out here competing, and I think everything is coming along well.”
In fall drills, Kent will likely compete at strong safety with Landor and sophomore Mike Hicks, a former China Spring star who made some big hits last fall as a true freshman. Hicks has also been working at free safety along with senior Tim Atchison, who played a great deal at cornerback last season.
Stepping in for Lake is a tall order, but Atchison is glad to be back at free safety.
“I feel like safety is my more natural position,” Atchison said. “I like to be a leader in the secondary, and you can see the whole field at free safety. But I think that playing cornerback has helped me become a better player because you really have to develop your footwork at that position.”
With Bryan out with a foot injury, most of the reps at cornerback have gone to Chance Casey, Denerick Demby, Romie Blaylock and Clifton Odom, who has missed some time with an injury. After redshirting last fall, Demby should be a big part of Baylor’s plans.
“Denerick is rangy, tough and fearless,” Briles said.
Blaylock has shown some progress, while Casey is looking for a strong sophomore year after a good freshman year in which he collected 36 tackles with two interceptions and four pass breakups. Casey made a smooth transition to defense last year after starring as a running back at Crosby High School.
“Coming over from offense, I didn’t think I’d have so much fun playing defense,” Casey said. “But I like challenges. Playing as a freshman allowed me to get to know the defense and learn how to make adjustments better. I’ve gotten stronger and faster, but I’m still not where I need to be.”
The Bears will get more help in the secondary in the fall with a highly-rated class of defensive backs arriving, including Midway’s Ahmad Dixon, Lawton (Okla.) MacArthur’s Tuswani Copeland, Katy’s Sam Holl, Abilene Cooper’s T.C. Robinson and Lancaster’s Tyler Stephenson.