Sometimes a little tweak here and there can make a big difference for a college football team.
Seniors Ahmad Dixon and Sam Holl are swapping positions, and Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett hopes it will pay off in a major way.
Dixon opened spring drills at strong safety and Holl is taking over at nickelback. Dixon’s speed should enhance Baylor’s deep coverage, while Holl’s physical style of play should benefit the midlevel defense.
“It fits their personalities a little bit better,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “Sam is a ferocious tackler and a great ballplayer. We think getting him close to the box will help him. Ahmad is a gifted guy who can run that’s a very dynamic player in his own right. It gives a little more speed on the backside where we can change some coverages.”
Both Dixon and Holl have been major contributors to Baylor’s defense for the last two years and will be among the team’s leaders in the fall. Dixon ranked third on the team with 102 tackles and intercepted two passes last season while Holl made 85 tackles while intercepting three passes and breaking up seven.
Though both players enjoyed their old positions, they were willing to switch to help the defense.
“The coaches told me they were thinking about doing it and I was OK with it,” Holl said. “I like being down in the box because I’m a physical player. I think it will be really good for our defense and is a good opportunity.”
Holl got some experience playing linebacker last season when the Bears occasionally switched to a 3-4 defense from their usual 4-2-5 alignment.
“That definitely helped because it won’t be totally new to me,”
Holl said. “I’m real excited about it.”
With his move to strong safety, Dixon will be on familiar turf since he played there at Midway High School. Dixon is an aggressive tackler who has the speed to match up with most college receivers.
“I like it very well,” Dixon said. “I know the bad days are going to come and I’ll hear from Coach Bennett. I’m doing a whole lot more running but it’s fun and I’m enjoying it.”
Dixon believes that playing deeper in the secondary will allow him to see offensive plays unfold and give him more time to react to various situations.
“When I was at the linebacker (nickelback) spot, everything was happening much faster and I never really got to see the whole play develop,” Dixon said. “Now that I’m deeper I get to see the whole play develop.”
While Bennett said the switch of Dixon and Holl isn’t a done deal, he likes the possibilities that it brings to the defense.
“Nothing is in stone,” Bennett said. “But it’s spring and this is the time to look and see. Sam looks a little more like a linebacker now. With Ahmad we can do more packages.”
After finishing strong last year, Bennett is optimistic that his defense will keep improving with eight starters returning and more depth.
His goal is to get the best players on the field at the positions where they can help the Bears the most.
“If we’re going to win a conference championship, we’ve got to be consistent,” Bennett said. “We’ve got to cut the explosion plays and play the red zone much better. We’ve got to progress another year and do it throughout the year.”
BEAR FACTS: Senior center Kelvin Palmer and right guard Stefan Huber have been getting most of the snaps with the first team offensive line along with the three returning starters, left guard Cyril Richardson, left tackle Spencer Drango and right tackle Troy Baker.. . . Former Euless Trinity linebacker Brian Nance is starting his college career at defensive end after enrolling for the spring semester. “It fits his body type but we’re still in the experimenting stage with him because we haven’t been on the field with him. We’ll see where it all leads, but he’s got a good frame and good energy.”