With the Big 12’s abundance of up-tempo passing games, quarterback sacks have become a fading art.
Teams are passing more than ever, but they’re usually the quick-release variety. Defensive ends who can get to the quarterback in a flash have become more valuable than ever.
Baylor hopes to deliver more pressure with the deepest group of defensive ends in Art Briles’ six seasons. Seniors Chris McAllister and Terrance Lloyd are joined by sophomores Shawn Oakman and Jamal Palmer in a potentially dynamic rotation.
It’s the blend of talent, experience and depth that Briles and defensive coordinator Phil Bennett have been seeking.
“We’ve got great depth and the competition is fierce,” Briles said. “Pops (Lloyd) has played three years and so has Chris. The other guys make plays when they have the opportunity. We’ve got some good guys who are capable of playing every down but also in certain situations.”
After finishing ninth in Big 12 play with just eight sacks, Baylor pass rushers were all over UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley in a 49-26 Holiday Bowl win. The Bears collected six sacks including two by McAllister and one apiece by Lloyd, defensive tack
le Gary Mason and linebackers Eddie Lackey and Bryce Hager.
McAllister is one of the Big 12’s top returning pass rushers after collecting a team-high six sacks last year while batting down six passes. With more depth at defensive end, he believes the Bears can put up bigger sack numbers this season.
“We’ll be fresher out there and we’ll see the benefits,” McAllister said. “It’s a good mixture of guys. We’ll give them a lot of different looks and keep them on their toes at all times. T. Lloyd and I are going to do our best to push the young guys and they’re going to push us to make us better.”
Lloyd is one of the most experienced players on the Baylor squad with 26 starts over the last two seasons. He’s coming off a productive season in which he collected 50 tackles, 8.5 tackles for losses and four sacks.
Checking in at 6-9 and 270 pounds with an aggressive attitude, Oakman is the most intimidating player on the Baylor squad. Nobody is more eager to play after he redshirted at Penn State in 2011 and had to sit out again last year after transferring to Baylor.
“Shawn is disruptive and that’s what you like on the defensive side of the ball,” Briles said. “He’s rangy, athletic and vicious, and those are pretty good qualities.”
Hampered by a hamstring injury through the first two weeks of preseason drills, Oakman has been going through full workouts this week and feels like his old self. He took advantage of his redshirt year at Baylor by improving his skills and pass rushing techniques.
“Everything is back to normal, it’s fantastic,” Oakman said. “As a redshirt, I just tried to learn the concepts of the defense and get it down. I worked on my technique with my first steps, hands and everything to get ready for the season. We’re playing against the best O-line every day, so I’m not worried about much.”
Palmer was one of three true freshmen to play for the Bears last season and he believes that experience will pay off. After finishing with four tackles last season, Palmer will play a much bigger role this year.
“It helped me a lot playing as a freshman,” Palmer said. “I’ve been working on my footwork and trying to get better with drills. I’m getting faster and learning the defense.”
BEAR FACTS: On Baylor’s latest depth chart, freshman Robbie Rhodes is listed as a co-starter with Jay Lee at wide receiver while redshirt freshman Corey Coleman is listed as a co-starter with Levi Norwood at inside receiver....Lache Seastrunk is one of 35 players named to the first annual Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award watch list which recognizes the top offensive player in Division I....Defensive tackle Andrew Billings returned to practice Wednesday after breaking his nose last week...With eight starters returning, Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett believes his unit is well ahead of where it was last season near the end of preseason camp. “We’re ahead without question. But every day we’re looking for consistency and we’ve got to develop our depth. We’re starting to see some of our redshirt freshmen show up in the two-deep.”