When Eric Ogor was suspended from the Baylor football team last October, he had a lot of time to think about the direction his college career was heading.
Ogor played in just three games before acting head coach Jim Grobe suspended him for the rest of the season for disciplinary issues related to his attitude.
Ogor wanted to change and he’s proven that during preseason drills. Unlisted on Baylor’s two-deep coming into camp, the third-year sophomore is on his way toward earning a starting outside linebacker spot.
“Really, I learned I had to humble myself and be grateful for everything I have,” Ogor said. “I came back with the mindset that I’m going to do right and keep my head down and work hard. That’s what I’ve been living by.”
At 5-10 and 205 pounds, Ogor has the strength to defend the run and the speed to cover Big 12 receivers. Baylor senior linebacker Taylor Young isn’t surprised that Ogor has risen up the depth chart so quickly because of his athletic ability. He’s also seen Ogor’s attitude change as he’s shown more production in practice.
“As soon as he got put in that role his mindset changed,” Young said. “He took things more seriously. He was early to meetings and stuff like that. He’s one of the most athletic players on the team. He’s just as strong as me and just as fast as our DBs. He’s a great asset to our defense.”
Ogor has been running with the first team much of the time with Young and sophomore middle linebacker Clay Johnston. Ogor’s athleticism has benefited the defense.
“He needs to be an elite player,” said Baylor linebackers coach Mike Siravo. “That’s our job, as a defensive staff and Coach (Matt) Rhule, is to get him ready. He’s got an amazing skill set, and he’s going to help this team in some way. So it doesn’t surprise me at all.”
Like every Baylor linebacker, Ogor looks up to Young who has been a starter since his freshman year in 2014. With 29 starts under his belt, Young is by far Baylor’s most experienced linebacker as he’s collected 265 career tackles.
“He’s the foundation to our defense,” Ogor said. “When we’re out there we feel safe because he’s out there with us. When I’m out there and I see T.Y., I know I’m good. When I mess up I look at him and he gets me right and doing the right thing. He’s not a yelling type senior. He wants you to know he’s got your back.”
Though he’s undersized at 5-9 and 225 pounds, Young has been a leader for the defense since the day he stepped on the field for the Bears’ second Big 12 championship team in 2014. He was overlooked by recruiters because of his size but quickly developed into an all-Big 12 linebacker because of his determination and aggressive mentality.
Now Baylor needs Young to be a leader more than ever as he guides a young linebacking corps.
“Just having these guys always depending on me makes me want to wake up every morning and say, ‘Hey, I have to be at my best’ and if I’m not then I need to have my teammates pick me up,” Young said. “It has its good days and bad days. But the majority of time, I love being a leader.”
Young’s experience has been vital for Siravo as he’s tried to adjust his crew to Baylor’s 4-3 scheme and thick playbook.
“When I go ballistic or Coach (Phil) Snow does or Coach Rhule about a small detail, he understands why we’re crazy about it, because it will get you beat in a game,” Siravo said. “He’s been in the game, he’s seen those things come to life. So he can kind of tell the young guys, ‘Hey, they’re crazy for a reason about details.’”
As a redshirt freshman, Johnston recorded two starts for Baylor’s defense last season as he moved into the lineup in the regular season finale against West Virginia and the Bears’ 31-12 Cactus Bowl win over Boise State. Those were two of Baylor’s best defensive games of the year, so his presence was valuable.
Baylor expects Johnston to take another big step as a sophomore. His tackling ability and knowledge of the game should pay dividends at middle linebacker.
“He might trick you a little bit, but I tell you once you peel back the skin he’s as smart as they come,” Young said. “Just having him in the Mike communicating and getting things together is a great deal. He’s physical and as strong as an ox.”
Lenoy Jones is backing up Johnston in the middle while Jordan Williams and freshman Jalen Pitre add depth at outside linebacker.
While the 4-3 is Baylor’s basic defense, Siravo said the players will be well versed in several different schemes to be prepared for the variety of offenses they’ll face during the season.
“We’re going to run all kinds of things,” Siravo said. “We’re going to be four-down, we’ll be two-techniques, we’ll be three-down. We don’t ever want to do the same thing. So you’ll see the package advance as we go on. It’s an awesome league with great talent and great coaches and great schemes. It’s going to be a huge challenge for us, and we can’t wait to take it on.”