Change is afoot for Baylor defense

March, 18, 2011
3/18/11
11:00
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WACO, Texas -- Baylor lost six games in 2010. In those six games, the Bears gave up 45, 45, 55 42, 53 and 38 points. The offense wasn't blameless, but it wasn't hard to see what had to improve for the Bears to win more than seven games in 2011.

Bears coach Art Briles aggressively pursued Phil Bennett, who coached the nation's No. 15 scoring defense at Pittsburgh in 2010 -- Baylor ranked 89th in the stat last season -- and let him hire a pair of assistants: linebackers coach Jim Gush and secondary coach Carlton Buckels.

With them came expectations.

"It’s obvious. You look at [the offense], they’ve got some fire power," Bennett said. "We’ve got to get our guys to match up. If we can defend these guys, we’re going to be OK. Art and them challenge you in a lot of ways."

The Bears eschew the comparison, but in 2009, Texas A&M's defense ranked outside the top 100 and gave up more than 33 points a game while the offense scored just under 33. That bad combination resulted in a 6-7 season.

With new defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter came a drop to just less than 22 points a game and, most importantly, three more wins in 2010. The Aggies' successes and comparisons are the least of Baylor's concern, but Bennett's eye is on that big number.

"Improvement is measured to me in one statistic. One. That’s scoring defense," Bennett said. "All those other statistics tie in together, but you have to, if you can average in the 30s offensively like we have and you can get in the teens defensively, you’re going to win a lot of games."

For Baylor, seven wins is historically a lot of games. But they want even more. And Bennett is charged with the task of helping it get there in the area it struggled most.

"What we’re going to get is the same thing you get from coach Bennett," Briles said. "You’re going to get a passionate man that’s very intelligent that understands what we need from a defensive standpoint, schematically to intelligent adjustments on the field. There’s no questions that are going to be unanswered."

For now, Bennett is working off a base depth chart, but working every player on his defense in with the first and second teams to see what he has. Eventually, that fluidity will solidify.

"We’re a work in progress right now, getting people in the right spots," Bennett said. "We’re sort of mixing and matching to see who our best 11 on the field are."

He'll get plenty of practice and a tough assignment every time he brings his team on the field in the spring, which should pay off in the fall.

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