Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Baylor trusting new-look back seven
By Max Olson
WACO, Texas -- Orion Stewart knows what pundits are saying about his Baylor defense. He doesn’t like it one bit.
Yes, the sophomore safety knows the Bears lost 13 letterwinners on his side of the ball. He gets why that is concerning. But the offseason buzz that Baylor’s defense is a question mark is almost offensive to him.
“I hate it. We’re going to show them this year,” Stewart said. “Everywhere you look: ‘Baylor’s defense is not this good, it’s not that great, it’s the offense that wins the games.’ They don’t know that we’re going to get it done.”
Orion Stewart was an impact player at safety for Baylor toward the end of last season.
No one is questioning a defensive line that Art Briles has called possibly the best in America. Middle linebacker Bryce Hager is a proven commodity and a preseason All-Big 12 selection. But it’s the rest of the back seven, the Bears’ linebackers and defensive backs, that raises eyebrows. The development of that group will decide whether Baylor can field another Big 12 title-caliber defense.
“We’re in the proving business,” BU defensive coordinator Phil Bennett said Tuesday before the team’s first fall practice. “But they’ve played a lot of football, and they’re talented.”
As Stewart put it: “They’ll know those guys by the end of the year.”
Here’s a closer look at exactly what Baylor is working with in the back seven. These are the names you’ll need to know.
Stewart is ready to hold down the down safety spot after earning starts in two of Baylor’s final four games last season. Bennett admitted he might be as underrated as the rest of these fresh faces.
“When we made the run to win it, Orion Stewart was a starter for us,” Bennett said. “As we came down the back stretch to win the championship, Orion Stewart was huge. He injured his ankle in the Texas game, plays the whole half with a terrible injury, wasn’t able to play in bowl game.”
He’s healthy now. So is Burt, who Bennett called “outstanding” for most of last season as his cover safety, with the exception of the Fiesta Bowl loss. He totaled 61 tackles and two interceptions, including one for a TD.
“He started 13 games with a torn labrum,” Bennett said. “Terrell Burt is a football player.”