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Thursday, August 21, 2014
Position battle update: Baylor OLB

By Max Olson

You knew Baylor had some big shoes to fill after Lache Seastrunk, Tevin Reese, Cyril Richardson and Ahmad Dixon went off to the pros. But the Bears have another high-priority vacancy at outside linebacker that still needs a solution. Here's what we know:

Contenders: Sophomore Aiavion Edwards, redshirt freshman Taylor Young

Who they replace: When asked this fall what Baylor needed from its weakside linebacker spot, defensive coordinator Phil Bennett joked: "Eddie Lackey. Remember him?" The former juco transfer was a consensus All-Big 12 performer last season after leading the Bears in tackles (108) and tackles for loss (13) and tying for the team lead with three interceptions. He made big plays in big games and made Baylor a better defense in innumerable ways.

What they offer: Edwards seemed most likely to slide into Lackey's spot, but Young has made this interesting.

A third-year sophomore, Edwards played a minor role last season except against Texas Tech, when he was thrust into the lineup to replace an injured Bryce Hager. Edwards compiled 20 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and one pass breakup. After nonconference play, he was mostly a special-teams player.

Edwards is one of the strongest defenders on the team -- a 710-pound squat max ain't bad -- and teammates say they like how he's progressed this offseason. But he hasn't locked up the job just yet.

Young redshirted last season and came to Baylor as a true under-the-radar find. His only other options were Louisiana-Monroe, Rice and Colorado State, but a huge senior season at DeSoto (Texas) High School put him on the Bears' radar. Young is undersized at 5-foot-10 and 225 pounds, but the coaches loved what he did in spring ball.

Whoever wins this job needs to work well alongside Hager, the quarterback of Baylor's defense, and should benefit immensely from playing behind an elite defense line.

Prediction: Edwards and Young both play a fairly equal number of snaps in nonconference play, and then Young slowly takes the lion's share of action from there. He'll take his lumps in his first year of play, and Edwards should still see the field plenty, but watch out for Young. There's something about his playmaking ability, no matter his size, that has wowed the Baylor coaches and his teammates.