Baylor’s defense quickly became the biggest story in Texas a year ago. The defensive was impressive enough that it attracted Dave Aranda, one of the brightest defensive minds in the game, to Waco. He’s handing the keys to Ron Roberts, a veteran assistant who helped Louisiana hold opponents to just 19.7 points per game in 2019.
“When I think of Ron Roberts, I think of being multiple in front and coverage,” Aranda said. “He’s got a real knack for being able to marry it all together.”
However, maintaining the elite production of 2019 won’t be easy. All-American defenders DE James Lynch and DB Grayland Arnold both left early for the NFL. Seven other starters graduated, leaving just one starter in the front seven. In all, the Bears trail only Utah among Power Five teams in returning production.
Replacing the pass rush will be top priority for this defense. Sophomores TJ Franklin and Gabe Hall both showed flashes of potential and tackle Chidi Ogbonnaya played numerous snaps in relief. However, the unit must quickly develop depth, especially with the Bears experimenting with both three- and four-man defensive fronts.
Finding a versatile pass rusher will be critical in this defense. To fill the gap, Aranda added Arkansas State graduate transfer William Bradley-King – a two-time all-Sun Belt pick. However, no other projected pass rusher has a career sack to their name.
Linebacker Terrel Bernard is the best returning starter on defense after posting 112 tackles, 9.5 TFLs and five QB hurries in a breakout sophomore year. Behind him, senior Jalen Pitre and converted running back Abram Smith will compete for snaps.
The defensive backfield is down four starters, but CB Raleigh Texada ranks as one of the best returning cover corners in the state. The rest of the projected rotation is highly unproven. Both safeties are first-time starters, but Christian Morgan and JT Woods both played plenty of snaps. The fifth defensive back starter is up in the air.
Playing a multiple defense comes with complications, especially for a first-year team. However, both Aranda and Roberts have experience manufacturing quick turnarounds.
“I think the ability for Ron to build what he’s been doing the last couple years at Lafayette, incorporating what we did at LSU and incorporating what they’ve done here at Baylor is key,” Aranda said. “I’m really excited about that process.”
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