The Baylor defense has been an under-acheiver during the Coach Art Briles era. It is this group that has ineffectively used up-graded athletes and failed to develop players that could have been effective "projects." Last year's failure at the end of the season could be laid at this units feet, given the amount of points given up during the last four games.
As a result, Coach Briles made an inspired hire. He was able to get one of the top defensive coordinators - Phil Bennett - to come to Waco when he (along with the rest of the Pittsburg staff) was fired last fall. Bennett is a proven leader that will build quality defenses out of talent left by previous coordinators.
Bennett certainly has his work cut out for himself. Last year's defense was deeper and saw a first round draft choice leave for the NFL. There are holes in this year's unit, but it appears that (even with these problems) Bennett has begun to make a big difference in the performance of the green shirts this fall.
This position has been much maligned during the Norwood tenure. Traditionally, they have been very soft and allowed too many easy completions resulting in drive-extending plays. The biggest task for Bennett was overcoming the past mind-set (don't get beat deep).
In addition, Bennett lost three young men that could have helped the depth at this position - Bryan and Baker to graduation and Blaylock to transfer. Bennett could have used these young men in this transition year to provide additional competition and depth, but it was not to be.
The position took an additional hit when Tuswani Copeland, a promising young player from MacArthur HS in Lawton, OK, went down with a season-ending knee injury. This left the Bears with only three solid performers with some type of quality experience at the corner position. But it has become obvious that the coverage this fall is much tighter. While it has resulted in a few big plays, the group appears to have made the adjustment to tighter coverage. This has really tested the quality receiving corps the Bears possess offensively.
The top returning performer is Chance Casey (5'11", 185, Junior ) out of Crosby HS. Casey has been a starter for two years. He has good speed and decent cover skills. He has had to overcome the soft philosophy he has played under for the last two years. This transition has not always gone well. Casey has the ability, but he must master man-coverage techniques that were not emphasized in the previous defensive program. Casey still struggling with providing tight coverage without interferring. He must get better at this.
Casey does appear to be improving, as you would expect of an athlete of his caliber. You can expect Chance to become a top-performer in the Bear secondary this fall.
Casey is being pushed VERY hard by Joe Williams (5'10", 190, Sophomore), the transfer from Fort Scott Community College by way of St. Louis, MO. Williams is a very good man-cover corner. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in strength and speed. In one-on-one work, it is Williams that consistently provides the closest coverage. He does a great job of working to the ball without interferring. Williams still is learning how to integrate these coverage skills within the various coverage schemes employed by Coach Bennett. Joe probably will be able to become familiar enough with these concepts to elevate himself to the point where he successfully makes a spot for himself in the rotation. Both Casey and Williams have proved themselves to be quality tacklers, as well.
At the other corner, Tyler Stephenson (5'11", 160, Sophomore) from Lancaster High School near Dallas was being pushed very hard by Copeland. Stephenson has good man cover skills, but he gets pushed around by big receivers due to his lack of size - he's a really skinny cornerback. Stephenson has improved his ability to play against physical players, but it will continue to be a problem. He must continue to improve his tackling, too.
These three guys are the top players at the corner position. To think that the Bears will be able to go through an entire Big XII season without losing one or more of these guys to injury is probably a mistake. Therefore, the staff must develop more quality depth at the position.
The Bears need some of the support players to be able to step into this position and make an impact. T.C. Robinson (5'10", 185, red-shirt freshman) has been moved back to corner from his previous position at safety. Robinson, from Abilene Cooper High School, will have a steep learning curve to be ready to play against TCU on September 2nd. Terrence Nathan (5'11", 165, Sophomore) from West St. John HS in Edgard, LA appears to be one young man that might be able to step up to this level. Anthony Webb (5'10", 185), the highly recruited corner from La Porte High School, is one freshman that might be able to fight his way into a playing role during his first season.