With both starters from last year’s defense returning, you would think that there wouldn’t be questions about the position. When you look at the combined stats of the two starters coming back (218 combined tackles and 6 interceptions) you could logically expect to this to be a position of strength going into 2012.
However, from watching the Bears, the safety play last season was a weakness, but after re-watching some games I don’t think it was as big of a weakness as I previously thought. Both Mike Hicks and Sam Holl offer several good things for the defense, but the Bears have to do a better job of covering up some of their weaknesses.
Hicks and Holl are both solid to very good in terms of their run support. Both are solid tacklers who attack the line of scrimmage well. However, both are at best average at coverage, and neither showed a consistent ability to be the “last man standing”. Hicks especially let receivers get past him and also took interesting angles to ball carriers (especially on runs up the sidelines).
Personally, I think Holl is the better of the two, and he is much more suited for a traditional Strong Safety position. The problem to me with both of these guys starting together is that they both do the same things. They are not a very good team as they both have the same strengths and weaknesses.
Some of those weaknesses though might have been due to playing in a new defense and playing with two cornerbacks that were backups to start the year and got little practice time before the season started. With improved schematic awareness across the defensive backfield, I think the two safeties jobs will be easier to do and something both will be able to handle more capably.
With two senior backups including one in Chance Casey with quite a bit of playing time under his belt, the Bears also have better depth behind the two starters this year. However, the biggest reason to get excited about this position lies in the unproven hands of a very highly touted recruiting class.
Leading the charge for the Bears is one freshman that is currently on campus and another still trying to get here. The first is 4-star recruit, Aiavion Edwards, a former running back at Stephenville High School. Personally, he is the guy I am most excited about in last year’s recruiting class. He is a special player who overcame a leg injury during his senior year, but comes to Baylor fully healthy.
Joining Edwards in the recruiting class, but not yet on the field is Kiante Griffin, who probably would have been even higher rated had he not had some academic issues that kept some schools from pursuing the Hebron High School star. Griffin has yet to report to Baylor, but has been retaking classes to get his GPA high enough to qualify. No word has been given one way or another on if he will make it to Baylor, but if he does, the Bears will have two special talents waiting in the wings.
Also in the 2012 recruiting class were two athletes that could see time eventually at other position. The first appears to have already moved to the offensive side of the ball. Rashodrick Linwood, the one-time TCU commit, verballed to Baylor late in the process, and with fall practice currently going on, he is playing at the wide receiver position. The bears also have some local flavor to the safety position, bringing in Midway High school safety Orion Stewart, a very good athlete who has the abilities to play corner as well.
The last player new to the Bears was a late qualifier who signed with the Bears well after the signing period was underway. Xavien Howard was not given much of a chance to get his academics in order and was expected by most to be on his way to a junior college. In fact, he signed with Trinity Valley Community College before he finally got his grades in order and joined the Bears. The Houston athlete has everything you could want in a safety, with good size, speed and instincts and could be a very big surprise recruit for the Bears.
After securing several top level talents for the safety position in 2012, the Baylor coaching staff has gone after guys that can play anywhere in the defensive backfield in 2013. All of the four of the current safeties commits are capable of playing other positions, with one, Travon Blanchard, already pegged for the nickleback position currently occupied by Ahmad Dixon (and covered in our linebacker preview segment).
Austin Jupe is the highest rated of the four commits currently, and seems to have the best size for the safety position. I personally believe that he is more of a safety than a corner, but the coaching staff has said he could play either position in college.
The other two current commits are two-star athletes with quite a bit of offers from other major schools. In the next ranking update, I imagine both Taion Sells and Alfred Pullom will be ranked as 3-star safeties and be much higher in the positional rankings. Pullom is the larger of the two with more strength, though Sells has elite speed and will bring a different dimension to the Baylor backfield.
Depth Chart: (Post-Spring Scrimmage)
Deep Safety –
- Sam Holl – 6-1, 200, Jr.
- Josh Wilson – 6-0, 190, Sr.
Close Safety –
- Mike Hicks – 5-11, 195, Sr.
- Chance Casey – 5-11, 185, Sr.
- Aiavion Edwardss – 6-1, 200, 4-star (22nd ranked)
- Kiante Griffin – 6-1, 205, 3-star (40th ranked) – Has not been cleared academically yet, could play WR
- Rashodrick Linwood – 6-1, 175, 2-star (Not Ranked)
- Terrell Burt – 5-9, 175, 3-star (47th ranked Corner back) – listed as CB, but getting playing time at safety
- Xavien Howard – 6-0, 180, Not in Database – Late signee
- Terrance Singleton – 6-0, 175, 3-star (42 ranked QB) – already switched to defensive back
- Orion Stewart – 6-1, 175, 2-star (Not Ranked)
2013 recruits -
- Austin Jupe – 6-1, 185, 3-star (29th ranked)
- Travon Blanchard – 6-2, 185, 3-star (36th ranked) – Expected to play Nickleback position
- Taion Sells – 5-10, 180, 2-star (105th ranked)
- Alfred Pullom – 6-1, 180, 2-star (116th ranked