With Chris McAllister and Terrance Lloyd gone (along with 71 career starts between the two), the Bears will have to depend on two new defensive end starters. However, with the incredible potential of their backups from 2013, who both received significant playing time, the Bears defensive end position is thought of as a strength as we head into 2014.
CURRENT STARTERS – 8
|33 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 2 sacks||38 tackles, 11 TFL, 5 sacks||Redshirted in 2013||In 2012 for Boise State, 35 tackles, 7 TFL, 4.5 sacks|
Shawn Oakman might have the most potential of nay Baylor defensive player since Santana Dotson. He is that big, strong, fast and whatever other adjectives are used to describe a top level defensive end. At 6-foot-9, his height and wing span are a major issue for opposing offenses to game plan for. Even when blocked, Oakman can simply reach out and grab the ball carrier with his incredible length. Oakman was dominant early in the 2013 season, but faded quite a bit late. He will have a much larger role in the Baylor defense, after being used as a situational pass rusher for most of last year.
On the other side of the field is a very overlooked junior who had even more tackles and sacks than Oakman during their breakout sophomore campaigns. Jamal Palmer doesn't have the fanfare that Oakman has, but is a very productive player in his own right. The Bears will feature two very good defensive ends in 2014.
POSITIONAL DEPTH - 10
|Defensive End Eligibility|
The Bears depth behind Palmer and Oakman is exceptional. Junior transfer Sam Ukwuachu was a freshman All-American in 2012 after redshirting his first year in Boise. He had 35 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 7 tackles for loss during his freshman campaign. Coach Phil Bennett has already stated that Ukwuachu could push for a starting spot, especially if either Palmer or Oakman struggle with injuries in the fall. The Bears offered the Pearland High School star a scholarship out of high school, but he chose to go north to Boise State.
The other two primary backups for the defensive end spots are Kevin “KJ” Smith and Brian Nance, two redshirt freshmen. Nance has traveled a rather circutious route to the field, after going to prep school and then redshirting in 2013. Nance is a former 4-star linebacker who has grown into a defensive end. Smith is another redshirt player looking to make an impact in his first year on the field. Both Nance and Smith have good size for either defensive end spot and bring some youth to the position for the Bears.
CLASS BALANCE – 6
With no seniors, and a handful of juniors and freshman (either redshirt or true) the Bears have some balance but have really skipped around in recruiting. Right now, two of their top 3 ends are transfers from another Division I program. That is an interesting way of recruiting one of the key positions on the field. With no commitments for the 2014 class right now, the Bears are still looking at building more future value at this position.
NEXT YEAR – 9
The big question here is whether Shawn Oakman comes back another year in Waco. With a big year, he could easily hear his name called in the first round of the NFL draft, which would make it an easy decision to go for someone who has already had 4 years in college. Oakman would be entering his 4th year in Waco as a Senior as well. Even if Oakman is gone, the return of Palmer and Ukwuachu give the Bears a very talented duo for 2015. With Nance, Smith and the true freshman for 2014 all slotted to come back as well, the 2015 group should be just as talented.
FUTURE YEARS – 3
This grade took a hit with the decommitment of Louis Brown. The very talented defensive end is back on the market, seemingly to play offense. With his loss, the Bears are down to zero defensive end commits for 2014. However, with James Lockhart still on board, as well as 2nd tier options like Kenneth Mann, this grade has some upside. Two project-able ends will join the Bears this fall, with Xavier Jones and Jamie Jacobs needing to put on weight and improve technique to make an impact. However, the Bears have had success with similar players (such as Palmer and hopefully Nance).
It doesn't get much more important than the quarterback position, and the best way to negate the other teams quarterback is with dominant pass rushers from the defensive end position. This is a key spot for the Bears, shown by the risks they have taken to bring in talent via transfer.
TOTAL – 41
The next two years are setup incredibly well for the Bears, especially if Shawn Oakman lives up to his potential and shocks everyone by coming back. The Bears have young talent that is waiting its turn right now, just like Jamal Palmer had to do the past few years. With some very good projects for the future and hopefully a 2015 commitment coming in early August, the Bears are positioned very well for the present and the future at the defensive end spot.