The Baylor Bears have plenty of defensive talent poised for a big 2022 season!
The Baylor Bears were one of the better defenses during the 2021 college football season due in large part to the stout play from their defensive line. Despite ranking 31st in the country and fourth in BIG 12 in total defense, the squad allowed only 345.9 yards per game while only giving up 29 total touchdowns to their opponents.
Last year the team sent quite a few of their players to the NFL including defenders Jalen Pitre and Terrell Bernard. In the 2023 Draft. Baylor looks to add many more players to NFL rosters next year, including stout offensive linemen Jacob Gall and Connor Galvin. However, it seems the defense will once again carry the bulk of future professionals — led by their defensive line.
Siaki Ika – Defensive Tackle
Chief among the Baylor defenders is defensive tackle Siaki Ika. After spending the two previous seasons with the LSU Tigers, Ika joined the Bears in 2021 and immediately made his presence known. He finished the season with 24 total tackles, six tackles for a loss and four sacks.
Ika won the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year award for his efforts on the field. Additionally, Ika was named to the Chuck Bednarik Award Watch List, an honor presented to the best defensive player of the year. As the core of the Baylor defense, Ika looks to lead the unit to another year of high-level play against a wide open Big 12 conference.
As a pure prospect, Ika is one of the best nose tackles in the country due to his elite play strength, vision and pass rush prowess. Despite his 6-4, 358 build, Ika has plenty of pass rush juice, proving his ability to toss opponents using a combination of hand quickness and power. He’s able to dictate run lanes with hand placement and force runners into cut back lanes.
Gabe Hall – Defensive End
The number two on the Baylor defensive line is five-technique defensive end Gabe Hall. Despite not receiving any big honors last season, it was a productive outing for the junior defensive linemen. Hall finished last season with five sacks, 18 total tackles and seven tackles for a loss.
At 6-6, 296 pounds, Hall plays with a ton of power behind his frame and can hold his own at the point of attack. Baylor likes to deploy him at defensive end while also dropping him inside at three-technique. He has strong hands which allows him to toss offensive linemen in the run game when acting as a gap penetrator.
Hall is an ideal player on a three-man front given his versatility and above-average athletic traits. Hall looks to have a breakout season for the Bears defense playing next to Ika. He’s continuing to work on his pass rush abilities, which were already intriguing as is.
Jaxon Player – Rotational Defensive Tackle
Ika isn’t the only transfer the Baylor Bears will be fielding during the 2022 season. Former Tulsa Golden Hurricane Jaxon Player joined the squad earlier this year after opting to leave his former program following the 2021 college football campaign.
Player is known for this stout build at 6-0, 299 pounds, as well as his raw display of power from his low pad level. He shows incredible first step quickness from his three technique spot, which allows him to hit his opponents with good force to leverage pressure.
2021 was Player’s best statistical season to date, finishing the year with 50 total tackles, 15 tackles for a loss and five sacks. He has solid bend in his hips, which allows him to push the pocket and leverage pressure in the backfield. Although he may not start, Player will give plenty of juice to an already impressive defensive line.
The Baylor Bears are likely to have another successful season in a BIG 12 conference without a clear cut headliner. The rotation of Ika, Hall, and Player is enough to handle the elite runners from Texas, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State.
TJ Franklin and Cole Maxwell are other key players on the Baylor defense, despite not being on NFL Draft radars just yet. Even so, the Baylor defense is an elite unit (especially on their defensive line) from top to bottom and will be a fun study this fall.