- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
PHIL BENNETT IS INTENSE, IN YOUR FACE, AND HE'LL TELL YOU what you've done wrong as soon as you screw up. In other words the 32-year coaching veteran, who arrived on campus last January, is just what Baylor's defense needed. "You feed off his energy," says senior middle linebacker Elliott Coffey of his new coordinator. "He has this focus, this killer instinct about him that you want everything to do with."
Last season, though the Bears reached their first bowl game in 16 years, the defense was 79th or worse nationally in all major categories, including scoring defense (89th). In the off-season head coach Art Briles hired Bennett from Pittsburgh, one of seven schools at which he had been a defensive coordinator. (He led the Panthers to a Compass Bowl win over Kentucky as interim head coach last season.)
Bennett demanded perfection from the players as soon as he arrived in Waco. "The guys want to improve," he says. "They're hungry for success." The main reason Baylor lost six games in 2010 was the defense's inability to read offenses correctly, which cut its chance of success in half before the snap. With that in mind, Bennett created the team's 2011 theme—Knowledge Is Power—which is posted in every team meeting room. "You see a formation and you've got to know how to line up," Bennett says. "The more you know, the better chance you have at making plays." In addition to being better organized under leaders Coffey and senior interior linemen Tracy Robertson and Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, Baylor's defense should feature more blitzing, aggressive tackling and ball swarming, all aimed at preventing big plays.
With electric junior Robert Griffin III back at quarterback behind a line that has four returning starters (stout left tackle Danny Watkins was a first-round NFL draft pick), offensive production should be solid. "Watching our offense, if we can get them the ball three or four times more a game, their scoring will go up greatly, and I promise [points scored against us] will go down," says Bennett.
If Baylor's D can play with Bennett's edge, the Bears should again be winners and at least compete for their first Big 12 title. Bennett has a message for his new charges: "Last year was just a taste of what it could be."
COACH Art Briles (4th year) 15--22 (7--17 in Big 12)
CO-OFFENSIVE COORDINATORS Randy Clements, Philip Montgomery
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR Phil Bennett