By Chris Derrett
Baylor’s new defensive coordinator Phil Bennett made his first appearance to the local media earlier this month, joining coach Art Briles in discussing Bennett’s hiring and plans on the field.
“Art and I have the same values and the same passion about football,” Bennett said.
Bennett coached against Briles six times from 2003-2008 with Bennett heading SMU and Briles at Houston. They also faced each other in 2000 and 2001, when Bennett was Kansas State’s defensive coordinator and Briles coached running backs at Texas Tech.
“I really kept a close eye on his defense; there was a lot of pressure-man there,” Briles said, later adding, “We were both born on the same day in the same year. He’s East Texas, I’m West Texas and we meet in Central Texas. Maybe there’s something to it after all; I don’t know.”
Briles admitted it was difficult to let go of coaches Larry Hoefer, Kim McCloud and Theo Young.
“It’s horrible, because you’re not talking about a profession, you’re talking about a family. That’s what makes it so tough, especially guys that you respect, you love and you care for,” Briles said. “I felt like this could give our football team a better chance to go to another level. Ultimately that’s my job, that’s my position, that’s what I have to do and I did it.”
Bennett says he plans on getting to the quarterback more frequently. Last season the Bears managed just 12 sacks in league play, ranking ninth in the conference.
“We’re a pressure defense. I think there’s a lot of ways you can get pressure. We [University of Pittsburgh] led the nation in sacks a year ago, and we weren’t a huge blitz team,” Bennett said.
Earlier in the press conference he described his base defense.
“We’re a multiple four-man front, and we’ll use some three-man. In today, with the spread, it’s evolved to where you have to do it,” Bennett said. “Our three-man front is built into our four-man package.”
Although Bennett has not yet evaluated his defensive players one-by-one, he looks forward to utilizing the overall speed on his side of the ball.
“Speed is the key. I’ll give up size for someone who can run,” he said.
Joining Bennett are coaches Jim Gush and Carlton Buckels. Gush coached at Kansas State while Bennett was defensive coordinator and was offered Bennett’s job when Bennett left the Wildcats. Gush instead chose to join Bennett’s staff at SMU.
“You’ve got to have a guy like that. He’s a guy that knows my system. He’s going to coach the linebackers, and he’s a guy that I totally trust,” Bennett said.
Buckels played at LSU when Bennett was assistant head coach of the Tigers.
“I’ve watched him progress in this business. He’s an outstanding recruiter, and he’s a guy that I think will really do a good job with the corners,” Bennett said.
Bennett said his defensive coaching staff is complete and does not expect any other coaching changes at Baylor before next season begins.