Linebackers lead struggling defense

No. 4 linebacker Elliot Coffee runs through tackling drills during practice on Tuesday, Aug. 16 at the Simpson Center. Coffey appears to be the leader on defense this season.Matt Hellman | Lariat Photo Editor

By Krista Pirtle
Sports Writer

On the defensive side of the football, the linebackers are the heart and soul of the defense.

They must know what the front four guys are doing in front of them and what the secondary is doing behind them.

If they do not feel like leaving their heart on that turf, then the defense will struggle to make stops.

At this position, speed kills.

Linebackers must be able to run forward, backward and sideways to stop the advancement of the other team.

Against the run linebackers step up to fill the gaps; against the pass they must fall back quickly into pass protection.

“My first key is the run/pass key, which is set by the offensive linemen,” junior linebacker Rodney Chadwick said. “I read the tackle and the guard. If they high head, it’s pass. If they low head coming off the ball, it’s a run.”

It goes without saying: these guys have the most responsibility on the field.

Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett has said from the get go that knowledge is power.

For the Baylor linebackers, this couldn’t be more accurate.

“We’re definitely getting better,” senior Elliot Coffey said. “When you put a new scheme in, when you get a lot of different looks from offenses like we have this season, it takes a lot of time to really not only understand the defense, but adjust to different offenses that you’re seeing at the same time. So the more we’re together, the more we’re playing; everybody’s starting to click and it’s really starting to look good.”

Generally, defenses line up as a 4-3 scheme, four linemen and three linebackers.

The Bears line up as a 4-2-5, cutting the number of linebackers down to two.

When they line up, however, it looks like a 4-3 scheme because the nickelback comes up to the side.

One spot is solely occupied by Coffey, who has racked up 48 tackles so far this season.

“Elliot is a great leader,” Chadwick said. “He’s got a lot of experience. When there’s stuff going down, we look to him for the call to get us going.”

The other spot has been up for grabs since the beginning of the season.

Sophomore linebacker Brody Trahan, who has 21 tackles and a forced fumble thus far, was the early favorite.

Last season, Trahan was the third-string quarterback. His tackle to end the first half of the A&M game stripped away his red jersey and gave him a spot on the defense.

The other candidate is Chadwick, who is a regular at the position and has racked up 23 tackles this season.

“They both do a good job,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said. “That’s why they alternate; they’re both pretty similar in what they can bring to the table. Both are learning. They’re still in the process of learning how to play every snap and being productive every snap. I think you’ll see them to continue to alternate as a couple others in there.”

So far this season, the defense has been lacking in coverage and tackles. Bennett has been working his players and there has been improvement.

“They’re a work in progress, just like a lot of facets of our program,” Briles said. “I feel like they’ll continue to improve and get better.”