Young secondary continues improvement

Baylor’s K.J. Morton breaks up a pass intended for Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday in Stillwater, Okla. Oklahoma State won 59-24.
Associated Press

By Tyler Alley
Sports Editor

No unit for Baylor football has been in flux more than the secondary.

Injuries have forced younger players to step up and some to even change positions, bringing chaos to a group that already came into this year with a ton of pressure to improve.

“Statistically, it might not show like we would want it to, but those guys weren’t here Aug. 1.,” head coach Art Briles said. “To be able to come in here and adapt to our system, be able to get on the field and be productive in a lot of circumstances is pretty astounding for them. I’m really pleased with the progress they’ve made.”

The preseason depth chart showed three cornerbacks: junior Chance Casey, sophomore Tyler Stephenson and redshirt freshman Tuswani Copeland.

The current depth chart has sophomore transfers Joe Williams and K.J. Morton starting at cornerback, with Stephenson back on the depth chart for the first time since the TCU game and Casey starting at safety.

“Thank God for Joe and K.J,” defensive coordinator Phil Bennett said. “They came in. It’s not an ideal situation. You would like to be able to develop and do some things with them. With that said, I think they’ve done OK. There are plays to be made. I’m probably going to be overly critical. They came here to play. I think we can do a better job.”

Morton transferred from College of the Sequioas in Visalia, Calif. He originally was the backup safety before being moved to cornerback after Stephenson and Copeland were injured.

Morton said cornerback is a position that requires confidence.

“You’ve got to have swag,” Morton said. “But that comes in that week. You’ve got to prepare for greatness. You’ve got to be determined that this man will not catch the ball, no matter what. So it’s just man on man.”

Now as the lead starting cornerback, Morton has to face some of the toughest receivers in the nation. The Big 12 features players like Ryan Broyles, Justin Blackmon and Ryan Swope, all of whom Morton has covered or, in Broyles’ case, most likely will cover.

“If it’s a great receiver, I want him, because I think I’m great,” Morton said. “And I’m going to get greater every day, so I want the best. I know that the receivers want the best cornerback. They don’t want to go against a scrub.”

Williams came in against TCU after Stephenson went down and had to cover receiver Josh Boyce. Boyce would catch nine passes for 96 yards but was held out of the end zone.

“I felt like I had to be ready,” Williams said. “I knew my opportunity would come soon. I just didn’t know when.”

Williams said he did not play cornerback until he attended Fort Scott Community College, and that his first year playing football was his senior year, when he played quarterback.

Williams said despite his and Morton’s youth and inexperience, he felt they were improving.

“We’re working to get better every week,” Williams said. “We know we’ve got to step up and accept our role.”