By Shehan Jeyarajah
DALLAS — Baylor football junior defensive end Shawn Oakman announced that he plans to return for his senior season in Waco.
“It’s what you’re supposed to do; it’s not my time,” Oakman said. “My body of work isn’t there yet. And on top of everything, that’s not how you leave a program that brought you back to the light where you’re supposed to be.”
Despite his concerns about body of work, the former Penn State transfer posted one of the most dominant seasons in Baylor history. Oakman led the team with 18.5 tackles for loss and 10.0 sacks in 2014, which ranks third and second respectively in single-season Baylor history with a game left to play.
For his efforts, he was named consensus All-Big 12 First Team and an All-American by four publications, including Sports Illustrated and the Associated Press.
Oakman was considered by many analysts to be a first round draft selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, despite starting only one season at Baylor; ESPN’s Mel Kiper has him as No. 8 on his 2015 Big Board. However, Oakman believes he has not reached his collegiate potential.
“If I’m top 15 right now, I haven’t done anything,” Oakman said. “I think I could be No. 1. I just know my work ethic and potential is so much higher.
“I couldn’t care less about what any NFL scout or mock draft has to say; it’s all about me and my teammates.”
Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett struggled to contain his excitement when he was told on Monday morning Oakman would be returning.
“I like it; I like it a lot,” Bennett said. “I think in a year, you could be talking about Oakman as a Jadaveon Clowney, an Ndamukong Suh or a J.J Watt caliber of a player with another year of development. It’s just delayed gratification.”
Oakman pointed to the potential Baylor has in the 2015 season as a key motivator for his decision.
“It was a huge factor. We’re going to be great,” Oakman said.
With Oakman returning, Baylor football will return nine of its 11 starters on both offense and defense from the 2014 Big 12 Championship team, including every defensive lineman. The All-Big 12 First Team duo of Oakman and sophomore defensive tackle Andrew Billings combined for 30.0 tackles for loss in only 12 games this year.
With an experienced defensive line returning, along with another year of development from the secondary, Baylor’s defense has the potential to be among the best in the Big 12 Conference next season.