Domination: Drango, Billings lead on both lines

Senior tackle Spencer Drango (left) and junior nose tackle Andrew Billings battle in the trenches during the football game between West Virginia and Baylor on Saturday at McLane Stadium. Photo credit: Sarah Pyo

Having achieved the No. 2 ranking in the country, it’s no shock the Bears have talented players all over the field. It’s for this very reason the Bears have been one of college football’s most successful programs in the last three years.

Two of Baylor’s interior stars, senior offensive tackle Spencer Drango and junior defensive tackle Andrew Billings, were ranked in the top 25 in the Schneider Rankings.

The Schneider Rankings are a grading system developed by voters for the Outland Trophy, annually given to college football’s most outstanding interior lineman.

Drango topped the list with a score of 137, which is 18 points higher than second place. Billings on the other hand ranks 17th overall with a score of 85. Billings’ score is also fourth highest among defensive tackles.

The scores are determined by a collection of individual statistics as well as team metrics. For Drango, his top score is testament to his incredible individual play as well as Baylor’s high profile offense, which leads the nation in scoring and yards per game.

“Our job isn’t the most glorious one, but it helps get the job done. Saying the stats alone gives us some love,” Drango said.

The Bears are averaging 63.8 points per game, tops in the nation.

The Bears are also the only team in the nation to rank in the top 10 in both passing and rushing yards per game, ranking sixth in passing and second in rushing.

“Spencer is a guy that, you know, if you’re diving off the boat and there’s one life jacket, he’s going to throw it to you and try to lay on his back and float and wait for help. That’s just the guy he is, and that’s what makes him special,” said head coach Art Briles.

That loyalty and character allowed Drango to also be named as a Wuerffel Trophy nominee, which recognizes college football’s top community servant.

Drango’s mix of talent and high character have certainly helped him for the future, as Drango is projected to be a first round pick in the NFL Draft.

On the other side of the ball, Billings has been the enforcer on a Baylor defensive front line that is loaded with talent.

With junior lineman Shawn Oakman, Beau Blackshear and Jamal Palmer, Baylor has one of the best defensive fronts in the nation.

Billings, a three-year starter, has been the focus of opposing offenses all season. Despite Shawn Oakman’s presence on the outside, teams have chosen Billings to take out of the game.

“I’ve always been double teamed and triple teamed, but now they’re putting shots on me. They want to get me out of the way so they can get their ball running or thrown. So there’s a little more attention on me now,” said Billings.

Opposing teams have not been able to stop this season, despite the double and triple teams. The defensive tackle has registered 21 tackles on the season, eight of which are for loss. Billings’ play has earned him plenty of high praise all season.

Following the Bears’ 66-7 win against the Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas head coach David Beaty stated Billings was the best defensive tackle he had seen since Ndamukong Suh. Suh was wildly successful at Nebraska and placed fourth in the Heisman voting in 2009.

Billings recently went down with an ankle injury against West Virginia. While he returned to field later in the game, he exited again shortly and did not return. Panic was abound in McLane Stadium when Billings went down, as the crowd was as silent as it has been in its short existence. However, Billings was evaluated and was determined to just have a sprain and will be questionable this weekend against Iowa State.

With Drango and Billings both controlling the trenches for Baylor, the Bears look primed to capture to their third straight Big 12 title.

The Bears top ESPN’s football power index and have the 18th toughest remaining schedule in the nation. For the Bears to run the gauntlet and secure a spot in the college football playoff, the health and continued dominance of Drango and Billings will be essential.