By Will Chamblee | Sports Writer
The Dave Aranda-era of Baylor football is in full swing and Baylor’s inaugural season under the first-year head coach promises to be as interesting and exciting as any.
While college football finds itself in the midst of an unprecedented time, Baylor enters the season with more question marks than most programs, especially on defense where the Bears must replace nine starters from last year’s unit.
In the face of uncertainty, Aranda seems positive and hopeful.
“I think our team has risen to the occasion, especially these last couple of practices,” Aranda said. “The more the chatter got louder in terms of possibly not playing and other people not playing, the better we played and the more together we were.”
To replace the lost defensive production, Aranda decided to dip into the transfer portal to help the Bears gain players with valuable Division I experience. The Bears welcomed linebackers William Bradley-King and Dillon Doyle to the roster this fall, both of whom will play an important role in leading the defense alongside junior linebacker Terrel Bernard.
Bradley-King, a graduate transfer from Arkansas State, is perhaps the most important recruit in the 2020 class for Baylor. The Kansas City, Mo., native is also a good fit for Aranda’s system, which is predicated on versatility and attacking the quarterback. Aranda expects his players to be responsible for different roles and be able to pressure the quarterback when needed.
In an interview with Bleacher Report in 2016, Aranda said his players need to be able to “trade jobs” so that multiple positions will be able to generate pressure on the quarterback.
“I think that forces the offense to have to play slow and play laterally as opposed to firing out and playing aggressively,” Aranda said.
Fortunately for Baylor, Bradley-King is fantastic at rushing the passer and possesses the skills necessary to play wide-defensive end if necessary. Defensive coordinator Ron Roberts has said as much, gushing over Bradley-King’s pass-rushing ability and versatility.
“[Bradley-King] is an elite pass rusher,” Roberts said. “He’s an every down guy for us. He can do multiple things from drop to rush to set an edge. He’s kind of what we’re looking for prototypical on that jack position.”
During his impressive career at Arkansas State, Bradley-King amassed 89 total tackles, 15.5 sacks and six forced fumbles during his three years there. He was also Second Team All-Sun Belt Conference during his junior season.
Bradley-King will fill an immediate need at outside linebacker for the Bears this season and will help replace Blake Lynch, who graduated last spring. Bradley-King’s pass-rushing ability should help him become a force to be reckoned with for Baylor.
Redshirt sophomore Dillon Doyle, a linebacker transferring from Iowa, is another player Aranda will rely on early to provide experience on defense. Aranda has been vocal about how impressed he’s been with Doyle in fall practices, citing his great “instincts,” “football IQ” and “toughness.”
Doyle played in all 13 games last season for the Hawkeyes, recording 23 total tackles and forcing one fumble. He was projected to start for Iowa this season before he entered the transfer portal.
Doyle has also impressed his fellow teammates. Bernard spoke about Doyle’s impact on the team in a recent press conference.
“Dillon is probably one of the smartest football players on the team,” Bernard said. “He’s a guy that comes in every day and he pushes me, he pushes everybody in the room to really get better.”
Doyle will play middle linebacker for the Bears, taking over for Clay Johnston. The sophomore could see the field early and often for the Bears as the position requires a lot of discipline and talent, especially in the Big 12.
Roberts said he’s confident that both will be able to rise to the occasion.
“I think we didn’t just add two players. We added two quality young men as well that kind of establish what Baylor’s all about,” Roberts said.