Emerging leader: Doyle steps up his game

Dillon Doyle (5) is stepping into an increased role after losing wingman Terrel Bernard. Baylor University Photography Database photo.

By AnnaGrace Hale | Sports Writer

Defense wins champion-ships, and Baylor football knows this from experience. Look at Dec. 4, 2021, when Jairon McVea stuffed Oklahoma State University’s offense on the goal line to win the Big 12 Championship. This season, fifth-year senior linebacker Dillion Doyle looks to continue defensive success by stepping up to command the Bears’ defense as a leader, mentor and teacher.

Now that prominent Baylor names like Terrel Bernard, JT Woods and Jalen Pitre have left Waco to embark on their NFL journeys, Doyle has taken on a larger role. The defensive unit now looks to the Iowa City, Iowa, native for guidance.

“Having that teacher’s mindset once you know the material and helping everyone around you [is important],” Doyle said. “I got that from Jalen Pitre, I got that from Terrel Bernard. That’s kind of the culture we’ve built at Baylor, and I’m just really proud to be a part of that and to be a part of that servant leadership mindset that Coach [Dave] Aranda preaches.”

Doyle came to Baylor as a sophomore in 2020 after playing in the Big Ten for the the University of Iowa. Since then, he has found success on both sides of the football. He finished last season recording 91 tackles — the second-most on the team — coupled with two touchdowns as part of the offense. Doyle has received numerous honors while at Baylor, including All-Big 12 honorable mentions in 2020 and 2021.

A veteran player among the linebackers, Doyle has become the quarterback of the defense, not only learning plays for himself but also teaching them to his teammates.

“Dillion makes time to make his own cuts; he studies it,” Aranda said. “We talked about, ‘You get all this information. You’re collecting dots, putting it together.’ Being able to teach it is the connection of the dots. He does that. What a valuable lesson for some of our younger guys. He is being a mentor to them, and I think he is well on his way to having a really good season.”

Baylor football vs. Ole Miss at the Sugar Bowl on January 1, 2022. 
Baylor University Photography Database photo.
Dillon Doyle played a vital role in Baylor football's successful 12-win season, capped off by a Sugar Bowl win. Baylor University Photography Database photo.

Even seasoned players, such as junior linebacker Matt Jones, continue to learn from Doyle. The linebacker group this year is big, but Jones said with size comes depth and talent with Doyle at the front.

“He’s done a great job of taking charge, being a leader, getting to know every single one of the inside linebackers,” Jones said. “He’s real good at bringing everyone together, and he’s teaching me a lot.”

Additionally, Doyle has gained respect outside of the linebacker group, and other defensive players look up
to him.

“He’s been one of those people who has been a vocal leader and one of those people who lead by example every day,” senior defensive lineman TJ Franklin said. “He gets everywhere on time beforehand. He comes and does extra work after practice. He’s one of those players who lives what he talks.”

Doyle heads this defensive corps with a relationship mindset, being open and willing to help.

“I would say it is a responsibility, but I think it is just serving the guys around me,” Doyle said. “It’s asking what they need. It’s asking if I can help them do anything to learn the defense better, if I can help them with a technique here or there.”

The Bears’ defense will be tested in the season opener as they guard McLane Stadium against the University of Albany on Saturday.

“McLane is a special place to all of us,” Doyle said. “When we step on this turf, everything is intentional, and we want to really put our brand on tape and make sure we are playing Baylor football and being intentional, focused and driven in all that we do.”