By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
In 2021, Baylor football used a “take three” mentality on defense that was started by former associate head coach Joey McGuire. The basis of the mindset was that if the Bears forced three turnovers in one game, the odds of winning were greatly increased.
McGuire’s greedy approach proved effective, as Baylor finished third in the nation in turnover margin last season on the way to a 12-win campaign. With McGuire now being the head football coach at Texas Tech University, the 2021 Big 12 champs have a new gimmick to fire themselves up.
“We have a new little saying: robbers and jackers,” fifth-year safety Christian Morgan said. “Coach C.Y. [linebacker coach Caleb Collins] came up with it for turnovers, and it’s going to be good for us. We want turnovers to be real high.”
Junior linebacker Will Williams gave his best description of the new mantra the defense is using to help take the football from opposing offenses.
“If you take something from somebody, you’re going to go to jail,” Williams said. “It’s like, we’re going to take the football. We’re like jackers and robbers. So [we’re] really motivated.”
The motto started late in fall camp and is still a new concept, but sophomore defensive back AJ McCarty said it’s a way defensive players can be more amped up to force turnovers.
“I think that’s really cool because it just makes us want to attack the ball more and more aggressively, so it’ll carry over to the game,” McCarty said.
Even though it’s a fresh mindset, the coaches give out small prizes to guys on defense who take the football from the offense in camp. Those small gifts have already increased motivation for the athletes.
“Of course there’s a prize after,” Williams said. “Every time you get the ball out or you get a pick or interception, [we get] candy or we’re going to get T-shirts and bracelets. That brings out more competition.”
Williams does have a favorite prize so far, even though they aren’t as lucrative as they might be later on in the season.
“The prizes haven’t really been established, but I’ve gotten candy already,” Williams said. “I do enjoy the candy.
Along with this, he said having a mantra like robbers and jackers has instilled new life and motivation to the defense.
“When you give yourself jackers and robbers, it makes you look forward to doing something new,” Williams said. “You focus on just wanting to hit the ball [or] trying to get the ball out.”
In the 2021 Big 12 championship game, the Bears intercepted Oklahoma State University’s offense four times. Despite the game coming down to literal inches, the group most likely would not have been in a spot to win had the defense not stepped up.
Months later, the team still embodies making those splash plays in order to give possession back to the offense.
“We take a lot of pride in that,” junior safety Devin Neal said. “Forcing turnovers is really what gets everything going. We have a wonderful offense, and we’d do anything to get the ball back in their hands.”
The secondary will look a lot different this year after losing JT Woods, Jalen Pitre, Kalon Barnes, Raleigh Texada and Jairon McVea to the NFL draft. It’s not easy to replace those positions, but Morgan played alongside those guys and is returning for his fifth year.
He saw firsthand how those guys approached practice and games, and he knows it won’t be easy to replicate similar success. To him, having a strong work ethic will put them in the best position to reach their goals.
“I feel like these two groups are completely different,” Morgan said. “Last year’s group really came in every day and we worked … So no, I’m not going to say this group is going to be better. We have to come in [and] we have to work every day, because we have high standards that we want to achieve.”
McCarty, who played behind the other cornerbacks, is confident in this year’s secondary.
“We have guys that are just as capable to do the same thing that we did last year, maybe even better,” McCarty said. “Especially if we can all connect as a team, everything will just be more smooth.”
Keep an eye on the Baylor sidelines this season, as there may be some sort of prop, dance or gesture indicating the robbers and jackers gimmick. It’s all part of what Williams described as Baylor’s culture.
“When I think of culture, I think of family,” Williams said. “We built our own family here at Baylor University where we keep pounding the rock [and] we have the jackers and robbers. We find our own little things to motivate ourselves, [and] it continues to push us to get a Big 12 championship or national championship.”
If the gimmick works like “take three” did, Williams said robbers and jackers has the potential to stick with Baylor football for a long time.
“Jackers and robbers, I feel like that’s going to be staying around with Baylor as long as [coach] Caleb is here,” Williams said.