New Baylor DL coach Inoke Breckterfield settles in with ‘winning in the details’ motto

The Bears' defense allowed the most points per game (33.3) in the Big 12 during the 2023 season. Camie Jobe | Photographer

By Michael Haag | Sports Editor

New Baylor football defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield kept repeating “winning in the details” throughout Monday’s media availability.

Breckterfield, who was hired on March 7, said his first point of emphasis was to rewire the team’s mindset and be intentional each day with that motto.

“I think the art is lost with winning in the details and then bringing physicality behind all that,” said Breckterfield, who hasn’t even been in Waco a full three weeks.

The former Washington defensive line coach from 2022-23 said that mindset is very detail-oriented and is imperative for spring camp.

“We know we’re here. We know we’re there,” Breckterfield said. “But it’s like, ‘How do I do it? How do I get there?’”

Breckterfield was hired by head coach Dave Aranda after Dennis Johnson left the Bears for the defensive line coaching job with the Baltimore Ravens. Johnson’s move to Baltimore became official on Feb. 26, but it was reported as early as Feb. 21.

Baylor is getting a defensive line coach who helped the Huskies reach the national championship game in 2023, and Breckterfield also served as Aranda’s defensive line coach at Wisconsin during the 2015 season.

That was Aranda’s final year leading the Badgers defense, and it led the nation in scoring defense and ranked second in total defense.

But for the returning D-linemen on the Bears’ front line, they had to get used to a new face leading the unit. Sophomore defensive lineman Trey Wilson said he and his teammates have responded well to the staff movement.

“A coaching change is never easy,” Wilson said. “Dave did a good job of bringing in somebody who fits the culture and fits everything we taught.”

Wilson played all but one game last season as a true freshman and recorded one sack, two tackles for loss and a fumble recovery. The Garland native said he’ll be tasked with even more snaps in 2024, as he’s already becoming more of a vocal leader.

“It’s kind of three or four people in the [D-line] room who are able to speak for certain things, so I feel obligated to speak and call out stuff when I see it because I’ve been in it for a little bit now,” Wilson said. “Hopefully [I] take it to the next level.”

Baylor has to weather the losses of TJ Franklin and Gabe Hall, who are both set to participate in this weekend’s first-ever Big 12 Pro Day in Frisco. The Bears are also nimble up front, as Jerrell Boykins Jr. and Tre Emory medically retired from collegiate football.

That opens two interior lineman holes that they’ll look to fill through the transfer portal, according to Aranda last week. Redshirt junior defensive lineman Jackie Marshall, who’s fully recovered from a torn ACL suffered last spring, said the D-line group is still in a “good place right now” despite those losses.

“[I] was kind of worried at first because we have a young group, but no, we’ve been stepping up in practice,” Marshall said after the Bears’ third spring practice of 2024. “Really proud of this group.”

Baylor had the second-worst rushing defense in the Big 12 last year in terms of rushing yards allowed per game (184.9). The Bears also tied with Houston by giving up the most rushing touchdowns in the league (27), and teams averaged five yards per carry on the Baylor front seven.

The Bears also tied for the second-fewest sacks (18) in the conference, and they gave up the most points per game (33.3).

Defensive coordinator Matt Powledge is staying in the same role for 2024, but Aranda will take over playcalling duties on that side of the ball.

Breckterfield said his D-line unit is a talented bunch that will look much better after the spring.

“I think the physicality has to be picked up a bit more,” Breckterfield said. “I think the ‘what to do in the playbook’ — we have to get better at that. … I think it’s just about winning in the details right now.”