Baylor’s best defensive performances of the 2016 have occurred when their linebackers stepped up to the plate. For this specific post, I’m including nickelbacks in the lineup where two of my favorite players reside. Linebackers are my most beloved football players and this season’s group is one of the best. Although they’ve been dealt a difficult card this season, the linebacker core has tried their best to succeed on the field and turn the ball over to the offense. Led by senior Aiavion Edwards, the tackle-happy crew is extremely successful when they’re energized and focused on stopping the run game.
Although Edwards shined in high school at runningback, defensive back, safety, kick returner and linebacker, the latter is where he continues to succeed in college. The 6-1 230 lb defensive leader has the size and speed needed to sack QBs and tackle the ball carriers. His physical presence is dominant on the field and his offensive stops always occur when most needed (i.e.: forced fumble recovered in the end zone against UNC, stopped two-point conversion against Texas). In his redshirt freshman season, Edwards totaled 20 tackles, one and a half sacks and one pass breakup. In 2014, Edwards’ numbers improved where he recorded 35 tackles, a half sack, three pass breakups, a forced fumble, fumble recovery and one QB hurry. Last year, he greatly developed with 61 tackles, two sacks, two pass breakups, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble and a QB hurry. Taylor Young had a phenomenal freshman season as he collected All-American and Defensive Newcomer of the Year titles and recorded 92 tackles, four sacks, three pass breakups, two QB hurries, two forced fumbles and an interception. His sophomore year was a little less productive as he totaled 80 tackles, four sacks, two QB hurries, one pass breakup and one forced fumble. Young’s smaller size allows him to fly all over the field and surprise QBs with sacks. Raaquan Davis has had the opportunity to contribute more on the field this season. He’s a lean muscular machine who, although not as quick as Edwards, makes an impact when he pays attention to the run game. His redshirt freshman and sophomore seasons weren’t extremely prolific as he only recorded 16 and 22 tackles respectively. However, he’s gotten more of a chance to participate alongside Edwards, Young and NB Travon Blanchard. Blanchard and Patrick Levels are two of my all-time favorite players on the team because of their agility and talent. Blanchard has been a huge contributor to the defense both with his energetic personality and natural gifts. In 2014, Blanchard recorded 31 tackles, one interception and a QB hurry. Last year his numbers exploded as he became a massive gift for the football team, recording 83 tackles, seven and a half tackles for loss, two sacks, six pass breakups, two interceptions, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, one QB hurry and a blocked punt. Blanchard is long and lean but his physical strength is phenomenal. Levels participated with the special teams squad over the past three years as NB. In his first two seasons he recorded 14 tackles and one forced fumble and five tackles respectively. His 2015 numbers improved as he totaled 18 tackles, one sack, two pass breakups, three QB hurries and a forced fumble. This year, Levels has used his small size to his advantage and disrupted nearly every offense. The rest of the linebacker core includes Thomas Cletcher, Chad Kelly, Lenoy Jones Jr. (a future star), Iain Hunter, Allen Anderson, Jordan Williams, Deonte Williams, Clay Johnston, Kyle Boyd, Michael McNair and Koby Bullard.