Since the beginning of the sport of football’s existence, winning the turnover battle has been a positive thing for any team. But the Baylor Bears and defensive coordinator Phil Snow realize that they need a drastic improvement in that department to try and improve on the one-win campaign of a year ago.
So as Baylor gears up for the 2018 season, Snow told the Waco Tribune his goal is to have his defense lead the Big 12 in turnovers and rack up 40 sacks during the 12-game schedule. Snow said, “If you can create turnovers and not give up big plays, you’re going to win a lot of football games. That’s what we’re trying to do. Last year, we only had 11 turnovers. You’re not going to win the league with 11 turnovers. We have got to start getting the football, whether we catch it or strip it, and we’re starting to do a better job of that. We’ll see if that carries over into the ballgames.”
The Bears were also -14 in turnover margin, which was second worst in the Big 12, only ahead of the Kansas Jayhawks. The Bears’ three interceptions were the fewest in the conference, as KU had four. Baylor also struggled in the sack department, piling up just 23 on the season, ahead of only Kansas and Texas Tech.
During the heyday of Baylor football under Art Briles, the Bears defense was more important and effective than it was given credit for. In 2014, Baylor was second in the Big 12 Conference with a +13 in turnover margin, second behind only TCU. The Bears also ranked second with 26 turnovers forced. That season, Baylor also had 37 sacks, which was 3rd in the Big 12, and three shy of Phil Snow’s goal for the upcoming season. In 2013, the Bears were also top three in the Big 12 Conference in turnover margin and sacks. Baylor went a combined 22-4 over those two years and finished 1st or T-1st in the conference.
Last season, Texas Tech led the Big 12 in turnover margin at +11, helping the team improve to bowl eligibility and possibly saving Kliff Kingsbury’s job for at least one more season. In the sack department, TCU led the way with 42, and the Horned Frogs found themselves playing for a Big 12 Championship in early December.
So while the offense is often times the focus for the Big 12 and its fans, a ball-hawking and opportunistic defense can make all the difference in the world.
The Bears have been dealing with minor injuries in the secondary during camp, with cornerbacks Jameson Houston, Harrison Hand, Grayland Arnold and Derrek Thomas working through issues. But if the Bears are to make a run at a bowl game this season to continue Matt Rhule’s rebuild, these will be the names to keep an eye on, along with a veteran defensive line. The pressure in on them.