A lot of attention is being paid to Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman. There is no doubt that his play has allowed him to be mentioned as one of the better defensive players. Oakman is a quite a prospect himself, but there is another player on Baylor’s defensive line that brings it also. Defensive tackle Andrew Billings anchors the middle of the defensive line. He faces constant double teams and still makes plays. The plays don’t always show up in the stat book but those who watch film closely will see that plenty of the plays that other Baylor defenders make are because of how Billings occupies two gaps or pushes the pocket into the quarterback’s lap.
Billings is a preseason All American candidate. The junior has appeared on both the Chuck Bednarik and Bronko Nagurski Award watch list. Both awards honor the best college defensive player in the nation. The videos below are examples of why Billings is more than worthy of these awards.
Teams will try to design cutback lanes for running backs. West Virginia relied on their center to make an angle block on Billings which is supposed to open up a cutback lane. Billings gets off the ball quickly and gets his hands on the center first. He sees where the running back is trying to go and sheds the center’s block to make the tackle as the runner tries to cut back.
Premier players make others around them better. Teams run a lot of two gapping defensive schemes up front. This requires a defensive tackle that can own a double team. The defensive tackle has to sacrifice himself to allow linebackers to attack the gaps on blitzes. Billings occupies the blockers and gives the blitzing linebacker a free lane to rush the quarterback.
This play is effort personified. That’s a 300 pound man running tracking down Trevone Boykin, one of the elite playmakers in college football. This is a good time to mention that Billings has been clocked at 4.94 seconds in the 40 yard dash.
One of the most effective ways to rattle a quarterback is to push the pocket back into his lap. The site of seeing one of their personal protectors getting walked back into their private space sickens quarterbacks. At times, they may short arm a throw or not step into the throw fearing that they can bang their hand on the backpedaling lineman’s helmet as they follow through. That can cause them to lose velocity. In this case, if the outside blitzer could flatten out, he would get the easy sack as the quarterback tried to flee.
Defenses have gotten more sophisticated. Coaches rely on players to fulfill roles that they traditionally are not required to. An athlete like Billings can move in space despite his size. Here he drops back into coverage and actually takes away the quarterback’s first read, the wide receiver on the slant route. There isn’t much not to like about Billings. He gives everything he has on every snap. Billings can rush the passer and is dominant against the run. He will draw double teams most of the time but when he doesn’t, it often leads to a loss of yards for the offense. Billings definitely has the nasty streak that most top defenders possess: