With the season drawing near, we are counting down the 20 most important players on the 2009 Baylor football team. Each member of the SicEmSports staff turned in a ballot of their top players in the program, basing their decisions on pure talent and how important their play this year will be to the Baylor program. Opinions differed and some great players were left just outside the cut, but at the end of the day, these were the 20 Bears at the top.
11. Antonio Johnson
Position: Weakside Linebacker
2006 Waco Tribune-Herald Super Centex Defensive Player of the Year
2006 District 16-4A defensive MVP
2006 Class 4A all-state honorable mention
Highest Ranking: 11
Lowest Ranking: 17
Bio: While scouts have used the word "undersized" to describe Antonio Johnson his whole career, the word "production" is more appropriate. As a senior at Waco high school, the hometown prospect racked up an amazing 17 sacks and 24 tackles for a loss as a defensive end, only to be rewarded with two total offers. At 6-foot-1, 200-pounds, the Waco Tribune-Herald Defensive Player of the Year and District MVP just didn't fit the mold.
Three years later, Antonio Johnson is still proving his critics wrong. As a true freshman, Johnson filled in as a reserve pass rusher for the Bears in 11 games and finished the year with 16 tackles, 0.5 tackles for a loss, and one fumbled recovery.
With the arrival of Art Briles, Johnson made the move to linebacker - a position the now 210-pound Johnson is still undersized for - and immediately assumed a primary role in Brian Norwood's defense. Last season, Johnson finished the year 3rd in tackles with 72 and 5th in tackles for a loss with five.
Blair: Without question, Antonio Johnson is a top 3 player on the Baylor defense. He's never the biggest guy on the field, but with the spread offenses in the Big 12 he doesn't have to be. With his pass rush skills and Baylor's recent lack of pressure up front, look for Johnson to be blitzing off the edge this year several times a game.
Fletcher: Johnson's speed at the linebacker is pivotal in the pass happy Big 12.
Todd: Jones is an experienced player who, because of his speed, can do a lot of different things for the Baylor defense. He had a great opening game last year against Wake Forest. The Bears could sure use a repeat of that.
20. Tim Atchison
18. Antareis Bryan
17. Antonio Jones
16. Derek Epperson
15. Earl Patin
14. Jarred Salubi
13. James Barnard
12. Trey Bryant
11. Antonio Johnson