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 well said talent gets translated to the football field. 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.
18. Antonio Jones
Position: Outside Linebacker
Year: Redshirt Senior
2003 All-DFW Underclassmen Team
2004 District Defensive Player of the Year
2004 Team MVP
2008 Stats: 71 tackles, five for loss, three sacks, two pass breakups, one forced fumble, one pass breakup
Highest Ranking: 11
Lowest Ranking: Unranked
Bio: "Under-the-radar" is the perfect description for Antonio Jones. Even after racking up 156 tackles, 44 for a loss, eight forced fumbles, and six sacks on route to receiving every accolade under the sun in high school, Jones was pegged a two star linebacker by Rivals and was offered by only two other Big 12 schools.
After running a 4.59 on a wet surface in College Station at a Nike combine, Jones initially committed to Georgia Tech prior to the start of his senior season. After a visit to Baylor only weeks before National Signing Day, however, Jones switched his commitment to the Bears over Georgia Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Vanderbilt, and others.
Coming into Baylor at 200 pounds, Jones red shirted in 2006 to add some much needed weight on his 6-foot-2 frame. The next season, Jones started the first three games and went on to record at least two tackles in all but two games during his red shirt freshman season, finishing seventh on the squad with 44 tackles.
After battling injuries for a significant part of the 2007 season, Jones came back with a vengeance at the start of 2008, corralling a career-high nine tackles against Wake Forest, while also making his first ever solo tackle for a loss in the same game. The rest of the season, Jones was one of only eight bears to start all 12 games and finished the season fourth on the team with 71 tackles.
Blair: The term "veteran savvy" is fitting here. Jones rarely makes mistakes and is a key role player on a very experienced Baylor linebacker corps. Although he tied for 2nd on the team in sacks with three last year, often times the majority of Jones' tackles came past the line of scrimmage, something the big 'backer needs to work on in 2009. Still, Jones is without a doubt one of the key cogs in Brian Norwood's defense.
Fletcher: Antonio Jones has been one of the most talented linebackers on campus since his freshmen year, and last year he was able to put everything together and start every game. With his ability to rush the passer, stop the run and play in pass coverage he is likely the team's most all-around complete linebacker.
Todd: A dependable player who had two of his best games against Nebraska and Texas. Does well in the classroom and that translates onto the field. The exact kind of performer the Bears' defense needs as it seeks consistency from game to game.
20. Tim Atchison
18. Antareis Bryan
17. Antonio Jones