This will be the 1st meeting between the schools.
Baylor returns 15 starters and 47 letterman from last season's Holiday Bowl champion team.
Holiday Bowl champs set to begin season number six under Art Briles.
Twenty-three student-athletes sign National Letters of Intent to play for Bears.
Baylor and UCLA will match up for the first time on the gridiron Thursday.
No. 4 Football vs. No. 7 Michigan State (USA Today)
No. 5 Football vs. No. 9 Kansas State; photos by Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
In his fourth season as Baylor's defensive coordinator is Phil Bennett, a 36-year veteran with head coaching experience who has served as a DC at eight schools. In addition to a six-year stint as head coach at SMU, Bennett has supervised defenses in the Big 12, SEC, Big Ten, Big East and Big Eight.
Bennett has built a defense at Baylor that proved to be the difference in the Bears march to the 2013 Big 12 championship. The 2013 Baylor D led the nation in three-and-outs (6.38 per game) and finished ninth in yards allowed per-play (4.75). It also led the Big 12 in two other categories, lowest completion percentage (48.2 percent) and fourth down conversions (.250).
The 2013 defense had seven players earn All-Big 12 honors, including All-American safety and NFL Draft pick (Cowboys) Ahmad Dixon. Cornerback Demetri Goodson was also an NFL Draft selection (Packers). Bennett was named a finalist for 2013 Defensive Coordinator of the Year by FootballScoop.
Baylor's 2012 defense, which boasted five All-Big 12 honorees, played a huge role in BU winning five of its final six games. Over the final five regular-season games, Bennett's defense averaged 2.6 takeaways per contest. In its final game, a dominating 49-26 Holiday Bowl win over No. 17 UCLA, Baylor allowed just 33 yards on 28 rushing attempts and held the Bruins' offense to 1-of-17 on third-down conversions.
In his first season in Waco, his 2011 defense produced seven All-Big 12 performers, including second-team NT Nicolas Jean-Baptiste. The Bears finished 10-3 and won the 2011 Alamo Bowl en route to a No. 12 final ranking; during a six-game winning streak to end the season, Bennett's defense accounted for 19 takeaways.
A native of Marshall, Texas, Bennett joined Art Briles' staff in January 2011 following three seasons as defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh. In his final game at Pitt (one day after his hire at Baylor was announced), Bennett led the Panthers as interim head coach to a victory in the 2011 BBVA Compass Bowl - a 27-10 win over Kentucky.
Pittsburgh finished 8-5 in 2010 and ranked eighth nationally in total defense under Bennett; 17th against the run and 22nd against the pass. Four members of Bennett's defense earned 2010 All-Big East honors, including defensive end Jabaal Sheard, who was selected as the league's Defensive Player of the Year. It marked the third consecutive year a Panther was tabbed as the Big East's top defender.
Pitt played in bowl games all three seasons during Bennett's tenure (2010 BBVA Compass, 2009 Meineke Car Care and 2008 Brut Sun). The Panthers' defense ranked 23rd nationally in 2009 (319.31 ypg) and 27th nationally in Bennett's first season in 2008 (317.2 ypg).
In 2009, Pitt led the nation in sacks (3.62 spg, 47 total) and ranked 17th in rushing defense (106.31 ypg) and 19th in scoring defense (19.77 ppg). Six members of Pitt's defense were named to the 2009 All-Big East Team, including the Co-Defensive Players of the Year in defensive end Greg Romeus and defensive tackle Mick Williams.
Bennett joined the Panthers after serving as head coach at SMU from 2002-07. While rebuilding the program at SMU, Bennett improved the Mustangs' win total for three straight seasons, including his 2006 team that reached bowl eligibility and achieved the program's highest victory total in a decade. That squad also received the American Football Coaches Association's (AFCA) 2006 Academic Achievement Award after SMU earned a 100 percent graduation rate for its freshman class of 2000-01.
Prior to SMU, Bennett was the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at Kansas State for three years (1999-2001). During his tenure, the Wildcats finished among the nation's top five in total defense each season, including second in 1999 (235.0 ypg), fourth in 2000 (270.54) and third in 2001 (262.36).
Bennett's secondary units were equally impressive, finishing in the top 10 in pass efficiency defense each year. The 1999 Wildcats led the entire country in pass efficiency defense with an impressive 65.7 rating. They also topped the nation in turnover margin (1.55), collecting 21 interceptions and 17 fumbles. Two of his standouts in the secondary, Dyshod Carter and Jerametrius Butler, became just the second pair of KSU teammates to record 10 or more career interceptions. Both went on to play in the NFL.
In 1998, Bennett served as secondary coach and co-recruiting coordinator at Oklahoma as he helped the Sooners finish sixth nationally in total defense. In 1997, he was the defensive coordinator at TCU and helped the Horned Frogs earn their highest defensive rankings in five years.
Bennett was the defensive coordinator at Texas A&M from 1995-96. American Football Quarterly named him its 1995 "Defensive Coordinator of the Year" after the Aggies ranked in the nation's top 10 in every major defensive category, including total defense (third), scoring defense (third) and pass efficiency defense (second).
From 1991-94, Bennett served at LSU, including his final three seasons as assistant head coach. In 1994 he was the Tigers' defensive coordinator. That season, LSU led the Southeastern Conference in every major defensive category and finished eighth nationally in total defense. Bennett's positional focus was the outside linebackers his first three seasons and the secondary his final year in Baton Rouge.
Prior to LSU, Bennett held defensive coordinator posts at Purdue (1987-90) and Iowa State (1984-86). In 1983 he coached linebackers at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas and in 1982 he coached TCU's tight ends and tackles. Bennett began his coaching career at Texas A&M as a part-time defensive ends coach from 1979-80 before assuming a full-time position in 1981.
Bennett is a 1978 graduate of Texas A&M with a B.S. in education. He was an All-SWC defensive end for the Aggies, helping them earn invitations to the Sun, Bluebonnet and Liberty bowls during his career. He and his wife Julie are the parents of four children, Sam, Maddie, Katie (Baylor graduate and soccer letterwinner) and Megan.
|THE BENNETT FILE|
|Born||Dec. 3, 1955|
|College||Texas A&M, 1978|
|Family||Wife: Julie Children: Sam, Maddie, Katie & Megan|
|College||Texas A&M Defensive End|
|1978-81||Texas A&M Defensive Ends|
|1982||TCU Tight Ends & Tackles|
|1983||MacArthur HS Linebackers|
|1984-86||Iowa State Defensive Coordinator|
|1987-90||Purdue Defensive Coordinator|
|1991||LSU Outside Linebackers|
|1992-93||LSU Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers|
|1994||LSU Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator|
|1995-96||Texas A&M Defensive Coordinator|
|1997||TCU Defensive Coordinator/Secondary|
|1998||Oklahoma Secondary/Co-Recruiting Coordinator|
|1999-01||Kansas State Defensive Coordinator|
|2002-07||SMU Head Coach|
|2007-10||Pittsburgh Defensive Coordinator|
|2011-present||Baylor Defensive Coordinator|
|1975||Liberty Bowl (player)|
|1977||Sun Bowl (player)|
|1977||Bluebonnet Bowl (player)|
|1978||Hall of Fame Bowl (assistant coach)|
|1981||Independence Bowl (Assistant coah)|
|1995||Alamo Bowl (assistant coach)|
|1999||Holiday Bowl (assistant coach)|
|2001||Cotton Bowl (assistant coach)|
|2001||Insight.com Bowl (assistant coach)|
|2008||Brut Sun Bowl (assistant coah)|
|2009||Meineke Car Care Bowl (assistant coach)|
|2010||BBVA Compass Bowl (interim head coach)|
|2011||Valero Alamo Bowl (defensive coordinator)|
|2012||Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl (defensive coordinator)|
|2014||Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (defensive coordinator)|
|2015||Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (defensive coordinator)|