Baylor Bears

Ryan Reid has come a long way since arriving at Baylor

Baylor Bears cornerback Ryan Reid (9) returns an interception for a touchdown during the game between the Baylor Bears and the Kansas Jayhawks at McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas, (Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire)
(Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire)

Two years ago, if a Baylor fan was told Ryan Reid would turn into one of the Big 12’s best corners, the response would have either been a laugh or a rant about how he’s been a liability. It’s true, his coverage in his sophomore year was prone to being beaten deep. To make matters worse, he would also fall victim to pass interference calls left and right.

TCU’s first drive in what would become the most iconic game of the College Football Playoff era so far ended in a touchdown with Reid being called for interference and giving up a touchdown on third and 16. Despite having 12 passes defended, ranking second behind Xavien Howard, it was stretches of plays like that against TCU that Reid became remembered for.

To be fair, that 2014 defensive backfield was a liability all around, even Howard, who was a second-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Turn to 2016. Despite all the departures, including Howard leaving a year early, Baylor’s defense looks second to none in the Big 12. There’s a case to be made that its production and efficiency has to do with the weak schedule it’s faced so far, but any team stopping over half its opponents’ passes that also has a passer rating of 93.0 (ranked fourth in the FBS) is worth taking a deeper dive into.

Reid has been helped by the rise of sophomore cornerback Verkedrick Vaughns who leads the team with six passes defended, and senior safety Orion Stewart’s four interceptions lead the conference. By comparison to those two, Reid’s stat line of two interceptions, two tackles, and no passes batted down yet looks pedestrian at best, but his numbers are helped by considering he has missed time since the SMU game in Week 2.

But in his limited availability, Reid became an island few quarterbacks have dared to target, with Kansas’ Ryan Willis being the lone exception, throwing two interceptions, the first of which was taken to the house. That brought Reid the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week award, and with it, more appreciation for how’s developed in two years. He’s not just a starter anymore, but a bona fide leader.

It all starts in the film room where Reid partly credits his two interceptions during homecoming.

“The first thing, we game-planned for the outs and just certain routes that [Kansas] runs,” Reid said after the game. “The second thing is, I just put it in God’s hand. I had faith all season.”

Having Reid play against Baylor’s only true competition, Oklahoma State, through seven weeks would help measure his growth better. The fact that James Washington was limited to just 89 yards on six receptions without Reid in the lineup should indicate that Reid’s success this season has something to do with scheme and game planning, as it was Vaughns and Tion Wright in charge of locking up Washington.

But entirely dismissing Reid’s value is just as faulty. He’s become that player Baylor can turn to when offenses start making their move, like Kansas was, driving down the field to open the game. After Reid’s pick-six, Kansas rarely passed midfield and was held to possessions of five plays or less, unwilling to risk another turnover.

With another open date this weekend, Baylor takes on Texas next week right before the first playoff rankings are released. For Reid, that should strike fear in the rest of the conference. “We get to rest again, so everybody else should be worried about Baylor.”

Not only should they be worried about the Bears, but Reid himself, as well.

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