Shawn Oakman, Andrew Billings form ideal alliance for Baylor

DALLAS -- One plays the role of the badger, doing the dirty work underground to dig out the squirrel or chase it above ground. The other plays the role of the coyote, using quickness and agility to capture the squirrel or force it underground.

Both are quite effective on their own yet are more effective alongside each other. It's the ideal alliance.

Sounds a lot like Baylor's devastating defensive line duo of Shawn Oakman and Andrew Billings.

While Oakman takes care of the perimeter, corralling quick running backs or forcing quarterbacks to step up in the pocket, Billings cleans up in the middle, causing havoc for opponents' blocking schemes while being a disruptor in the interior. Both Bears would be standouts on a defensive line that didn't include the other but both are stars while on the field together.

Oakman is an offense's nightmare from his defensive end spot, swallowing up perimeter runs while using his size (6-foot-9, 280 pounds), athleticism and strength to constantly get to the quarterback. He finished with 51 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, eight quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles as a junior.

"He keeps people inside," Billings said during Big 12 media days last week. "And if they can't get outside, they have to come to me."

And Billings is just as disruptive from his defensive tackle position, often overpowering offensive lineman with his unique strength and power. He had 37 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, nine quarterback hurries and one forced fumble as a sophomore.

"He brings double teams, somebody else to focus on," Oakman said. "You can't double team me all the time, you have to worry about what he's doing. He's just as capable of making plays in the backfield as I am. If he does things the right way, it makes it 10 times easier."

All told, the duo combined for 31 tackles for loss as the Big 12's top defensive line duo in 2014.

Oakman entered last season with plenty of fanfare, particularly after a sophomore campaign that saw him rack up 12.5 tackles for loss in a backup role in 2013. Yet it was Billings' breakout season that really took the defensive line to another level as the Bears earned a conference championship ring for the second straight season.

"He's a freak of nature," Oakman said. "Y'all talk about me but no, it's guys like that, that help me make the plays I make. I've [always] noticed [his ability]. Everyone else is just starting to take notice. I've known everything he can be and will be. He just has to push himself."

It's not a coincidence that Baylor's rise to the top of the conference standings has coincided with an upgrade in its talent along the defensive line. With Oakman and Billings (along with an underrated Beau Blackshear) the Bears have a defensive front that could be among the nation's best this fall.

"I saw we had a chance to do something great here. That's why I came," Billings said. "We're getting better, getting recognized and now that we know where we're at compared to other people and they're comparing themselves to us."