Hazen grad returns as UND’s starting strong safety, leader

Eleven months ago, University of North Dakota safeties coach Benny Boyd summoned starting strong safety Baylee Carr to his office.

Boyd closed the door and shared news with Carr that no starter wants to hear: “due to insufficient play” he lost his starting role. He’d now come off the bench.

Carr, a 2010 Hazen High School graduate, was furious; not at Boyd, but at himself.

“He was disappointed,” Boyd said. “It was visible in his face and he walked out of the room.”

Thirty seconds later, Carr returned with a determined look in his eyes. He sat back down and said, “What do I have to do to earn my spot back?”

The two discussed ways Carr needed to improve, how the redshirt sophomore could ascend to the top of the depth chart.

The moment Boyd is most proud of happened next.

Said Boyd: “He looked me in the eye and pointed at me and said, ‘I’m going to earn my spot back.'”

The 5-foot-9, 195-pound Carr stayed true to his word.

When UND hosted Northern Arizona for its homecoming game on Oct. 15, the public address announcer bellowed the name of the home team’s starting strong safety to the 9,742 fans at the Alerus Center: “Baylee Carr.”

“A couple of games he did come off the bench and then based on his play and how consistent he started to be, how thorough he was, he earned his spot back,” Boyd said. “I don’t envision him losing that the rest of his time here.”

Carr started the final five games of the 2012 season and finished with a team-best 57 tackles. Now a redshirt junior, he returns this season as one of UND’s top players.

As UND begins its second year in the Big Sky Conference and the Football Championship Subdivision, Carr figures to serve in another capacity.

“I really feel like I need to step up and be a leader for the younger guys,” Carr said. “I need to have a great year, and more than anything be a leader for my teammates, whether they’re younger than me or just need some leadership.”

Carr fulfilled leadership duties during his standout career at Hazen, so it’s a position he’s comfortable assuming, he said.

In UND’s check-based defensive scheme, the strong safety is the defense’s equivalent of a quarterback. UND coach Chris Mussman said Carr’s presence has been integral throughout preseason camp.

“He was out the last couple days for family reasons and it was just different with him not being there,” Mussman said. “Getting lined up, getting adjusted to formations and all the different motions – tight end trades and all that stuff – that’s Baylee’s strong suit. He understands the game, he understands our defense and he gets us lined up where we need to be to give ourselves an opportunity.”

Carr’s presence may be felt for years to come, too. Mussman expects him to mentor the team’s young safeties. He described Carr, a three-time Athletics Director Award of Merit recipient and a member of the 2012 All-Big Sky Academic Team, as the consummate student-athlete.

“He knows not only how to play the game, but how to be a college football player,” Mussman said. “How to act, how to be professional. That’s Baylee in a nutshell. He’s a professional and he carries himself that way. He’s universally respected by his teammates.”

Notes: Mussman said he expects redshirt freshman offensive lineman Dustin Adams, a Minot High School product, to be in the mix for playing time “if not early, later on in the season for sure.” The Northern Illinois transfer is coming off a recurring knee injury. … Minot grad Alex Nelson, a junior linebacker, and Harvey High School grad Tucker Nordby, a redshirt freshman tight end, could see playing time on special teams, Mussman said.