2011 Texas Tech Preview – Defense
Texas Tech S Cody Davis
Texas Tech S Cody Davis
Posted May 29, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Texas Tech Red Raider Defense

Texas Tech Red Raiders

Preview 2011 - Defense

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What You Need To Know: Do … your … job. New defensive coordinator Chad Glasgow is a high energy, fiery coach who's trying to get one of the nation's worst defenses into shape. At the same time, the D that finished 114th in the country has experience with seven starters returning and is also extremely young in several key areas. The big move will be to go to a 4-2-5 alignment with the goal to get as much speed and athleticism on the field as possible. Everything will be dialed down with Glasgow's goal to have each player do what he's supposed to do and not worry about anything else. A relatively simplified scheme should bring more production, but it also has to start stopping more good offenses. Shockingly, the defense was great on third downs and didn't give up a ton of big plays, but it got picked clean through the air. With five defensive backs, that should change.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Cody Davis, 87
Sacks: Kerry Hyder, Pearlie Graves, 2
Interceptions: Jarvis Phillips, 4

Star of the defense: Junior S Cody Davis
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior NT Donald Langley
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Cqulin Hubert
Best pro prospect: Sophomore SS Terrance Bullitt
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Davis, 2) Bullitt, 3) DE/LB Sam Fehoko
Strength of the defense: Speed, Athleticism
Weakness of the defense: Pass Defense, Size

Defensive Line

State of the Unit: The defense might have been an overall disaster, but the line wasn't all that bad with a decent year against the run and a good push into the backfield … occasionally. Now some work needs to be done after losing top tackle Colby Whitlock and star pass rusher Brian Duncan, but it's not time to panic. The tackle jobs are open and there are interesting options on the end, but the coaching staff has to find the right combination early on.

The early focus will likely be on the tackles with a dogfight for the starting jobs. 6-2, 274-pound senior Donald Langley isn't huge, but he's a strong option on the nose making 14 tackles in a reserve role. He's a pure 4-3 inside defender who has the potential to be an interior pass rusher, but now he needs to start doing it. While he'll see plenty of time, he could be quickly shoved aside for Pearlie Graves , a great-looking sophomore with 6-2, 286-pound size and terrific athleticism. He stepped up when called on last year making 14 tackles with two sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss, and the hope will be for him to become the main man in a Colby Whitlock sort of way.

6-2, 265-pound sophomore Kerry Hyder and 6-3, 284-pound senior Lawrence Rumph will battle it out at tackle. Hyder has beefed up a bit and is the tweener type who can be used as an interior pass rusher and could move to the outside if needed. He made 13 tackles with two sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss, and he should play a bigger role while Rumph, a former JUCO transfer, will try to do more after making nine tackles as a reserve. As one of the team's larger and stronger tackle options, he has to become a bigger factor.

Coming out of spring ball, senior linebacker Sam Fehoko was moved to defensive end where he could fill the hybrid pass rushing role left by Brian Duncan. The 6-0, 233-pound Fehoko made 40 tackles with two sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss, and while he's not huge, he's natural end who could blow into the backfield on a regular basis. He played end in high school, and now he'll have a shot at being a statistical star if redshirt freshman Jackson Richards doesn't own the left end job. The 6-3, 248-pounder was big in spring ball and showed off some of the pass rushing potential that made him such a top prospect. He could be a disruptive force.

Working on the right side, at least early on, will be sophomore Dartwan Bush after making nine tackles, a sack, and three tackles for loss as an interesting true freshman reserve. The tools are there, but he has to battle with rising sophomore Aundrey Barr for the right end job. The 6-2, 230-pound Barr has to fight through a knee injury that cost him time last year making just three tackles and a tackle for loss in three games. If and when he's right, he could be the team's best pure pass rusher.

Watch Out For … Duncan to not be missed. He was the team's star pass rusher and was the one everyone had to worry about, but the Red Raiders have several good players, especially if Fehoko stays at end, who can get into the backfield on a regular basis.
Strength: Youth. The last few recruiting classes have brought in some terrific players and prospects, and while there might not be any veterans to count on, there's a good two-deep of promising options. This should be an active front four that'll be better next year.
Weakness: Experience, especially at tackle. The ends might be young, but there's plenty of talent to get excited about. The tackles aren't all that big and there could be problems unless Graves becomes terrific. Basically, replacing Whitlock will be harder than replacing Duncan.
Outlook: The Red Raider line might take a step back this year to take a giant leap forward next year. There's athleticism, upside, and versatility, but there isn't a ton of experience to count on and this could be a work in progress. As long as the tackles are merely adequate, the line will be fine. Not great, but fine.
Unit Rating: 7


State of the Unit: The linebackers struggled a bit throughout last year, but there's plenty of speed, athleticism and upside to get excited about. However, there will be growing pains with just two players working in the 4-2-5 scheme. Sam Fehoko will be like a third linebacker at times, but he'll mostly work as a defensive end in a type of hybrid role … at times. Mostly, the idea will be for the two starters to clean everything up against the run.

Working in the middle will be sophomore Cqulin Hubert was one of the team's better recruits last year, and now he'll be a statistical star after coming up with 31 tackles and two tackles for loss in just nine games as a true freshman. At 6-2 and 231 pounds, he's a good-sized speedster who moves extremely well, showing off his wheels this offseason with a few nice plays behind the line in the spring game.

6-0, 215-pound sophomore Daniel Cobb isn't all that big, but he can move. He's a great hitter for his size, and while he's more of a safety than a pure linebacker, his athleticism will be at a premium as he gets all over the field. Mostly a special teamer so far, he came up with three tackles, but he also broke up two passes.

Sophomore Zach Winbush is a 6-1, 206-pound speedster who'll work with Cobb on the outside and will be a key special teamer. A great tackling prospect who can work in a variety of ways, he needs to be a regular in the rotation, while true freshman Blake Dees will play in the middle behind Hubert. The 6-1, 234-pound prospect is very strong and very smart, and while he can play on the outside, he's built for the middle. Also looking to make a big impact is one of the team's top recruits, Branden Jackson , a 6-4, 220-pound four-star playmaker who could be used on the end or on the outside. He's a pass rusher, but he's good against the run.

Watch Out For … The linebackers to be the stars of the show. Oh sure, the idea is for one of the ends to grow into a pass rushing star to get all the flashy stats, but in this defense, the two linebackers will get all over the field and will be free to make lots and lots of plays.
Strength: Speed. Tommy Tuberville's Auburn defenses relied on undersized, fast linebackers, and he's trying to do the same thing by design. The linebackers aren't all that big, but they can move.
Weakness: Experience. The Tigers are very, VERY young with all underclassmen in the two deep. There will be plenty of mistakes, but the hope will be for the athleticism to make up for the youthful errors.
Outlook: After the coaching staff wanted to work a bit with a 4-3 and a 3-4 depending on the situation, now the 4-2-5 alignment will need the linebackers to be very fast and very tough. The Red Raiders will have a nice rotation, but it could be a work in progress with sophomores and freshmen holding down the fort.
Unit Rating: 6

Defensive Backs

State of the Unit: A complete and utter disaster, the Red Raider secondary got ripped apart by anyone who wanted to throw the forward pass with 294 yards per game allowed. While the pass efficiency defense wasn't all that bad, Tech finished last in the Big 12 in total defense for a reason. Now, the secondary will have five players in the new alignment, and the hope is for more big plays and more third down stops.

The big move this offseason was taking corner D.J. Johnson and making him a free safety. The 6-0, 190-pound junior wasn't a top recruit, but he showed off tremendous speed throughout his career so far and was one of the better tacklers in the secondary with 43 tackles and three picks. While he might be better in nickel and dime packages, he'll get the look at safety to have room to roam.

One of the keys to the secondary should be an improved Terrance Bullitt , an interesting 6-3, 191-pound sophomore who made 23 tackles but didn't do anything against the pass. He has great height, but he's built more like a receiver than a strong safety. Even so, he's a great hitter and tremendous range, and he appeared to be more of a natural this offseason. Senior Jared Flannel is a thin 5-11, 166-pound safety who missed all of last year hurt. Mostly a special teamer so far, he hasn't been able to do much, but he has the speed to be a factor one he finally gets on the field again.

The third safety in the equation will be Cody Davis at weak safety after finishing second on the team with 87 tackles with an interception and 6.5 tackles for loss. A starting free safety so far, the 6-2, 194-pound junior has made plenty of plays and has unlimited range, but he's a good talent who has to do more when the ball is in the air. He might not have next-level raw skills, but he knows what he's doing.

The corners need to be better and it starts with sophomore Tre Porter to be a bigger star. A former safety, the 6-0, 182-pounder had a strong first year finishing third on the team with 76 tackles and a pick, and he has the speed and quickness to be a lockdown corner who takes away one part of the field. He'll combine with sophomore Jarvis Phillips on one side, and experience won't be an issue. The 5-10, 189-pound Phillips was thrown to the wolves last year and made 57 tackles with a team-leading four picks, but he wasn't consistent. Speed and athleticism isn't a problem, but the former high school quarterback who'll get every chance to be on the field.

Trying to lock down the other side will be former wide receiver Derrick Mays isn't all that big at 5-10 and 174 pounds, but he has 4.4 wheels and cuts on a dime. He got on the field last year in the defensive backfield and made 11 tackles with two broken up passes, and he'll get every chance to be a key starter. Freshman Jeremy Reynolds is a 5-9, 163-pound stringbean, but he's really, really fast. He's not afraid to hit, and while he won't blow anyone up, he'll be physical.

Watch Out For … Johnson at free safety. He made a lot of plays last year and he picked off a few passes, but he should be far steadier this season. Consider it a shock if he doesn't finish among the team's top three tacklers.
Strength: Speed. This group can MOVE. There might be issues with finding the right combination, but there's no question that the Tech defensive backs should be able to stay with anyone. The is a lightning quick group that will get to the ball.
Weakness: Defending the pass. The Big 12 can throw the ball around the yards, but last year was ridiculous. Missouri's Blaine Gabbert was held to just 95 yards, but the Red Raiders gave up seven 300-yard games with three of them going for 400 or more. Outside of the six picks taken away against the two Conference USA teams on the slate (SMU and Houston), there weren't enough takeaways.
Outlook: There might be problems again against the better passers, and there will be times when the secondary is lit up like a Christmas tree, but the five defensive backs will be flying all over the place and they should be more disruptive. This is a young group, but it's extremely athletic and it should be good with a little more time.
Unit Rating: 6

Special Teams

State of the Unit: Matt Williams was a solid placekicker last year hitting 9-of-11 field goals, while Donnie Carona was used for the bombs. While Carona, a senior, only hit 1-of-4 attempts, three of his shots came from beyond 50 yards, hitting one from 52 against Weber State. He has a huge leg, and he was just consistent enough this offseason to be counted on from midrange.

The punting game was terrific as the Red Raiders finished 22nd in the nation netting 38.3 yards per try. Jonathan Lacour is gone, and Carona could occasionally use his big leg to hit some bombs. He should be more than fine after averaging 47.5 yards per boot putting three inside the 20 on his ten attempts. However, with Carona concentrating on his placekicking, sophomore Ryan Erxleben who redshirted last year, should be a far more consistent option.

The punt return game could stand to be better after the team averaged just 6.3 yards per try. Detron Lewis averaged 6.2 yards per pop, but Austin Zouzalik came up with a mere 0.8 yards per try. Running back Eric Stephens is a special kickoff returner averaging 24.3 yards per try.

Watch Out For … Erxleben. Carona has the bigger leg, but Erxleben should be the far stronger option and a solid producer for the next three years. As long as he's around 40 yards per kick and can put 15 inside the 20, all will be fine.
Strength: Stephens, and Carona's leg. Stephens can come up with big plays any time he touches the ball, and Carona can bomb away from anywhere either as a placekicker or a punter. The punt coverage team should be solid.
Weakness: Carona as a placekicker. He had some good moments this spring, but can he be reliable for midrange? That's a big, big question mark, and getting more from the punt return game should be nice.
Outlook: The special teams were good overall, but a few key breakdowns showed room for improvement. The return game should be fine and the punting should be solid, but Carona or an untested walk-on needs to be consistent as the new placekicker.
Unit Rating: 6

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- 2011 Texas Tech Defense | 2011 Texas Tech Depth Chart
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