2013 Texas Tech Preview - Defense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Texas Tech Red Raider Defense
Texas Tech Red
Preview 2013 - Defense
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What You Need To Know: The Red Raider defense finally seemed to get it right, and now it's all changing. The D finished second in the Big 12 in total yards allowed, led the way against the pass and wasn't bad against the run, but now it'll be up to new coordinator Matt Wallerstedt to prove the production can continue. There aren't enough returning interceptions, and the stats are a bit misleading, but with eight starters coming back there's hope for the transition to not be a problem. The key will be flexibility in a league where playing five defensive backs on a regular basis is a must, but a few hybrid positions will allow the coaching staff to play around with different formations on the front seven when needed. The hope is for more of a pass rush and more big plays for a team that finished dead last in the conference in turnover margin, but it'll take a while to develop the depth and come up with steadier playmakers.
Star of the defense: Senior DE Kerry Hyder
Tackles: Kerry Hyder, 56
Sacks: Dartwan Bush, Kerry Hyder, 6
Interceptions: Jeremy Reynolds, 1
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior NT Dennell Wesley
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore SS J.J. Gaines
Best pro prospect: Hyder
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Hyder, 2) DE Dartwan Bush, 3) LB Sam Eguavoen
Strength of the defense: Experience, End
Weakness of the defense: Takeaways, Linebacker Size
The pass rush was a particular problem throughout last season generating just 19 sacks, but there's enough experience and talent returning to expect more. However, the line will normally go with a modified front three changing up the roles of some proven veterans. Senior Dartwan Bush has been a big part of the D for the last few seasons and tied for the team lead in sacks last year with six to go along with 12 tackles for loss and 41 tackles. The 6-2, 256-pounder is a bulked up linebacker who's built more to hold up against the run. Extremely quick off the ball, he's more of a 4-3 end, while 6-2, 281-pound senior Kerry Hyder is more of a 3-4 end and tackle. He might not be a big space eater, and he might be a bit of a tweener, but he's productive and effective finishing third on the team with 56 tackles to go along with six sacks and 14 tackles for loss.
Hyder and Bush are the seniors rotating on one side, while 6-5, 290-pound Delvon Simmons and 6-4, 248-pound Jackson Richards are juniors for the other side. Simmons was a star recruit for the program three years ago, and now it's time to do more to be a disruptive all-around force after coming up with 27 tackles and two sacks with six tackles for loss last season. While he's quick for his size, he's also strong and tough as a tackle or a 3-4 end. Richards has been a nice part of the mix making 16 tackles two years ago and making 29 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss last season, but he's supposed to be more of a pass rusher after coming in as a top prospect.
Trying to work either as an anchor on the nose or as a key defensive tackle is senior Dennell Wesley,a 6-1, 286-pound run stopper who made 21 tackles last season but he's also a nice interior pass rusher at times making two sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. A good, sound veteran, he's not a typical force on the nose, but he'll hold up well in a rotation with 6-2, 260-pound sophomore Donte Phillips, an interesting all-around lineman out of Milwaukee who saw a little bit of time last season making six tackles in his five games of work. Quick and athletic enough to play anywhere on the line, he'll start out working at tackle where he'll try to add more of a pass rushing element than Wesley.
Watch Out For … Jacarthy Mack, a 6-3, 205-pound linebacker who'll work as more of a tweener on the outside. A pass rusher with great range, he'll eventually be used in a variety of ways, but once he adds 20 pounds of good weight he'll be a specialist
Strength: Experience. With Hyder, Bush, Simmons and Richards, the Red Raiders have veterans who can play in just about any style or system. They'll rotate around easily and allow the coaching staff to mess around with the formations when needed.
Weakness: Speed rushers. The Red Raiders simply didn't get into the backfield enough on a regular basis. Not generating a sack against West Virginia didn't matter, but it was a big deal against Oklahoma and Texas. The line hasn't been consistent at getting to the quarterback over the last few seasons, and it would be nice if the front three could start doing more so the linebackers won't have to.
Outlook: The stats might not have been all that great, but the line was more effective overall than it had been in recent years. The experience is there, but the pass rush has to be better and there are question marks at tackle – there isn't a true killer on the nose. Power running teams shouldn't have a problem – everyone lit up the Red Raiders on the ground late last year – but the 3-4 should help the cause.
Unit Rating: 6.5
Depending on the alignment, the Red Raiders will go will play around with the linebacking corps, working in and out between a 4-3, 3-4 and 3-3-5. The Bandit will be the hybrid position that does a little of everything, starting with senior Terrance Bullitt, a 6-3, 221-pound safety playing linebacker. He finished fourth n the team in tackles two years ago with 56, but last year he struggled making just 19 tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss. Bulked up in a big way over the last few years, he's built like a big wide receiver, but he can pop. He'll be pushed hard by senior Chris Payne, a former JUCO transfer who was a strong get for the program but didn't do much right away for the defense making three tackles. Part safety and part linebacker, he fits the position.
Bullitt will work at one hybrid spot, while 6-4, 248-pound sophomore Branden Jackson will work at the other. Part linebacker, part defensive end at the Bandit, Jackson has the speed to be used as a pass rushing specialist, and the toughness to be a linebacker with 19 tackles with a broken up pass. The Pennsylvania native is an outstanding athlete who can do handle the work. He'll work in a rotation with sophomore Pete Robertson, a 6-3, 220-pound guided missile who made 20 tackles with two sacks and 1.5 tackles for loss. The former high school running back is fast and versatile, able to play just about anywhere in the linebacking corps.
Trying to stop things up in the middle is 6-0, 205-pound sophomore Micah Awe, a woefully undersized option for the position, he makes up for his lack of bulk with phenomenal range and quickness. Like a defensive back playing linebacker, he saw a little time last year making 13 stops, but he should be a statistical star as long as he can hold up. He'll always be around the ball. 6-0, 215-pound junior Blake Dees adds a bit more size to the spot, but not much. He was a nice part of the rotation throughout last year making 35 tackles with two tackles for loss.
6-1, 220-pound junior Sam Eguavoen is another fast, athletic linebacker who's more like a defensive back at linebacker. The veteran has seen time at every spot, but he's at his best on the weakside where he made 52 tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss. While he has the quickness to shine in pass coverage, he doesn't make too many things happen when the ball is in the air.
Watch Out For … Kahlee Woods. The 6-1, 235-pounder is a sure tackler who doesn't miss a stop. Big for this linebacking corps, he's built to add far more bulk on the inside in the near future. He made 431 tackles over his high school career, and while he's not a pass rusher, he should be able to hold up well against the run.
Strength: Quickness. The Red Raider linebacking corps is full of very quick, very athletic defenders who can swarm around the ball. Getting around the ball shouldn't be a problem, and the aggressiveness is there to start doing more to get into the backfield.
Weakness: Bulk. Having a 205-pound middle linebacker isn't a positive, even in the Big 12. The Red Raiders are loaded with bulked up defensive backs who can move, but aren't built to hold up against power teams.
Outlook: The linebackers are quick enough and versatile enough to adapt to whatever the alignment will be. As long as they can be more disruptive and can be consistent, they should be the strength of the defense with good depth and enough experience to get by.
Unit Rating: 7
The secondary turned in a huge 2012, leading the Big 12 in pass defense allowing 192 yards per game. However, star safeties Cody Davis and D.J. Johnson, the team's two top tacklers, are gone, putting the pressure on senior Tre Porter at free safety and sophomore J.J. Gaines at strong safety to come through. The 6-0, 202-pound Porter is coming off a great offseason and appears ready to shine in the spot. Cornerback fast and with good hitting skills, he made 30 tackles with two broken up passes, but he has to stay healthy after having a hip problem a few years ago. Gaines is a good-looking young prospect with a world of upside. He only made nine tackles, and he's not that big, but he'll be a statistical star with the range to get all over the field.
Senior Olaoluwa Falemi is a smallish, wispy 5-9, 157-pounder, but the former JUCO transfer from LA Harbor College is a good tackler for his size and he should be able to move. The smallish, speedy corner made eight tackles and worked mostly on special teams, but he'll get a spot at the boundary side, while 5-7, 171-pound senior Bruce Jones is a back on the field side after coming up with 31 tackles with seven broken up passes. He didn't come up with any picks, but he's a huge hitter who isn't afraid to get his nose dirty.
Junior Austin Stewart is back to be a part of the safety rotation after coming in from the JUCO ranks and making two tackles as a special teamer. At 6-0 and 206 pounds he has good size and brings a nice thump. Sophomore Jeremy Reynolds will be a bigger factor at corner after coming up with two tackles with a pick in his limited time. At 5-9 and 175 pounds he's not all that big, but he's extremely athletic and good enough to push for a nickel or dime spot now that he's back and healthy after missing most of last year.
Watch Out For … Dee Paul, a 5-11, 160-pound corner with tremendous speed and quickness. A fantastic high school quarterback, he ran for 1,959 yards and 32 scores as a senior, and threw 17 touchdown passes. Also a top safety, now he'll work on the outside where he should be a part of the rotation early on.
Strength: Speed. The Texas Tech defensive backs have plenty of concerns and issues, but there's no problem when it comes to raw wheels; the secondary can fly. There isn't much size, but everyone can move and get around the ball in a hurry.
Weakness: Interceptions. Davis had three and Johnson and Cornelius Douglas each had two. The rest of the team came up with a grand total of one pick, and that was from reserve Jeremy Reynolds.
Outlook: The raw numbers against the pass might not have been bad compared to the rest of the Big 12, but it helped to play teams that didn't throw the ball a lick like Northwestern State, New Mexico and Kansas. It's going to be hard to replace Davis and Johnson, but the safeties should be solid in time and the corners, while they aren't big, can move. It's not going to be a rock of a secondary, and it needs to come up with more picks, but it should be okay.
Unit Rating: 6.5
Junior Ryan Bustin followed up a 14-of-18 2011 season with a solid 17-of-24 2012 with three of the misses getting blocked. He has a nice leg and great range hitting a 50-yarder against Texas State, but he has to avoid the blocks and has to be even better from beyond 40 yards.
The punting game was a problem, even though senior Ryan Erxleben averaged 41.7 yards per kick. He only put eight kicks inside the 20 and only blasted away for 50 yards or more on eight kicks. He didn't get any help from the coverage team that allowed 11.8 yards per try with a score.
Sadale Foster did a decent job on kickoff returns averaging 21.8 yards per try with a fantastic burst up the field and the ability to make the first man miss. Finding a steady punt returner is a must after losing Austin Zouzalik and his 10.4 yards per try.
Watch Out For … the punt return game. It wasn't bad last season finishing 35th in the nation thanks to Zouzalik, and there's more than enough quick options to find the right fit with a little bit of time.
Strength: Bustin. If he's allowed to get off his kicks, he has the experience to be even better from inside the 40 and the leg to push his range out a bit further. Now he can't start to worry about …
Weakness: Blocks. The Red Raiders allowed three blocked field goals and two blocked punts. The coverage teams were a problem, too, allowing 11.8 yards per punt return with a score, and gave up 21.8 yards per kickoff return with a touchdown.
Outlook: The special teams should be fine, but the little things like allowing blocked kicks have to be better. The kicking game is experienced, and the returner should be fine, but the coverage teams have to turn into a positive.
Unit Rating: 6.5
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