2007 Texas Tech Preview - Defense

Posted May 28, 2007

Preview 2007 Texas Tech Red Raider Defense Preview


Texas Tech Red Raiders

Preview 2007 - Tech Defense

- 2007 Texas Tech Preview | 2007 TT Offense Preview
2007 TT Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Texas Tech Preview 

What you need to know:
This D will be a major part in several shootouts, and not in a good way. The secondary will be the strength, and it's not even close, with a pair of all-star safeties in Darcel McBath and Joe Garcia, along with star corner Chris Parker. The front seven is a major problem, especially the defensive line, with no depth and only one starter returning. The linebacking corps isn't all that big, but it's fast and should be good in time. Expect good running teams to be able to rumble at will.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Joe Garcia, 87
Sacks: Jake Ratliff, 50
Interceptions: Darcel McBath, 3

Star of the defense: Senior SS Joe Garcia
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore NT Rajon Henley
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Jamar Wall
Best pro prospect: Garcia
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Garcia, 2) FS Darcel McBath, 3) CB Chris Parker
Strength of the defense: Secondary
Weakness of the defense:
Defensive line depth, proven linebackers

Defensive Line

Projected Starters
The defensive line is starting from near-scratch, but it has a decent, up-and-coming end to work around in junior Jake Ratliff, one of the few returning starters to the defensive front seven. He made 50 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 7 tackles for loss, and while he's a good pass rusher and extremely athletic, he's 238 pounds on a 6-6 frame and has to prove he can be a regular run stopper.

Among the new faces to the front, 6-4, 244-pound sophomore Brandon Williams is among the most promising. He came up with a nice first season making 3.5 sacks and 16 tackles, and eventually, he's expected to become the team's dominant end once he figures out what he's doing.

The tackles are the big issue needing 293-pound sophomore Richard Jones and 279-pound sophomore Rajon Henley to shine right away. Henley will start on the nose after making 14 tackles and a tackle for loss in the rotation. While he's a big undersized, he's active, athletic, and should grow into a good interior pass rusher. Jones is the big key, needing to be an anchor. With his size, he's one of the biggest bodies up front with the strength to dictate the effectiveness of the run defense. First, he has to get back healthy after undergoing shoulder surgery.

Projected Top Reserves: One of the most effective defenders this spring was redshirt freshman Clint Stoffels, a walk-on who played like his football life was depending on it. While he's limited, and is only 6-0 and 251 pounds at tackle Jones, he goes all out, all the time. He'll be a great backup, but there will be problems if he has to start for an extended stretch.

Needing to play a big role in the rotation, if not take over a starting job, will be 6-1, 293-pound sophomore Richard Jones. One of the team's best combinations of size, strength and athleticism, he has all the tools to be a star on the nose. Now he needs playing time after missing last year with an arm injury.

The depth on the ends is the biggest issue, needing JUCO transfers
Daniel Howard and Brandon Sharpe, two 240-pound pass rushers, to be ready to fly right away. 6-5, 237-pound senior Tyler Yenzer, who made just two tackles in 2006 and hasn't been a factor of any sort so far, will be the top backup right off the bat at both spots.
Watch Out For ... the ends to turn out fine. Ratliff and Williams can each rush the passer, and there's help on the way to provide more options. At least, that's the hope. If Williams plays up to his potential, all will be fine.
Strength: Quickness. Tech never gets a lot of credit for cranking out defensive fronts that get into the backfield over and over again. While size might be sacrificed for speed, all four spots should be able to make plays behind the line.
Weakness: Depth, depth depth. The starters are a major question mark, much less the backups. It's asking a lot for freshman and JUCO transfers to be major players from day one.
Outlook: This will be the focus of the defense all season long. If injuries strike, it might be time to pack in the season with no development among the backups and major concerns at tackle. Even so, expect plenty of tackles for loss, though not a lot of sacks, and struggles against power running teams with big lines.
Rating: 5.5


Projected Starters
The knee injuries that derailed senior Kellen Tillman's career have now proved to be a slight positive as they allowed him a sixth year of eligibility. A huge recruit for the program back in 2002, he never had any injury luck until last season when made 41 tackles and four tackles for loss on the strongside. Finally healthy, and more than a year removed from major injury problems, the 241-pounder should be one of the team's leading tacklers.

Senior Paul Williams might be undersized at 219 pounds, but he's extremely physical. Able to play any linebacker spot, he'll get the call in the middle in place of Brock Stratton after making 30 tackles in a spot starting role. He's a phenomenal athlete with great range and speed. He's been a superior special teamer, and now he should shine as a full-time defender.

220-pound senior Chad Hill will be in a major battle for the starting weakside job this fall, but he has the experience to have the edge making 13 tackles last season. The definition of a grinder, he's a tough tackler for his size with just enough quickness to potentially be effective against the pass.

Projected Top Reserves: At 258 pounds, sophomore Victor Hunter is roughly 40 pounds bigger than Williams in the middle. While he only made nine tackles in a limited role, he'll be a major player this year thanks to his desperately needed size.

211-pound sophomore Marlon Williams is a speedster on the weakside behind Hill. While he has yet to prove he can be the same tackler, he has more upside because of his athleticism.
Watch Out For ... the seniors to step up. Tillman's return is a huge help to a defense in need of veterans. He'll combine with Williams and Hill to form a veteran group that won't make many mistakes, even if they don't have a boatload of starting experience.
Strength: Speed. Size, for the most part, is sacrificed for wheels, especially in the middle where Williams needs to use his athleticism to help out from sideline to sideline.
Weakness: Depth. That's the theme for the entire front seven, and while the big overall concern is about the line, it's just as big a problem for the linebacking corps. It'll take a little while to come up with a good rotation.
Outlook: Somewhat quietly, this will be a good group that'll make several big plays behind a suspect line. It'll have to be a feisty group without a whole bunch of size to count on, but there's good speed and quickness at each spot to make plays in the backfield and swarm against the run.
Rating: 6

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters
The secondary is the strength of the defense by far, and the safeties are the strength of the secondary with the return of senior Joe Garcia at strong safety and junior Darcel McBath at free safety.

McBath moved over from corner and had a tremendous year finishing tied for third on the team with 75 tackles with a team-leading three interceptions and five broken up passes. At 6-1 and 201 pounds, he has excellent size, good pop in the open field, and excellent speed. He could move back to corner if desperately needed, but he's making a name for himself at safety.

Garcia was second on the team with 87 tackles to go along with two forced fumbles and three tackles for loss. At 6-2 and 215 pounds, he's big, hits like a ton of bricks, and has next-level speed. With his size and tackling ability, he might see a little time at linebacker if other safety options emerge.

Back at corner is senior Chris Parker, who earned Second Team All-Big 12 honors after making 50 tackles, two interceptions and six tackles for loss. Teams went after him early on to stay away from Antonio Huffman on the other side, and because he was playing hurt at times. He's 100%, has the 4.4 speed, and should be an all-star once again.

With the emergence of Parker, that means sophomore Jamar Wall will likely get picked on after making 12 tackles last year as a backup. Mainly a special teamer so far, he should be decent in time with the phenomenal speed and leaping ability to make up for mistake. He's a long jumper on the Red Raider track team and boasts a 38-inch vertical.

Projected Top Reserves: JUCO transfer DeShon Sanders won't start, but he'll likely be the third corner in the mix and the backup behind Wall. At 6-2 and 210 pounds, he's more of a natural safety, which he was at City College of San Francisco. Even so, with his athleticism and upside, which made him one of the nation's top ranked JUCO prospects, he'll be good no matter where he plays.

Backing up Parker on the other side will be junior Marcus Bunton, who made 11 tackles last year and showed enough to step in and play right away if needed. Tremendously quick, he's great on special teams as well as a rock-solid reserve.

Two juniors Lance Fuller and Anthony Hines, will be the main backup safeties, who each saw a little bit of time last year. Fuller, at 216-pound free safety, is a good hitter making eight tackles last year. Hines, who made two tackles, is also 216 pounds and fast enough to play either safety spot.
Watch Out For ... Wall to emerge as a star. Parker is the main main, number one cover-corner, but Wall has all the makings of a great one if he keeps improving off what he did this spring.
Strength: Garcia and McBath. These are two NFL mid-round draft caliber players with size, range, and toughness. They'll be statistical monsters throughout the year as long as they can stay healthy, and the tone-setters for the defense.
Weakness: Veteran depth. There's plenty of upside among all four top reserves, with all able to potentially start without much of a drop-off, but that might take a little while. There's not a lot of game experience to form a great rotation right away.
Outlook: The secondary will be asked to do a little of everything. With the pass rush a question mark early on, the corners will have to be a little bit tighter, and the safeties a little bit better in all areas. The Red Raiders led the Big 12 in pass defense last season, mainly because everyone ran the ball on the front seven, and since stopping the run will once again be a problem, expect the stats to shine.
Rating: 8

Special Teams

Projected Starters
The placekicking game is set with the return of senior Alex Trlica, who nailed 15 of 21 kicks with three of the misses coming from beyond 40 yards. It was his biggest, longest kick of the season, the 52-yard bomb to send the Insight Bowl into overtime, that made him a folk hero. Even with that kick, he needs to show more consistent range.

The big issue is replacing Alex Reyes, who averaged 45.2 yards per kick leading the nation's fifth best punting game. 6-5, 201-pound junior Grant Berg started out his career as a backup behind Trlica, but he converted to punter and should hit several big bombs. Consistency might be an issue, but he has a big leg.
Watch Out For ... Berg to be fine. Even though he won't be Reyes, he'll bail the team out of several jams and should grow into the job. He doesn't have to be unbelievable, field position doesn't mean as much to Tech as it does to other teams, but he can't be a weakness.
Strength: Trilica. He'll likely be a bit overrated by just about everyone going into the season, but if he can build off his last kick of the season, he'll be an all-star.
Weakness: Kickoff returns. L.A. Reed, Shannon Woods and Eric Morris have to add far more explosion to the nation's second worst return game. The Red Raiders averaged an appalling 15.86 yards per try.
Outlook: The return game has to be far better. The kick returners need to become more dangerous, a little more pop from Danny Amendola on punt returns would be nice. Trlica will be solid, and Berg, in time, should be fine if the coaching staff can live through some rocky shots.
Rating: 6.5


Related Stories
2007 Texas Tech Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 28, 2007
2007 Texas Tech Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 28, 2007
2007 Texas Tech Preview
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