2007 Texas Tech Preview - Defense
Texas Tech Red Raider Defense Preview
Preview 2007 - Tech Defense
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2007 TT Depth Chart
2006 CFN Texas Tech
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.
Jake Ratliff, 50
Interceptions: Darcel McBath, 3
Star of the defense: Senior SS Joe Garcia
Defensive line depth, proven
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:
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.