Preview 2008 - Defense
2008 CFN Texas Tech Preview |
2008 Texas Tech
2008 Texas Tech
2008 Texas Tech
2007 CFN Texas Tech Preview |
2006 CFN Texas Tech
What you need to know: Ruffin McNeal started to transform
the defense over the second half of last season and now the
potential is there for a huge season. There's speed to burn on
the corners, a good trio of relatively young linebackers to work
around, and a defensive line that would be the team's strength
if it wasn't for the high-octane passing game. Pass rusher
extraordinaire Brandon Williams is about to become a superstar
while tackles Colby Whitlock and Rajon Henley each have All-Big
12 potential. As good as they are, they'll all have to fight to
hang on to their jobs with top JUCO transfers Brandon Sesay, Broderick Marshall and McKinner Dixon all
good enough to start. The defensive back seven is designed to
get the most speed and athleticism on the field as possible, and
it should pay off with a secondary that should be as good as the
one that led the Big 12 last year. Now the run defense has to be
Brandon Williams, 6
Interceptions: Jamar Wall, 5
Star of the defense: Junior DE Brandon Williams
Player that has to step up and become a star: Someone at
the corner spot opposite Jamar Wall
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Brian Duncan
Best pro prospect: Williams
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Williams, 2) FS Darcel
McBath, 3) CB Jamar Wall
Strength of the defense: Defensive line, corner speed
Weakness of the defense:
Proven secondary depth, run defense
Projected Starters: The veteran defensive line has several
players to build around, and the hope will be for 6-4, 253-pound junior
Brandon Williams to build on an explosive season and benefit from
all the veterans to worry about on the rest of the front wall. The
team's best pass rusher, he led the way with six sacks and 12.5 tackles
for loss to go along with 44 stops. With linebacker speed and a great
burst off the ball, the second team All-Big 12 performer should be in
for a huge season.
Returning on the other side is senior Jake Ratliff after a decent
26 tackle, one sack season. Even though the 6-7, 247-pounder has the
athleticism and has potential to be a good pass rusher, it hasn't
happened yet on a regular basis and he'll have to fight hard to hold on
to his starting gig. With his experience, at the very least he'll be an
important part of the rotation.
The key man in the middle will be junior Rajon Henley, an
undersized 6-3, 265-pound playmaker most known for his sack and forced
fumble late in the Gator Bowl that led to the game-tying score.
Extremely quick, he's great at getting into the backfield and is active
against the run making 52 tackles with 3.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for
loss. As good as he has been, he'll have to fight off several players to
get the starting job. At his size, he has to be part of a rotation
rather than play as an every-down defender.
6-2, 281-pound sophomore Colby Whitlock is coming off a
tremendous first season making 47 tackles, two sacks, and 8.5 tackles
for loss as the rising star of the defensive interior. An active force
on the nose, he's too quick off the ball for most centers and did a good
job of holding his own throughout the Big 12 season. He should be an
anchor for the next three years.
Projected Top Reserves: How fast will the new guys
get involved? Returning to the team after a few years in exile is
McKinner Dixon, a 6-3, 275-pound pass rusher who was an unstoppable
force as a freshman in 2005 making 26 tackles, two sacks and six tackles
for loss in a limited role, but left after having academic issues. On
the plus side, his time in the JUCO ranks allowed him to add some size
to his frame and now he's ready to challenge for a starting spot on the
Coming this fall and expected to be an instant impact player is 6-6,
273-pound Brandon Sesay, who originally signed with Georgia
before having to go the JUCO route and chose Texas Tech over a slew of
big name places like LSU, Oklahoma, Florida, Michigan, Tennessee and
Georgia. He's a devastating pass rusher with the size to move inside
once in a while. The hype is off the charts; he's expected to be the
best lineman in the Mike Leach era.
Agoucha will combine with 6-1, 277-pound junior Richard Jones as
the key backups on the inside. Jones made 28 tackles seeing time at both
inside spots, and while he's not a pass rusher and isn't going to get
into the backfield, he'll be a strong reserve who won't get shoved
around. He's a rock in the middle.
The most versatile newcomer to the line should be JUCO transfer Broderick Marshall,
who originally signed with Tech a few years ago and now returns to be a
key factor either inside or out. At 6-5 and 280 pounds, he's built to be
a key reserve on the inside, but he could quickly take over a starting
spot after making 43 tackles at Tyler JC in Austin.
Looking to avoid being squeezed out of playing time by the newcomers is
former JUCO transfer Daniel Howard, a 6-3, 238-pound junior who
made 22 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. He's not big enough
to hold up on a regular basis against the bigger, stronger Big 12 lines,
but he could find a niche as a situational pass rusher behind Jake
Watch Out For ... the pass rush to turn into
something special. It was decent last year, but not great. Now with the
incoming JUCO prospects and the expected emergence of Williams
into a superstar, the Red Raiders should have few problems getting to
Strength: Depth. Last year the backups were a huge
problem. The starters were a major question mark, much less the depth,
and while there were some growing pains to get through, the line is now
loaded with option.
Weakness: Sure thing run stoppers. This is a big
line all across the front four, and it'll get even bigger with the
backups getting in the mix, but the run D gave up 177 yards last
year and allowed way too many big plays. That'll be the focus early on.
Outlook: Last year's biggest concern could be one
of this season's biggest defensive strengths. There's All-Big 12 caliber
talent in end Williams and tackles Henley and Whitlock, but the starting four will likely be vastly different once the
season starts than it was in the summer with JUCO transfers Sesay, Marshall and Dixon all expected to push for
jobs, if not take over. Potentially, this could be the best line in the
Mike Leach era, and it might not even be close.
Projected Starters: Sophomore Brian Duncan was one of the
finds of 2007 as he finished fifth on the team with 69 tackles with four
tackles for loss on the strongside. The 6-1, 239-pounder made his share
of mistakes as a freshman, but he got better as the season went on and
now has the experience to go along with his smarts, quickness and
athleticism. More natural in the middle, and a potentially great
quarterback for the back seven, he'll move to the inside to allow even
faster players to operate on the outside.
Taking over for Duncan on the strongside will be 6-3, 222-pound
sophomore Bront Bird, who made 16 tackles in eight games as a
part time linebacker and key special teamer. A great athlete who's more
like a strong safety than a linebacker, he'll be expected to shine
against the pass, but he has to prove he can handle himself on a regular
basis against the run.
The one returning starter to his
original spot will be junior Marlon Williams, an
undersized 6-0, 211-pounder who finished second on the team with
81 tackles. A speedster who was always around the ball from his
spot on the weakside, he made plays on his athleticism, and now
he has the experience to know what he's doing. Not only was he a
big tackler, highlighted by ten-stop days against both Oklahoma
State and Virginia, but he also led the team with two recovered
fumbles and broke up six passes.
Projected Top Reserves:
The linebacking corps is built around speed and athleticism,
but that's not Victor Hunter's game. The 5-11, 256-pound
junior is a big hitter who made 28 tackles with 4.5 tackles for
loss and two forced fumbles as one of the team's better, bigger
One of the most interesting prospects is 6-2, 212-pound junior
Blake Collier, a very fast, very active weakside
linebacker who started out his career as a safety and a key
special teamer. He made 11 tackles and a sack last season but
was never healthy, and now he's expected to be a key backup
behind Marlon Williams on the wekaside to add even more to the
pass defense and occasionally be used as a pass rusher.
Watch Out For ... Duncan in the middle. A
real find as a freshman, he made a lot of plays and did a lot of
good things despite being out of position. Now that he's in his
more natural middle spot, and with his intelligence and
instincts, he should be in for a whale of a year.
Speed. The idea of the McNeal linebacking corps is to
get as many good athletes on the field as possible, and this
group is long on speed. Everyone will be flying around, and
while there will be a few mistakes made by being overaggressive,
they'll be offset by the big plays.
Seniors. There's a ton of returning experience, but there aren't
any seniors in the entire corps. This is still a very, very
young group that is still a work in progress after struggling
against the run last season. This could end up being the
strength of the defense, but it might take a few more game.
Outlook: Compared to last year when the
linebackers were a bit of a question mark, there's nothing but
upside in this years corps with excellent speed and quickness on
the outside in Bird, Williams, Collier and Sonier, and there are two true middle linebackers to stop
the run in Duncan and Hunter. This will be an
ultra-aggressive, very interesting unit.
Projected Starters: Last year's strong
secondary loses two key starters, Joe Garcia and Chris Parker,
but it gets back senior Darcel McBath, a former corner
who has turned into an excellent free safety finishing third on
the team with 73 tackles with two interceptions and eight broken
up passes. At 6-1 and 196 pounds he has decent size, can hit a
little bit, and has the speed to and range to get to just about
anything. He could move back to corner if desperately needed,
but he's a safety now.
Taking over for Garcia at strong safety is 6-1, 212-pound senior
Anthony Hines. While he hits like a ton of bricks making
24 tackles as a backup, to go along with four broken up passes
and an interception, he'll be in a battle to keep the starting
job all season long. He's fast enough to play either safety
spot, but with his tackling ability he's more suited for strong
Returning to his staring corner job is junior Jamar Wall
was making 54 tackles and a team-leading five interceptions in a
breakout season. Mostly a special teamer early in his career, he
got picked on early and made teams pay on his way to second-team
All-Big 12 honors. At 5-10 and 195 pounds he has good size to go
along with tremendous speed and quickness; he's also a long
jumper on the Red Raider track team. He's a true No. 1 corner.
Pushing for the other corner spot will
be lightning fast sophomore LaRon Moore after making
eight tackles as a reserve. He still needs work as a corner, and
isn't all that big at 5-9 and 186 pounds, but he can really,
really move. He set the Oklahoma state high school record in the
200 meters his sophomore year.
Projected Top Reserves: Looking to take over for Chris Parker on the other side of Wall
is a combination of players led by senior Marcus Bunton,
who has been a key backup over the last three seasons and made
25 tackles last year, but he's only 5-8 and has made his biggest
impact so far on special teams. The quickness and experience are
there, but he's just a stopgap player until one of the younger
Battling Marcus Bunton for the open corner job on the other side
of Jamar Wall, are four players who'll all get an equal shot at
the job. At 6-1 and 188 pounds, former JUCO transfer DeShon
Sanders is build like a safety, which he was at City College of San
Francisco, but he has the speed of a corner. He didn't make the
impact expected last season and redshirted. On the plus side,
the former star recruit has two years left.
Also in the hunt for the gig will be junior Pete Richardson
and redshirt freshman Taylor Charbonnet. Charbonnet is a
pure speedster with 4.37 speed and the potential to be a top
return man if he doesn't see time on defense. Richardson is one
of the team's fastest players with 4.35 speed in a 5-11,
196-pound frame, but the former star high school running back
hasn't made an impact yet and will mostly see time on special
Playing behind Anthony
Hines at strong safety is 6-2, 222-pound senior Lance Fuller,
one of the team's biggest defensive backs with big hitting
ability and just enough speed to potentially be effective
against the pass. He made nine tackles as a backup, but didn't
do anything when the ball was in the air.
Back at a reserve free safety spot is former Duke transfer
Daniel Charbonnet, who made 31 tackles and picked off a pass
as a key backup. A killer on special teams, he grew into a role
in the defensive backfield by the end of last year and will be
counted on to make an even bigger impact.
Making the move from receiver to safety is senior L.A. Reed,
a one-time superstar receiver prospect who never panned out.
While he's been fantastic on special teams, he only made 39
catches for 382 yards and two touchdowns in his first three
years and will now try to find a role at strong safety.
Watch Out For ... a steady corner rotation on the
other side of Wall. As many as six players will be in the
hunt for the job, and at least early on, there could be several
different tryouts before the right fit is found.
Speed. And more speed. Texas Tech doesn't screw around when
it comes to finding fast defensive backs, and it paid off last
year with the Big 12's best pass defense. There might be a
little bit of an adjustment period this year, but the corners
Weakness: Veteran depth. That was
expected to be an issue last year, and it wasn't. It shouldn't
be too big a problem this season with several talented prospects
waiting in the wings, but it would be nice if a steady starting
foursome could be established first and then the depth could be
Outlook: The Big 12's best pass
defense should reload. Losing top tackler Joe Garcia hurts, but
Hines and Fuller should be able to handle
themselves. McBath is a strong veteran free safety while
Jamar Wall is one of the league's rising star corners. The key
will be to harness all the speed on the outside to find a star
No. 2 corner to take advantage of teams staying away from Wall.
Projected Starters: All Alex Trlica did was come through clutch
time and again while hitting every extra point he ever attempted.
However, he wasn't consistent. The hope will be for senior Cory
Fowler to be a more accurate option inside the 40. He doesn't have a
big leg, and has spent his career as an on-side kick specialist, but he
could be better than Trlica from close range.
Sophomore Jonathan LaCour took over the punting duties early on
and averaged a strong 42.6 yards per kick as a true freshman. He needs
to do more to pin the ball deep after only coming up with eight kicks
inside the 20, but the number is low partly because Mike Leach often
goes for it on the opposing side of the field.
The return game was solid last season and should be just fine again,
even after losing Danny Amendola and his 15.9-yard punt return average,
with Eric Morris back returning punts after averaging 9.2 yards
per try and Edward Britton and Detron Lewis back as two of
the Big 12's better kick returners.
Watch Out For ... Donnie Corona. Alex Trlica was a
four-year starter, and the coaching staff won't hesitate to use a true
freshman to handle the placekicking. Corona will be behind the curve
coming to camp in the fall, but he's expected to be a top kicker.
Strength: Kickoff returns. Last year's huge
weakness became a strength. The Red Raiders use several different
players to return kickoffs, but Britton and Lewis are each
good for around 25 yards per try.
Weakness: Losing Trlica. He was a big legged
bomber who always, always came through when absolutely needed.
Tech might be able to replace the numbers, but can it find someone who
can come through in the bowl games like Trlica did?
Outlook: There are question marks at kicker
needing to find a steady replacement for Trlica, but the punting should
be set for the next three years with LaCour looking like
a keeper. The return game will be more than fine after averaging 11.56
yards per punt return and 21.94 yards on kickoff returns.