Like any football team, good, mediocre or bad, Texas Tech
has several players whose performance will be particularly critical to the
squad’s success. These players, whether by virtue of sheer talent, experience,
leadership ability, importance of the position played, or depth concerns, are
especially crucial. They may or not be the best players on the club, but they
would be very conspicuous were they to be absent for any reason. In fact, that
may be the best way to conceive of the critical players—they are the performers
the team could least afford to lose.
With this weekly series, we will take a reverse order look
at the Red Raider football players we consider most invaluable.
Texas Tech figures to be considerably improved in pass
defense this season. How could they not be? The Red Raiders were No.118
nationally in pass defense last year, No.111 in touchdown passes allowed, and
No.81 in completion percentage allowed.
With a new defensive coordinator, inexperience in the
secondary, and a sporadic pass rush, the abysmal probably should have been
expected. Still, it was shocking to see just how dreadful Tech’s pass defense
Once again, the Red Raider defense will go to battle with a
new defensive coordinator, and remaining concerns about the pass rush, but the
pups in the secondary are now capable of barking rather than just yipping. Time
will tell whether they’re ready to bite.
One player who showed a bit of fang in 2010 was true
freshman cornerback Jarvis Phillips. The former Dallas Carter quarterback
started from the get-go and racked up four interceptions early in the season.
Phillips looked to be a revelation. But Phillips got stuck on four picks and
the entire defensive backfield got picked apart more routinely as the season
Still, four interceptions and 10 passes defended was not
chopped liver for a true freshman making the transition from quarterback to
cornerback in the pass-crazed Big 12. As a reward, Phillips received some
Freshman All America notice.
Phillips sat out the vast majority of spring workouts with
an injury, and as a consequence, is not currently listed as a starter. The
first-team corners are now Tre’ Porter and Derrick Mays. And busting back into
the starting lineup will be no mean feat for Phillips. Porter’s talent is as
good as it gets on the Red Raider defense, and Mays is a kerosene-burner who is
coming on very, very strongly.
Whether or not Phillips starts, he will play an integral
role as Tech tries to shore up the pass defense. He could possibly emerge as
the nickel back, and will play huge reps regardless of where he lines up.
Phillips also has a wealth of experience for a true sophomore, and if players
really do improve most between their freshman and sophomore seasons, he could
be a force with which to reckon. All Red Raiders certainly hope so, because the
2010 pass defense was a farce.