Tommy Tuberville has made it absolutely clear that he values
speed above all else on defense. In his post-Red/Black scrimmage remarks about
recruiting he stated that the Red Raiders need “linemen on both sides of the
ball and [to] continue to get speed.”
Tuberville’s recruiting has borne
out his desire for speed. Why else would he sign Chris Payne, a linebacker who
weighs all of 190 pounds?
But it is not just recruiting that points
to Tuberville’s quest for raw speed on defense. There
has been a plethora of position switches which should
make the Tech defense much faster. And smaller.
Former defensive end Leon Mackey, who is currently listed at
255 pounds, has been moved to defensive tackle. Pete Robertson, previously a
220-pound linebacker, now holds forth at defensive end. Terrance Bullit, a hybrid safety/linebacker in 2011, will likely be
Tech’s starting weakside linebacker in the fall. He
currently checks in at 215 pounds.
These moves serve to make a very light front seven even
Texas Tech’s heaviest possible front seven lineup (and a
very unlikely one) would feature Dartwan Bush (255
pounds) and Brandon Jackson (250 pounds) at defensive end, Dennell
Wesley (285 pounds) and Delvon Simmons (280 pounds)
at defensive tackle, and Daniel Cobb (225 pounds), Zach Winbush
(230 pounds) and Will Smith (230 pounds) at linebacker.
The reality is that the only likely starters in that group
are Bush, Jackson, Smith and possibly Simmons. Thus Tech will be considerably
lighter than that “heavy” scenario.
You can be certain that strength coach Joe Walker and the
rest of Tech’s training staff will work hard to add bulk to the slender members
of the front seven. Sometimes this sort of effort bears fruit, sometimes it
does not. Some players simply cannot pack on the weight, and others who manage
to do so, become sluggish and ineffective. In other words, there’s no guarantee
that the weight gain gambit will effectively make up for the lost bulk of the
Now nobody questions the value of speed on defense. Particularly
in the Big 12, where passing is paramount and defenders must play in space,
speed is critical. But a monomaniacal focus on stopping the pass could leave
Tech vulnerable in another area.
Specifically, the Red Raider defense ranked dead last nationally
in stopping the run a year ago, yielding a ghastly 259 yards per game and 5.3
yards per carry. Will a slimmed down Tech stop unit be able to improve those
It will have to because a Red Raider run defense as porous
as last year’s unit will prove too tempting to even the most pass-happy
offenses in the Big 12. Baylor, one of the most prolific passing offenses in
America last year turned to the ground after Cornelius Douglas turned out
Robert Griffin’s lights, and proceeded to rush for 360 yards against Tech.
If the Red Raider run defense isn’t considerably improved
next season you can bet that if opposing offenses are not getting the results
from the passing game they desire, they will go to the ground and will do so
successfully. Tech fans must hope that in the mad rush to put speed on the
field, the coaching staff hasn’t further compromised a run defense that can
hardly withstand further attenuation.