Like any football team, good, mediocre or bad, Texas Tech has several players whose play will be particularly critical to the squad's success. These players, whether by virtue experience, leadership ability, importance of the position played, depth concerns, or sheer talent, 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 series, we will take a reverse order look at the Red Raider football players we consider most invaluable.
6' 3" 215
Very few players on the Texas Tech roster have the respect from coaches and fellow players alike that Terrance Bullitt does. And it is not because of national accolades that Bullitt enjoys this esteem. On the contrary, the junior from Garland remains a fairly low-profile player outside the Red Raider football camp.
No, Tech players and coaches respect Bullitt because of the intangibles he brings to the table.
To begin with, Bullitt is as tough as they come. At the outset of the 2011 season Bullitt suffered a painful shoulder injury that forced him to exit the field. But only temporarily. Bullitt returned to the fray quickly and played the remainder of the season in a great deal of pain. That sort of commitment and toughness will win a football player respect every time.
Bullitt is also a no-nonsense, businesslike performer. In an era where players often go to absurd lengths and engage in idiotic antics to draw attention to themselves, Bullitt simply puts his head down and chops wood. He is a worker in a sport all too often dominated by clowns. This too scores points with coaches and teammates.
But Bullitt is certainly about more than character and glue. He's a skilled linebacker who needs merely one injury free season to become a water cooler name in Big 12 country.
Playing at perhaps 80 percent of full health in 2011, Bullitt nevertheless was fourth on the team in tackles with 56. He also registered 9.5 tackles for loss, four pass break ups and four passes defended. On a defense that was a disaster wrapped inside a catastrophe surrounded by a cataclysm, Bullitt was a ray of light.
At 215 pounds, Bullitt is on the small side for a Big 12 linebacker, but he plays bigger than his measurements. Bullitt delivers the blow to blockers and is able to shed them and make the tackle. And unlike others on last year's defense, Bullitt rarely gets collapsed or blown out of running lanes.
Another positive is Bullitt's skill in pass defense. A safety in high school, Bullitt is comfortable playing in space and has the ability to created big plays against the pass. If Tech's defense is as improved as some people think it is, look for Bullitt to snag a few interceptions in 2012. And he should combine with Sam Eguavoen to form one of the Big 12's better pass covering linebacker duos.