You will forgive Tommy Tuberville for being a bit
traumatized. Any football coach who hangs his hat on defense the way Tuberville
does would be shell-shocked by what happened to Texas Tech’s defense in 2011.
We need not revisit the gory details here and now, but
suffice it to say that the 2011 Red Raider defense was one of the worst in the
nation and was arguably the worst in school history. As they say in Plainview,
A central reason for Tech’s defensive deficiency was a slew
of injuries and a lack of quality players to fill in. For this reason,
Tuberville has been borderline obsessive about defensive depth in recent
interviews. He didn’t have it in 2011; he believes he may have it in 2012.
“The big thing I’m excited about is we’re getting a little
closer defensively,” says the head coach of the Red Raiders.
“We haven’t had enough depth to compete in this league with
all the high-powered offenses we’ve seen the last couple of years. You need
about thirty players that can go, day-in and day-out to compete in this league
and we had about half that. But we’ve pretty much doubled our talent on that
side of the ball. We’ve taken some junior college players. Most of the players
who played last year are back with us, and I think they’re gonna help.”
According to Tuberville, his program was behind the eight-ball from day one. The defensive cupboard was bare and
the results showed on the field.
“We got consumed by not having enough depth over there [on
defense] to play in this league. We had to move linebackers to the defensive
line the first year. And then those defensive linemen graduated and we were
playing true freshmen,” says Tuberville.
And that was just year one. The trials and tribulations were
just beginning. The aforementioned graduation left the Tech defense vulnerable
to attrition of any sort. As it turned out, that attrition came in the form of
injury. And the shallow Red Raider defense simply could not withstand it.
Desperate times called for desperate measures.
“We were moving wide receivers to corner, not as backups but
as starters. You can’t do that. You can’t do that in college football,”
Tuberville says with grim amazement.
“When you’re taking
offensive guys and moving ‘em over…sometimes you
might do that, say, we need you to come over be a backup. Heck, we were startin’ guys. We were moving guys over, three days later
we were startin’ ‘em as
starters. We were just so short defensively the last two years. We’ve made some
strides, but 16 surgeries in one year, you wouldn’t want to wish that on
anybody, especially when you’re already short.”
The results of the
injuries combined with insufficient depth played out in curious ways, both on
game-day and in practice.
“Again, last year
one game we started four guys that weren’t on scholarship. Now try to beat
somebody that’s got a good offensive football team with that. You can’t do it.
You absolutely can’t do it.”
“And it goes back,
you’ve gotta have guys that can practice. We had to
move offensive guys over to defense to practice against. We didn’t want to get
our starters beat up,” Tuberville relates.
So much for the tales of woe.
Tuberville is now convinced that the Red Raiders are moving in the right
direction and are close to being where they need to be on the defensive side of
“We’re getting to
the point now where we’ve got a rotation. We’re still one recruiting class away
from offensive line depth and defensive depth. Then we’ll be at full strength.
I think that’s really gonna pay dividends for us. But
we’ll be much better on defense this year.”
straight dope, or famous last words? The revelation of the truth will begin in less than one month’s time.