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, "'Nuff said!"
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 the football.
"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."
The straight dope, or famous last words? The revelation of the truth will begin in less than one month's time.