Texas Tech's game of defensive roulette continues in 2013. New head coach Kliff Kingsbury spun the wheel and the ball stopped on the marker called Matt Wallerstedt. Thus the Red Raiders will kick it off against SMU with their fifth defensive coordinator in as many seasons. And if that's not a college football record for defensive discontinuity, it's got to be darn close.
Anybody who claims to know for certain how Wallerstedt and his troops will fair this season is, of course, belching black smoke. Every new defensive coordinator in recent memory has brought high expectations with him, but excepting the modest success of Ruffin McNeil and Art Kaufman, the results have been woeful. Wallerstedt will have to buck history to turn Tech's defense into a top unit.
But although we cannot say with any certainty how well Wallerstedt and company will do in 2013, we, with an assist from Kingsbury, can at least say a few words about the general nature of Wallerstedt and the type of defense he will attempt to bring to Jones Stadium.
To begin with, Kingsbury readily admits that adapting to yet another coordinator and scheme is the biggest challenge facing his defense.
"I think that's it," says the head coach when asked about the biggest hurdle confronting the defense.
"Each and every year they've been there they've had a new guy come in, so now they're learning a new system, believing in that guy, what he's bringing to the table, which last spring they all did. They bought in and learned very quickly and I was pleased with their progress."
Thus, Kingsbury is happy with the "buy in," and the assimilation of the system. It is a mantra you will hear often from him.
And Kingsbury, who may someday be known as the "intangibles coach," is also impressed with the overall leadership the defense has shown thus far.
"I think a lot of our leadership is on the defensive side of the ball, and a lot of our strength," says Kingsbury.
"And a lot of those guys did a great job leading our team in the spring. I was really impressed with what they did."
Moving from the abstract to the concrete, Kingsbury is looking for the Red Raiders to generate more turnovers in 2013, and to play with fire and spirit. And that fiery play should aid the defense in their plan to purloin the pigskin.
"Hopefully we'll take the ball a little bit more, that's the main thing," says Kingsbury when ask about the defense's identity.
"If we can take the ball over a little more, hopefully double our turnovers from a year ago, that'll help our cause. Coach Wally will have ‘em fired up and excited. His schemes are fun for the players, the things he does. So, excited to see how he does."
And indeed, it will be how Wallerstedt does. Kingsbury has made it clear that he will give his coaches tremendous latitude to run their units as they see fit (that's part of the Kevin Sumlin influence), and will not intervene unless it is necessary.
"I hired Coach Wallerstedt and said, ‘hey, I want you to be the defensive coordinator and coach the defense.' Obviously I'll have some input on that if I see something that needs to be said, but he's a guy I trust and he's done a great job."
That job begins in earnest in less than three weeks.