During spring practice, head coach Tommy Tuberville stated that he wanted to find 25 players on defense that he thought could play. With the season just around the corner, it's time to speculate who those 25 players might be (for offense and defense) and how they might fit into the grand scheme of things. This is not a top 25 list and the players are not listed in any particular order other than they're the top 25 players who I think will make an impact on each side of the ball. We'll alternate between offense and defense.
Offense: 25-21 (IR Cornelius Douglas; TE Bo Whitney; RG Deveric Gallington; QB Steven Sheffield; C Justin Keown) | 20-16 (OL Beau Carpenter; RB Harrison Jeffers; IR Austin Zouzalik; OL Chris Olson; WR Lyle Leong) | 15-11 | 10-6 | 5-1
#20 | D.J. Johnson | 6-0/170 | SO | CB
Rationale: Pretty amazing story with Johnson as he committed to Texas Tech from St. Stephen’s Episcopal HS in Austin where as best I can tell, his offer list was Texas Tech and Marshall. Johnson impressed so much during fall practice last year that he forced his way into the lineup as a nickel or dime defensive back. This spring, Tuberville said that Johnson would play cornerback, safety and outside linebacker and was very much impressed with his quickness and ability to make up ground (as an aside, the follow up question was what position was Johnson listed at and Tuberville responded that it doesn't matter, which makes me think that this defense isn't going to be conventional). Johnson tied LaRon Moore for second on the team with 6 pass break-ups and finished the year with 24 tackles and 1 interception. Johnson will be all over the field, and I harken back to the thought that the key to this defense will be that they'll want the offense guessing what's coming next.
#19 | Scott Smith | 6-7/275 | JR | DE/DT
Rationale: Potential. Last chance. This is it for Smith, and if he's not motivated to show what he can do now, then he never will be. Smith originally committed to California, played for a year, and then transferred to Butler CC (same JUCO as Daniel Howard) and left the JUCO ranks as the 4th best defensive prospect and the top defensive end. At Butler, he had 74 tackles, 26.5 TFL and 14 sacks. That's pretty nice production. The problem of course is that it's been tough for Red Raider fans to determine if a JUCO transfer will be able to contribute immediately. I'm banking on the thought that Smith will more than crack the rotation and the more time he gets the more productive he'll be. Smith has the potential to be one of the best pass-rushers on the team and perhaps the Big 12. I know, it's lofty expectations for a guy that hasn't been able to find a home for two years, but 74 tackles for a defensive end? Really? That's a shocking number from a defensive lineman and speaks to his ability to simply dominate the line of scrimmage in JUCO.
18 through 16 after the jump.
#18 | Brett Dewhurst | 6-0/193 | JR | SS
Rationale: When Franklin Mitchem went down last year with an injury Dewhurst stepped in admirably. I'll be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect from a guy that wasn't even a scholarship player when he arrived in 2007 but he's more than earned his spot on the roster. Dewhurst does have good coverage skills and much like Cody Davis and Franklin Mitchem, will the new coaching staff put a priority on speed over experience and proven ability. What Dewhurst has done is get things done on the field, despite not being as physically gifted as some of his fellow safeties.
#17 | Brandon Mahoney | 6-2/203 | RS FR | ILB
Rationale: Originally an Oklahoma commit, Mahoney eventually switched his commitment to Texas Tech and Mahoney is slated as the back-up inside linebacker behind Sam Fehoko. I'm of the mindset that back-ups need to play and I'm hoping that Mahoney needs to play early this season and get some time on the field. Mahoney was praised out of high school as being the type of player that can just fly to the football and I think he'll be a different sort of linebacker to Fehoko in that Mahoney should be faster sideline to sideline. Mahoney did play middle linebacker in high school, so this isn't a position that's completely unfamiliar to him and he's not a tweener in the sense that he might be a safety/linebacker. Mahoney is a linebacker without a doubt, I just hope he gets a little time on the field.
#16 | Tre'Vante Porter | 6-0/185 | FR | CB
Rationale: The first true freshman to make this list, and with good reason. Much like D.J. Johnson, position won't matter with Porter. He's just going to play and be out on the field playing whatever position the staff tells him to play. I think the fact that Porter is already physically ready for the college game helps tremendously and Tuberville has mentioned on more than a handful of occasions that he's going to play some freshmen. Considering the entire 2010 class and the current depth chart, I think Porter is the best bet to see playing of the actual freshmen that committed (no the JUCO transfers). Quite simply, I think his path is much shorter than some of the other freshmen.
Thoughts, comments, agreements and disagreements are welcome.