Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
What are the five biggest questions for the new-look Texas Tech defense heading into spring practices?
1. Who Creates the Pass Rush? I think this is Wallerstedt's biggest challenge. Who on this team is going to create some sort of pass rush. Last year was the same as it ever was, a bit of a rush in the non-conference games and then nothing after that. Dartwan Bush led the team with only 5.5 for the year at defensive end and Kerry Hyder had the same amount from the line. There has to be more pressure from the edge, this is not even a question. There are a lot of options on the edge, but we don't know if any of them can play other Bush. Jackson Richards got a ton of time at the other end, but didn't register a sack. That's just not acceptable. I don't know if it is going to be Kindred Evans, Pete Robertson, Richards, Branden Jackson or someone else. I'm guessing that Demetrius Alston is going to get a shot at defensive end, but without pressure on the quarterback, you'll see a lot of the same results as last year.
2. Who in the Hell Plays Safety? Internally, we really don't have a clue as to who can step up and play safety. I'm not totally thrilled about Terrance Bullitt playing safety, but if he gets his weight back down and gets back some of his speed that he lost, then maybe he's an option. The other options are Tre' Porter and La'Darius Newbold, but I sure do hate to see players that are pretty good or most likely pretty good cornerbacks play safety if there are other options. I don't know what to make of Austin Stewart other than he was suspended for part of the season and that makes me uncomfortable to trust this position that maybe can't handle their own business. The coaching staff is really going to have to figure out where some players are going to end up because there's a lot that we really just don't know about who fills these spots. The coaching staff talks up high schooler Jalen Barnes and Martin Hill was recruited to make an immediate impact.
3. Will Any New Linebackers Step Up Their Play? One of my chief frustrations with the defense (there were many) was the fact that the linebackers either didn't or couldn't make plays. Whether it was because the linebackers couldn't get clean looks, or needed additional experience or they just didn't make plays because they maybe they aren't good. I think I'll refuse to accept that last rational (and I am sure there are other reasons as well). Kingsbury signed four linebackers, three of them are over 225. I cannot imagine that they will all get playing time, but at the inside spot, it wouldn't at all surprise me to see Kahlee Woods get a shot to play inside. It is discouraging to think that there really aren't many inside linebackers, maybe Will Smith and Blake Dees, but this is maybe why Woods gets a real legitimate shot at a spot inside. If Wallerstedt favors outside linebackers with size, then you can throw in Malik Jenkins and Zach Barnes into the mix as they already have pretty good size. They just don't have experience on their side.
4. Who Plays Opposite Bruce Jones or Are There Going to be Two New Cornerbacks? Seems like the answer to this question is almost completely reliant on what the answer to question #3 is? I think so because it is very much dependent on whether or not Newbold or Porter are cornerbacks or safeties. And I really don't know if Jones should really be penciled in anywhere. I thought he was pretty good last year in spot duty, but he's not a guarantee. One thing to keep in mind is that there will be field and boundary cornerbacks. Your field cornerback covers the wide side of the field and is typically a smaller, quicker and faster cornerback that can cover a lot of space. Your boundary cornerback covers the short side of the field, is typically bigger and can support the run a bit better. When you divide the cornerbacks, try to mentally divide them into these two groups. Right now, I think that in terms of boundary cornerbacks, you'd have to include Porter, Newbold (assuming that they are cornerbacks, and most likely Dorian Crawford gets a legitimate look here. That's it for your boundary cornerbacks, although maybe you could make a claim that J.J. Gaines could be at a boundary corner spot. The list of field cornerbacks include Jones, Jeremy Reynolds, Brandon Bagley, Olaoluwa Falemi, Derrick Mays and Thierry Nguema.
5. Will a Different Scheme Make Any Difference? This feels like the real question to all of this and it's really not one that can be answered during the spring or maybe until October of 2013. Maybe that's too pessimistic and it's a result of me being burned way too many times. A different attitude, a differnt voice (I didn't really think there was anything wrong with Art Kaufman's voice and I appreciated what he said) and maybe we can expect a different result. I think the change in defense, which will be a change from a 4-3 over to a 4-3 under with some 3-4 traits is going to technically be this team's 5th defensive scheme in five years. That's rough on anyone and speaks to the continuity of what Tuberville was doing in Lubbock more than anything else. I think these players are really going to buy into what Smith, Scott, Haverty and Wallerstedt will be selling.