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Defensive Matchups | Texas Tech Red Raiders Defense vs. Texas A&M Aggies Offense

TEXAS TECH | I mentioned this earlier in the week in that it appears that S Brett Dewhurst is now the starting ILB. I'm a little surprised by this move and am trying to figure out DC James Willis' motivation for supplanting Julius Howard with Dewhurst. I've never thought that there's a huge disparity between Dewhurst and Howard in terms of speed, but Dewhurst has always had a knack, at the safety position, to make the right plays, although he is limited physically. As Willis continues to tinker with things, I'm certainly not opposed to this move and think that Willis is willing to put himself out there and try just about anything. Of course, Dewhurst gives up about 20 pounds to Howard and it's a little nerve-wrecking to think about how this will play out against a very good TAMU rush offense.

The defensive line stays intact for the most part this week. DE Donald Langley, DT Colby Whitlock, NT Bobbie Agoucha and DE Brian Duncan are still your starters. I did see that NT Pearlie Graves has moved ahead of NT Myles Wade on the depth chart, I'm sure largely based on his darned good performance last week. I think it's also interesting that DE Sam Fehoko is no longer listed as any sort of linebacker backup, but is just listed as a defensive end backup.

And perhaps the move of Dewhurst at linebacker won't matter too much as ILB Tyrone Sonier is starting alongside ILB Bront Bird. Maybe the thought is that no matter what comes through the middle of the field, Willis wants big enough linebackers to be able to fill those gaps and stop the run. It's interesting that Daniel Cobb is backing up Sonier and Cobb has moved from backing up Howard to moving inside. If I had to guess, I'm thinking that this is still about getting as much speed on the field as possible.

If you haven't checked, the Texas Tech pass defense is the 2nd worst pass defense in the country. You don't have to believe me, you can look for yourself, but you'll need to scroll down a bit. In my opinion, the move of Tre' Porter backfired a bit last week against Colorado. Although I've only seeen highlights, Porter looked like he had a very rough go at it with his first start at safety. Porter will eventually be fine, but he needs to learn how to tackle and wrap-up. D.J. Johnson continues to get burned on a weekly basis and I think at this point that there really aren't any options. With CB Will Ford continuing to be out, we're all going to have to live with Johnson. Tuberville praised CB Jarvis Phillips for his play last week, which included 6 tackles and 2 pass break-ups.

More good-strong after the jump.

TEXAS A&M | Turnovers. Turnovers. Turnovers. That's it right there. The TAMU defense isn't bad (it's actually pretty good) and the offense isn't bad (16th in the nation in total offense), but it's the turnovers. The correlation between turnover margin and wins and losses isn't a novel idea on my part, but it's certainly true for the Aggies. In the 4 TAMU wins, the Aggies are even, 9 turnovers gained and 9 turnovers lost. In the 3 TAMU losses, the Aggies only have 5 turnovers gained and 9 turnovers lost. The Aggies worst turnover margin performance was a win, -4 against Florida International (a 27-20 win), but when the offense turns the ball over 4 and 5 times it puts your defense in a tough position. The Aggies have gotten better, especially over the past 2 games where the Aggies didn't have a turnover against Missouri or Kansas.

Everyone is talking about the quarterback decision, and like Tuberville, I think we'll see both Jerrod Johnson and Ryan Tannehill. I've always like Tannehill as an athlete and never understood why he didn't see the field more. Johnson has to do a better job of managing the game, and although I don't think that you can pin every loss on Johnson (there were 3 fumbles lost against Arkansas), Johnson's inconsistency has been a big problem. Perhaps Tannehill's presence simply means that Johnson needs to perform in order to keep his gig. Either guy has talented players to throw the ball to, and the best receiver on the team and perhaps the receiver with the best future in the NFL is Jeff Fuller (as it seems that OSU's Justin Blackmon has a problem drinking and driving). Fuller has 44 catches, 687 yards and 9 touchdowns, close to 100 yards a game. I had always thought that Uzoma Nwachukwu was the Aggie's 2nd best receiver and it was surprising for me to see that Ryan Swope was actually 2nd on the team with 42 catches, 414 yards and 2 touchdowns. Obviously, Fuller is the best and most explosive receiver on the team.

I've always liked both Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray and either one can beat a defense. Michael has been the better runner this year, averaging 84 yards a game and 4 touchdowns while Gray is averaging 44 yards a game and 3 touchdowns. And if you can limit the running game for the Aggies then your chances to win are much better. TAMU averages 210 yards a game in their wins and only 98 yards a game in losses, whereas it doesn't matter if you stop the pass against the Aggies as they average 296 yards a game in wins and 314 yards a game in losses.

The Aggie offensive line is young and a bit maligned. LT Luke Joeckel is a true freshman, while RG Patrick Lewis and RT Brian Thomas are both sophomores. LG Evan Eike is a junior while the lone senior is C Matt Allen. The rushing offense is the 49th best in the country at 162.29 YPG, but this line (and I'm sure that Johnson gets some blame too) is allowing 3.57 sacks a game, which is 113th in the country. And the line isn't significantly worse in wins (3.00) or losses (4.33).

CB Jarvis Phillips vs. WR Jeff Fuller

I can't imagine that D.J. Johnson will get the nod against Fuller and the Texas Tech defense needs their best cornerback on Fuller.  Last week, Tuberville gave Phillips the defensive player of the game after his performance against Colorado and I wonder if it was intended to pump up Phillips a bit.  The Texas Tech pass defense, as  mentioned above, has been awful and Fuller is a true talent that can get behind a defense and is a physical receiver.  Phillips had better bring his A-game this week as I think he's going to have his hands full.

Position Outside Linebacker
Year Junior
Height/Weight 5-11/197
Stats 16 Tackles | 1 Pass Break Up

I mentioned that the Aggies win games when they're able to run the ball and it's interesting that Dewhurst is getting the start over Howard.  I have to think that DC Willis watched tape from last year's rear-kicking and perhaps the plan is to have a rangy player, like Dewhurst, who is probably faster than Howard and can somewhat shadow Johnson and Tannehill.  Of course, Dewhurst gives up 50 pounds to Johnson and 20 pounds to Tannehill and more times than not, Dewhurst isn't going to stop Johnson or Tannehill one-on-one, but if the thought is that Dewhurst can get a hit on Johnson (the team's 3rd leading rusher) which then gives the defense a chance to collectively make a play, then maybe this might work.  Dewhurst is very active and I thought that Howard would be that type of player for Texas Tech this year, but obviously, the staff feels differently.