The offseason is filled with questions, especially this year. Rather than ask those questions and not offer any solutions, I thought it would be interesting to offer theorems, i.e. all right angles are congruent, and you tell me if you think they're true or not. Here are your previous Texas Tech Football Offseason Theorems:
All Players Need to Contribute | Finding a Tight End and Utilizing Roster Spots
Theorem: Do Not Expect a True Freshman to Make an Immediate Impact | Reworking the Defensive Line
I somewhat just mentioned this in passing, but I think that there may not be a bigger job on the football staff than to rework the defensive line. We'll do a full positional review and preview later, but I wanted to try to bounce some things off of you all and figure out how this might work.
What we do know is that new defensive coordinator and the other assistant coaches all ran the 4-3 defense. I think you're going to see a relatively basic approach and I don't think that new defensive coordinator Art Kaufman is going to try to get too complicated.
One of the things that I recall after watching the games was that the defensive line was just getting blown off of the line of scrimmage. At the time, and I still believe this to an extend, I argued that to my eyes, it looked like the defensive line lacked talent. I know the argument about how the stars and everything else was relatively same to prior years, but to my eyes (I'm trying to stress that this is my opinion) the line looked overwhelmed physically. I'll be going into this later in the spring and summer, but a lot of the fact that there was no depth along the line was because guys like Myles Wade, Lawrence Rumph and Pearlie Graves weren't on the roster. Again, we'll get into that later. The purpose of this article is to focus on who is here and how you might try to re-work the defensive line.
Lots of Options at Defensive End
There are seemingly a lot of good options at defensive end, but the problem is that they didn't necessarily perform last year, evidenced by the lack of pass rush and the awful running defense. Granted, defensive ends aren't primarily necessarily responsible for stopping the run, but they're part of the equation and have to play better. Here are your returning defensive ends:
DE Aundrey Barr (6-2/246)
DE Dartwan Bush (6-1/247)
DE Kindred Evans (6-3/223)
DE Christopher Knighton (6-1/248)
DE Leon Mackey (6-5/256)
DE Branden Jackson (6-4/225)
DE Jackson Richards (6-3/249)
That's six players to play two spots. The problem, as stated above, was that the defensive line wasn't good overall. I think that you can guess that Mackey will get the start at one defensive end and the rest is up for grabs with Bush, Barr and Richards all being very usable players. This is one of those deals where if you have any expectation that this defense will be marginally better, the same players that didn't play well overall, will have to be better players.
There are two defensive end types coming in, one has already signed his LOI, Lee Adams, and the other is Robison, and he has apparently received more than a handful of offers from some new programs, including Tennessee, North Carolina, and Colorado.
DE Chase Robison (6-4/225)
DE Lee Adams (6-3/265)
Robison will redshirt, or at least that's my guess. If it were up to me, I'd like to see Adams at the defensive end spot. Keep in mind that Adams played as a true freshman while at Arizona St. and went back to JUCO after getting in some alleged theft issues. I think Adams is going to contribute next year. Rather, he's going to have to contribute because I'm not sold that Jackson and Evans are going to ready. There's the thought that they will have matured, but I'm not holding my breath. If Adams can play at defensive end, then he would immediately make the line significantly bigger with Mackey or Richards at another end spot.
More after the jump.
What About the Guys Up Front?
This is where the pickings are slim and it's not encouraging. This is why I say that the line or something is going to have to be reworked and the very distinct possibility that Adams doesn't play at defensive end. There are virtually no defensive tackles on this team:
DT Kerry Hyder (6-2/260)
DT Donte Phillips (6-2/256)
DT Delvon Simmons (6-5/265)
DT Dennell Wesley (6-2/310)
This is not a lot of options. You could expect that Hyder, Simmons and Wesley will compete to start, but that's just three defensive tackles. The only other options will be from the high school ranks:
DT J.J. Bynum (6-3/275)
DT Michael Starts (6-5/285)
DT Anthony Smith (6-0/291)
The positives are that Bynum, Starts and Smith are all over 275. But those may be completely fake weights. So assuming the weights are somewhat accurate, they have size, more size that what is currently on the Texas Tech roster, which makes me think that the staff most likely knew that Hyder was worn down by the end of the year last year, playing an undersized 260 at defensive tackle and being asked to sometimes being asked to do too much, most likely because the other options weren't any better than a tired Hyder. This most likely means that Hyder will still have to see time at defensive tackle because there aren't any other options except for very young options.
If we learned anything last year, it's that despite how highly ranked a player may be, do not expect a true freshman to live up to the hype immediately. You should have no expectations that Bynum or Smith are ready to play right now. I know that Bynum is getting a lot of comparisons to Colby Whitlock, but I don't think that's fair or accurate. Whitlock did play as a true freshman, but what Whitlock did is rare and exceptional. It would be spectacular if Bynum or Smith could do the same, but, again, it's not fair to have that type of expectation.
The same could be said for Starts and he and Simmons could be thought of as similar players. They were both essentially 4-star players coming out of high school and I know that I thought that Simmons might have been able to make an immediate impact, but truthfully, his impact was relatively minimal. That doesn't mean that the experience that Simmons got last year won't have a significant impact next year, but he has to be in better shape and he has to have added some weight.
The theorem is that you should not expect a true freshman to make an immediate impact and I still believe that, but since there are only four true defensive tackles on the team, five if you throw in Adams, that's very little depth. Right now, I think that the incoming freshmen will have to contribute, because there aren't any other options. The one consistent about all of the freshmen defensive linemen is that they all have size that isn't currently on the team. It's still to be determined if they have the requisite strength, but they all have size and I think that was intentional. The staff could not afford to take on players that were almost assured of a redshirt, like Phillips last year, who was obviously undersized last year.
I'm going out on a limb here because I think the freshman that will see the most time is Anthony Smith rather than Bynum and Starts, even though Bynum and Starts are more highly rated prospects. Smith is a nose guard, while I think that Bynum played at the 3 and 5 technique, while Smith was largely a 1 and 3 technique guy. What that means is that Smith played a lot over the opposing center (shaded to one side or another) and was more of a true nose guard where Bynum did play a lot over the opposing tackle. Starts is supposedly the highest rated and wants to play defense, but I'm not sure where he'll eventually play, but I'm guessing he'll be like Simmons, a three technique defensive tackle in this scheme rather than a 1 technique. Starts is supposedly incredibly strong, but I still can't find any film on him, so it's tough for me to comment. And because I think that Smith is more likely to play doesn't mean that Bynum won't play. I think he has as good a shot as anyone right now and I think he can play multiple positions along the line, but there is a real need at nose guard with Wesley being the only nose guard on the team.