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.
One of my biggest question marks through this offseason was how much improvement on the defense is realistic. Same players, for the most part, but changing the defense for the fourth year in a row and these players are on their four defensive coordinator in four years. No numbers or statistics that this fact alone, the lack of consistency, is perhaps the biggest reason for the decline.
In Tuberville's first venture into hiring a defensive coordinator he hired James Willis and his man coverage 3-4 style of defense. Aside from not having the personnel to run the 3-4, the biggest problem for me was what he asked the cornerbacks to do, which was to play press, man coverage. There is no doubt that this can be an effective type of defense, however, the problem is that you have to have the players that can keep up with the scheme. Press, man coverage is a tall task for most cornerbacks and it is the reason why NFL teams place such a high priority on those types of players in the draft. Texas Tech does not have those types of players and as a result I think Tuberville was asking that the players adjust and no amount of good or great coaching was going to overcome what the players were being asked to do. Even Oklahoma, who has as good of athletes as you will find doesn't ask this of their cornerbacks. Square pegs in round holes.
Many of you have the opinion that Tuberville under-estimated the Big 12 and I've never thought that Tuberville picking a coach with a scheme is a case where I think that Tuberville under-estimated the Big 12 offenses. For me, the biggest problem with Willis' 3-4 was that Willis asked the athletes at Texas Tech to do something that few teams are able to do. I'd even add that I think that Tuberville was trying to get a step ahead of the Big 12 offenses by presenting something that most teams had not seen. The lesson that I take out of the 2010 season is that you cannot ask too much or more than what the personnel is capable of athletically.
In 2011, with the hiring of Chad Glasgow, I think that Tuberville tried to think outside of the box again and hire a 4-2-5 defensive coordinator and try to give Big 12 offenses something that they had not seen on a regular basis. I spent more time on detailing the simplicity of the 4-2-5 defense last summer and now it seems like a waste, but what I did learn was that the 4-2-5 can work with spread offenses and ground based offensive schemes and could be incredibly effective, but the players have to understand the concepts. The information that I found on the 4-2-5 was that it was easy to install and that after the first 3 or 4 days, the rest of the time could be spent on the various blitzes and stunts that could be implemented utilizing this scheme. What I think I saw last year was a defense that saw players not lined up correctly or playing the proper technique and S Cody Davis somewhat confirmed this in his blog, A Student of the Game from earlier this year:
The 4-2-5 was our new defense and it was a little more simplified than the last. However, perfection was demanded and our played showed that we were too worried to mess up.
The lesson learned for me in 2011 is that if you are going to ask players to play a certain scheme that only a handful of other coaches do very well, then the alignment and technique that you are asking of those players had better be near flawless coaching execution. Asking that a former position coach an entirely new defense to the entire staff and the team had better be spot-on and I don't think it was and although trying to prove if a defense was not lined up properly is incredibly difficult to prove, for me the proof was with the play on the field. The bottom line is that I think there was a severe disconnect between the concept and the execution, or lack thereof.
And before I continue, I want to be completely clear. As I try to work through the past two defensive coordinator hires, this is not me trying to make excuses, but for me to figure out if there were any lessons to be learned. The hires were disastrous and I'm not debating that point in any way shape or form.
So now we move onto 2011 and the hiring of Art Kaufman, a long time assistant with Tuberville and a guy that had history with Tuberville. Kaufman was bringing in a defense where Tuberville had some familiarity, the 4-3 defense. This is not an exciting hire. This is not a "name" defensive coordinator and maybe we should be happy about that. The impetus of this post was to determine how much improvement was realistic for improvement for the defense and so I love all of the factors that are included in the Football Outsiders F/+ rankings of the defense and feel that these figures include so much of what I consider to be important. So I took the rankings from the end of the years for 2010 and 2011 and the biggest improvement was, by far, Michigan (this is not the full list, but rather the top 30 or so teams that improved the most defensively).
The table and so much more after the jump.
|2011 F/+ Rk||Team||2011 Def F/+||2011 Rk||2010 F/+ Rk||2010 Def F/+||2010 Rk||Improvement|
|85||San Jose State||-1.10%||64||109||-9.10%||107||43|
Quick, tell me who the defensive coordinator for Michigan is.
Honestly, you could have given me months to think of who it is and I would never have gotten it right. Greg Mattison is an old friend of Brady Hoke and he helped engineer one of the more dramatic turns of a defense that I can recall. An improvement of 95 spots is ridiculous to consider or even contemplate in a given year and Mattison made it happen in his first year. If you are a frequent reader of MGoBlog, you know the number of posts that was dedicated to the one year defensive coordinator Greg Robinson (also known as GERG) and the defensive miscues by the 2010 Michigan defense. MGoBlog examined in detail the improper defensive alignments and players out of position and you could argue that Rich Rodriguez's hiring of Robinson was most likely Rodriguez's downfall. Robinson tried to employ a 3-3-5 defense, a unique defensive alignment that few defensive coordinators can actually run well.
So Hoke went back to what he knew and it could not have worked out any better for Michigan for a one year turn around. An improvement of 95 spots is simply staggering, in one year with a new defensive coordinator. Mattison employed a traditional 4-3 defense that most players, even at the high school level are familiar running. I don't know if Michigan fans thought that Mattison was a splash hire, but UM hired an older defensive coordinator that brought simplicity and fundamentals back to a team that looked like it was in complete disarray last year.
I'm not going to argue that Texas Tech is going to have the same improvement as Michigan because Tuberville hired a defensive coordinator that has been around the block and is emphasizing fundamentals and alignment, Granted, Michigan has the benefit of having most likely better athletes than Texas Tech and the Big Ten is not the offensive conference that the Big 12 is, but I'm just trying to give you a reason to believe that maybe an emphasis on fundamentals and alignment can make a significant difference.
Tuberville hired Kaufman and John Lovett and there is familiarity with these two coaches and I think that is a good thing. There is familiarity with the people and there is familiarity with the scheme. At this point I don't know how much improvement is realistic for this team, but the things that Kaufman said after the spring was that he didn't watch much tape from last year and he tried to spend time evaluating what the players could do and not what they did last year. They have also emphasized the point that they focused on alignment and technique and fundamentals. As silly as it sounds, proper alignment and technique is half the battle, just being in the right spot so that a defense can work in symphony rather than eleven individual parts that don't seem to have a common goal.
Perhaps the best thing that I can tell you is that significant improvement is possible. Not saying that it is probable, but possible.