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Five Most Important Redshirt Freshman on Defense

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"Five" is a series of five things, players, thoughts or whatever I think will fill a post.

1. DE Branden Jackson | I keep thinking that Jackson is a sophomore. I keep thinking that he played last year and that's not the case. Jackson didn't play and he might just be the best redshirt freshman on the team. During the spring game, Jackson was a revelation at defensive end. You can pretty much pencil him as a starter for the foreseeable future and you will see Jackson and Kindred Evans as rotating defensive ends for the next three or four years. And Jackson is ready. Very much ready. He is matured physically and he looks to be at least one pass-rushing option and now Texas Tech has a really nice group of defensive ends, that if they play to their potential, should help tremendously in terms of getting to the passer, which just didn't happen last year.

2. LB Justin Cooper | I'm pretty sure I've written this before, but when I saw Cooper playing linebacker, I had to check my program to see who he was because it wasn't Sam Eguavoen, but it was someone that looked a heck of a lot like Eguavoen and it was Cooper. I cannot tell you how impressed I am with Cooper's side and speed and the staff also feels that way. We probably knew that Eguavoen was passing Daniel Cobb, but so has Cooper and I'm fine with that. Cooper played smart and technically correct during the spring game. I was very much impressed with how he played and you can expect Cooper to play this year filling in for Eguavoen.

3. CB Jeremy Reynolds | Reynolds is going to be the future at cornerback or he is going to passed over completely by JUCO replacements. This is Reynolds opportunity. Reynolds should have the opportunity to play, but he is behind Jarvis Phillips and the starters, so he's running third team at both cornerback spots. Reynolds was always undersized, and he still is to a point, but he has added about 10 pounds since he arrived and I'm fine with that. Like I said though, not all of the JUCO players had arrived on campus and Reynolds may have been running third team more as a result of circumstance than anything else. But Reynolds has the opportunity to prove that he should be part of the rotation next year because almost the entire starting secondary will graduate after this year and there will be four open spots next year.

More after the jump.

4. CB J.J. Gaines | Gaines is one of those athletes that played quarterback for his high school team (think Keenan Ward) and has switched positions to defensive back. Gaines is showing up at strong safety on the depth chart and like Reynolds, he has opportunity, but it's going to take him a bit longer to see time as he's also behind D.J. Johnson and Tre Porter. So in addition to switching positions from high school, he is also playing behind some players and I can't say that I recall much about him during the spring game.

5. DT Donte Phillips | He is the project. He is working hard and he is someone that you don't talk about because there are higher rated teams that are ahead of Phillips, but he is there and I'm fine with Phillips biding his time. Like Gaines, I don't recall Phillips during the spring game, but he did gain 19 pounds during his redshirt year. Phillips weighed only 256 when he arrived as a defensive tackle and now he is at 275. Every team needs players that develop and then just all of a sudden show up on the depth chart his junior year and should be ready to play. I'm hopeful that Phillips will be this guy.