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Texas Tech Player Eligibility Table: Defensive Line

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Texas Tech is heading into an important year for the development of the defensive line and could graduate five defensive tackles at the end of 2015.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

This will be a somewhat short series to catch everyone up on the current state of the eligibility remaining for each position group. We'll update these tables after National Signing Day.

Defensive Tackles

Defensive Tackle Eligibility Remaining
Player Year Ht/Wt. 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Demetrius Alston SR 6-3/267
Marcus Smith SR 6-3/310
Keland McElrath SR 6-4/312
Donte Phillips SR 6-2/280
Rika Levi SR 6-2/367
Anthony Smith JR 6-0/331
Josh Outlaw SO 6-5/308

Reason for Hope

There's a ton of returning starts here and I think that means something.  It usually takes the JUCO guys a year to get to speed and so it wouldn't surprise me to see the line make some improvement.  And it could be fairly significant improvement because Texas Tech should have a really healthy rotation.  Not only that, but there should be a decent rotation as well.

Reason for Concern

So yeah, it's pretty bleak after the 2016 season at the defensive tackle spot.  Anything can happen in a year so a ton of things could happen.  The one thing that I didn't consider until I actually put this table together is the possibility of some of these JUCO players using a redshirt this year and saving their eligibility for the 2015 season.  You never know how a player will take that advice.  Most players just want to play and graduate and be done, but this could really be beneficial for Texas Tech and the player.  Obviously, the benefit here is that it would allow them to get another year of education under their belt and allow Texas Tech some breathing room as there are some true freshmen that will hopefully redshirt this year.  I'm not 100% sure that those redshirt years are available, but I think this is the case.

I mentioned the other day that it would seem like this would be a really nice spot to maybe think about moving some other players to defensive line because if none of the JUCO players redshirt, then it is obviously really slim heading into 2016. I don't like to county my chickens before they hatch, but as you can see, it is incredibly important to get some bodies here. The other option would be to recruit some, one or two, JUCO players in the 2016 class. I'm not a huge proponent for that, but it may be necessary.

Prognosis for 2015

I still think that the defensive line is going to be better because all of those JUCO guys will be more experienced and more prepared to play.  The transition from JUCO ball to Division I ball is pretty significant and it is rare for a player to make the jump and excel immediately.  We'll try to figure out how much improvement is realistic a bit later.  For now, I think that Levi and Alston will start with a combination of Smith and Fehoko as the second team.  Something like this seems about right.  I think Outlaw will need to continue to improve significantly, work on his game and be part of the rotation. I think there's more than enough room for Outlaw to get plenty of snaps here and even another player could see snaps in addition to these five players.

Defensive Ends

Defensive End Eligibility Remaining
Player Year Ht/Wt. 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Branden Jackson SR 6-4/270
Gary Moore SO 6-5/226
Zach Barnes SO 6-2/221

Reason for Hope

Jackson is going to be really good I think this next year and I'd love if he slimmed down just a bit, which goes against most of what I think for defensive linemen, maybe play around 260 at defensive end. I think the additional bit of quickness would do him a bit of good.  The best thing is that Jackson is really going to be a leader and I think he'll be a huge part of the success for this team and program in 2015.

Reason for Concern

The biggest issue is that Moore and Barnes don't have a ton of experience.  This is an understatement.  Moore played more towards the end of the year, but it wasn't a ton.  I think I recall a bit of action in Iowa State.  I'd also add that Moore's Texas Tech bio says that he is from Clarksville HS in Midland, Texas.  This is the opposite of where Clarksville is actually located.  With Barnes, he redshirted this year but he played in 2013.  We'll hopefully see a new and improved Barnes.  I actually really like his ability to rush the passer, but I've always felt that Barnes and Moore were undersized to play defensive end.  I sorta like for most defensive ends to be in the 250 to 260 range.

Prognosis for 2015

I think for 2015, Texas Tech will really have to figure out if Moore and Barnes can play defensive end because I'm honestly not sure if they have the size.  And this also means that they have to live in the weight room because a 220 pound defensive end isn't going to set the edge.