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What is Texas Tech Getting in Defensive Coordinator David Gibbs?

Now that Texas Tech has hired David Gibbs as the defensive coordinator, what can Texas Tech fans expect from a David Gibbs defense?

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Part of the problem in figuring out exactly what Texas Tech will get in Houston's defensive coordinator David Gibbs is that there just hasn't bee a ton written about what Gibbs intends on doing defensively. What's the scheme? Does it fit with what Texas Tech is doing? What's his defensive philosophy? All questions that I've been searching for since Gibbs was a candidate. I don't know if I was fortunate or lucky, but I ran across this interview with SB Nation's Stephen Godfrey, where we get some real insight as to what Gibbs is going to bring to Texas Tech in terms of philosophy.


I was able to tell that Houston ran a 4-3, just by looking at the depth chart and by watching some film, but I won't pretent to be an expert about what to expect moving forward. This has been the toughest thing to determine is exactly what sort of 4-3 that Gibbs runs and Gibbs runs a 4-3 that's flexible:

I can give him conflict within the game. That might sound like total BS. I don’t know, but I can get him to misread a coverage at one point. -David Gibbs

Fostering interceptions became a function of Gibbs' chess-match scheme. Just as hurry-up offenses run a base set of plays over and over from different formations, Houston's defense would run the same calls from multiple looks. This flexibility is due in part to UH's rush end position, a linebacker who plays as a standing defensive end regardless of a 3-4, 4-3 or nickel look.

"There's plenty of disadvantages now coming from the NFL to college, namely the option and zone read stuff. But if you know it’s a pass, if you know they have to pass, coverage-wise, scheme-wise, you can fool a quarterback into throwing you the football. I’m not saying you’ll catch it, but I’m saying the advantage to me -- and it’s the only advantage I’ve come up with -- if I know it’s pass ... let’s say it’s a two-minute situation. If he’s throwing the ball most of the time, eventually I can keep changing coverages and fool a quarterback. I can give him conflict within the game. That might sound like total BS. I don’t know, but I can get him to misread a coverage at one point."

I think this is really encouraging for a guy like Pete Robertson, who I was unsure as to exactly where he was going to be defensively in a traditional 4-3, but knowing that he likes to have a guy that can rush the passer standing up or with a hand on the ground could be really good for a guy like Robertson. I also pulled the quoted portion because I think this gives us some real insight as to where Gibbs tries to create an advantage, namely, trying to outsmart the quarterback.

Focus on Turnovers

Read the article and it is incredibly apparent that the big-time focus from Gibbs is turnovers. And how long has this been the focus of Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who has harped on turnovers since last year and through all of this year. Turnovers has been a big reason as to why Texas Tech has under-performed for the last two years.

Enter David Gibbs. The first thought is that Gibbs believes that because spread teams spread teh ball around to so many players that you can't have 10 deep that are capable of ball security like the starting four. This leads to point #2, which is that a lack of focus on protecting the ball in hurry-up practices leads to players not focusing on ball security:

"When you see practices with hurry up and no huddle, even when the ball comes out or there’s an interception, you know what they do? They line up and go run the next play. They might scream at a guy for two seconds, but if you’re the player who just fumbled the ball, and they’re snapping it again in a few seconds, how long are you thinking about fumbling the football?"

Boy, this sounds incredibly familiar and it makes me think that Kingsbury sees a solution on both ends of things here. Defensively, I think the idea here is that when choosing a defense, he wants to create one that makes plays, whether that be with Mike Smith at the linebacker spot or the offense being on alert during the practice as well:

In practice, coaches had a running back run 20 yards downfield, then turn around to jog back to the huddle. Levine quietly ordered the secondary to strip the ball on the jog back, after the whistle was blown, at first surprising his offense. This season, the distance increased to 30 yards, with every single 60-yard round trip a battle for the football.

I don't know what Kingsbury has in store, but this fits with maybe his philosophy. It's incredibly tough to field a team by having a defense that allows 300 yards a game, but this is obviously a gamble in a sense. Run to the ball, tackle and be ready for fumbles and turnovers. Gibbs probably believes that those turnovers aren't happening by mistake, for two years in a row for Houston.

I'd also add that when a defensive coordinator comes into a program, they do not have control over a roster. They inherit players.  There's typically little that they can do about adding three 4-star defensive linemen, some high school all-American linebackers and cornerbacks that run a 4.4 40-yard dash.  That's not realistic.  But Gibbs does seem to have something here in that he is attempting to change one thing that simply takes effort.  Realistically, I think it's going to be incredibly tough to stop Samaje Perine because he is big and fast and sometimes, no matter the scheme, you can't stop an opposing offense because of the personnel.  It's something that Cowboys' Rod Marinelli has done with the Cowboys. They don't have elite level talent and he can't really control the personnel, but he has leveled the playing field by fielding a defense that does create a ton of turnovers.

Just Turn It Around

The Chron profiled Gibbs before the Houston game and it truly profiles how Gibbs simply turns around defenses that have been historically terrible.  Gibbs has turned around Minnesota, his first stop as a defensive coordinator and moved onto the NFL.  Then he worked for Tommy Tuberville for a year (of all things) at Auburn where the defense performed and then moved back to the NFL to work again before returning to Houston a couple of years ago.  Gibbs says that he's a college coach and not an NFL coach and more than anything else, he sounds like he has turned around the attitudes of the players more than anything and he continually gives them, the players credit for the turn around:

"I'm proud of these kids for turning the corner," Gibbs said. "Going from everybody thinking they're not very good to everybody all of a sudden thinking they are better than they are. That's a credit to the kids, because they are the same kids that were here three years ago that couldn't stop anybody."

There are obviously some metrics that are worrisome. The yards allowed, but maybe there is something to the thought that when you are a defensive coordinator at a place where it is hard to be a defensive coordinator (like Houston or Texas Tech), where you aren't blessed with 5-star or 4-star athletes that help make being really efficient at all phases of the defense easier, is it more impressive that Gibbs is able to do something really well with less resources?  This will be the debate moving forward, the idea that Gibbs was or is the best option. At the very least, Gibbs has a history, albeit a short history of turning around programs where the defenses have no identity.

David, welcome to Texas Tech and Git Your Guns Up!