Let’s face the facts. The 2014 Texas Tech run defense was absolutely porous, with the lowlight being the game against Arkansas. The Razorbacks had 2 runners rush for at least 145 yards, and ended the day with 438 yards, collectively. I was at that game, and remember during one drive Arkansas did nothing but hand the ball off to the runner during that series, capping the series off with a rushing touchdown. It seemed that every time Arkansas handed the ball off the Red Raiders gave up 5-7 yards. Unfortunately, this was not a one game showing. Only 3 times last season did the Red Raiders hold their opponents to less than 200 yards rushing, against the FCS team Central Arkansas, the pass-happy Oklahoma State, and the lowly Kansas squads. There is nothing more demoralizing for a defense than to have an offense run the ball down their throats.
Under new defensive coordinator David Gibbs’ 4-3 defensive alignment, Tech is moving former starting linebacker Pete Robertson to defensive end. At linebacker, he led the Big 12 with 12 sacks in 2014. Last season, he mainly rushed the passer. This season, he is being given more responsibility, including dropping into coverage and spying the opposing quarterback. The sack numbers may drop a little bit, but I like having one of Tech’s defensive playmakers given more responsibilities/opportunities to make big plays.
According to the Texas Tech depth chart provided to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal the pre-spring game depth chart is as follows:
Defensive end: Branden Jackson, Gary Moore, Talor Nunez.
Defensive tackle: Keland McElrath, Demetrius Alston, Breiden Fehoko.
Defensive tackle: Rika Levi, Anthony Smith, Marcus Smith, Josh Outlaw.
Defensive rush end: Pete Robertson, Kris Williams, Zach Barnes.
Out With Injury: DT Donte Phillips, DE Andre Ross
The 2015 recruiting class included 4-star DT from Hawaii, Breiden Fehoko. Fehoko has the potential to be the cornerstone piece for the Red Raider defense for the next 3-4 years, and quite possibly an immediate impact player on a defensive line that needs big-time players. Other 2015 recruits include 2-star DE Lonzell Gilmore from Spring, Texas and fellow 2-star recruit DL Broderick Washington from Longview, Texas.
If Texas Tech has any chance of competing for their long-elusive first Big 12 football championship, the defensive line has to make major improvements over last season. If they do not improve on last year’s showing, not only will the Red Raiders have no shot at that Big 12 title, but it will be an uphill battle just getting back to a bowl game.
I want to hear what you think. Do you see this defensive line being improved for the 2015 season, or will Tech simply revisit the horrors that characterized the 2014 season? Either comment below, or tweet me @ConnerCrisp with your opinion. As I did last week, I need to thank Chancellor Photography for the image used at the top of this article from the spring game, played in Midland. If you are interested in viewing more of their images from the game visit their Facebook page. Thanks for reading and Guns Up!