Texas Tech plays bad defense. It is what it is.
For as well known as we are for our offense, we’re equally pathetic on the other side of the ball. Defensive coordinators from literally every corner on the United States have had their cracks at job, and 90 percent have failed in their attempts. Their experience could be from the SEC, Big 12, Pac-12, or the NFL—it doesn’t make much of a difference. Yet, when the stars align and we have a solid defense, we tend to win 8+ games. Oddly enough, I have more optimism on defense than I should entering the season.
I can’t think of one true freshman that will start on the defense this fall, or even make the two deep if we’re being totally serious. Maybe Nelson Mbanasor gets some work, but I don’t feel great about it. The only reason I like his odds, are because of his sheer size and the lack of needing to put on good weight to play much this fall.
It’s also possible in the secondary you might see a guy like John Davis sneak in, but I can promise you that none of these freshmen will start unless we have additional attrition or injuries. This is a great thing. With experience comes a lack of boneheaded blown assignment, which means not as many big plays being allowed. I think back to games against Oklahoma State, Kansas State, and Texas as prime examples of what could have been should our defense have played smarter.
David Gibbs has done an absolutely marvelous job of recruiting to a defense that’s been historically bad. Despite the statistics, he’s managed to pull in P5 caliber talent, and has built a foundation of depth that bodes will for being able to finish a game in the 4th quarter.
At linebacker, we will be able to run out a legit 3-deep for the first time in likely 10+ years. In the secondary, say what you will about Junior College talent, but we have highly regarded guys at every level there. Players such as Jah’Shawn Johnson won’t have to play 90+ snaps, because players such as Thomas Legget can rotate in for a few series. Seeing as how we play five defense backs in our typical rotation, having 12 guys who are playable is required if you want to see success.
I’ll admit the loss of Breido Fehoko wasn’t ideal on the defense line, and Clarence Henderson not panning out is unfortunate. But, I feel like the Hill brothers will emerge this year, and newcomers Eli Howard and Houston Miller will be difference makers.
I touched on this a little bit earlier, but David Gibbs has landed Big 12 quality talent at every level. The majority of your two deep contains players that could start/contribute most everywhere in the conference. This is more than we could say in the past.
I’m beyond giddy at the idea of a secondary that’s loaded with Juniors and Seniors for the first time in ages. Generally, with talents such as Jah’Shawn Johnson you see them really come into their own as a 4th year player. It’s also possible that you landed a hidden gem in transfer Justus Parker. Parker shined bright during spring practices, and in the spring game. All these variables start to roll up and give reason for cautious optimism.
By the numbers, a top 80 defense allowed ~15 points per game less than what we did last year, and a whopping ~140 less yards per game. Think of the close games we had, subtract 15 points off per game and we’re in the hunt for the conference title.
I won’t go so far as to predict a top-80 defense for this fall, because I’ve been burned speculating on this before. But, I will say that the data backs up that this is actually a reasonable thought. The offense will take a small step back (we lost a top 10 pick in Mahomes, let’s be real), but I’m hoping our defense takes a big step forward.
We’re only 51 days from college football season.