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Secondary Preview 2017: Corners

It’s been awhile since we’ve had some ball hawks

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Texas Christian Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

One facet of the Tech’s struggling defense that has been overlooked (due to the glaring inability of the front seven to stop the run) has been the secondary. While being relatively decent in 2015, 95th in passing yards allowed, to downright dreadful last year coming in 112th in 2016. The caveat is turnovers. In 2015, though yardage isn’t great, had a good year taking the ball away. In 2016 however, the turnovers went away and the yardage increased.

To combat the problem, the last two recruiting cycles have been focused heavily on defensive backs. Eight talented players have come to Tech in that time who are either Freshman or Sophomores. To quell the experience gap that shown itself last year, Tech has turned to highly regarded JUCO players who seem to be bigger, faster and more ball-hawking than Tech secondary’s in the past.

If you were a Tech fan who could see the potential in guys like Coleman and Smith, the next way for true freshman, redshirts, transfers and JUCOs are taking the field giving David Gibbs the deepest secondary he’s had at his time at Tech.

Losses in the Secondary

Justis Nelson

A Four-year starter for Tech who made a name for himself in the bowl game against Arizona St in 2013 with a huge interception to put the game away. From that point on, he never seemed to quite live up to that initial optimism, always seeming a step late. Bounced back in forth from corner to safety and back to corner.

Keenon Ward

Arguably the heart and best player of the cornerback group, but battled injuries his junior and senior year. A difference maker when in and sorely missed when sidelined.

Thierry Nguema

Nguema always had steady play at corner through his years at Tech. The odd man out in 2015 behind Tevin Madison and Nigel Bethel, was cemented in the starting spot in 2016 after both Madison and Bethel transferred.

Paul Banks III

Thrown into the fire out of desperation. Seemed to have flashes at times, but sorely over-matched verus top level talent.

Experienced Returners

D.J. Polite-Bray

The converted wide-receiver has played both corner and safety the last two years and has seen mixed results at best. One of the more physical secondary players on the team last year, but seemed to be a victim of scheme more than being over-matched.
In 2016, had 26 solo tackles, 5 assisted with 5 pass deflections.

Douglas Coleman III

Coleman, a 3-star recruit, played in 7 games as a true freshman and had two huge plays to endear himself to the Tech fanbase. First, a goal-line interception versus TCU that helped force the game to overtime and second, a forced fumble and recovery against Texas that Coleman returned 100 yards for a TD.

Desmon Smith

Smith was a highly regarded 3-star recruit out of Odessa Permian (by Kevin Curtis and Mike Smith no less) and played in 7 games as a true freshman. Smith once again seems to be a victim of scheme more than talent as his stats aren’t that impressive. Just 16 total tackles, 12 solo and 4 assisted.

New Faces

Octavious Morgan, Jaylon Lane, Thomas Leggett, Willie Sykes, Adrian Frye, Quincy Addison, Abraham Wallace

And that’s just the players predicted to be at corner this year (Safeties are previewed tomorrow). As we know it’s pretty fluid in the college game but these guys should give Tech fans plenty to be excited about.

Morgan and Lane are the big JUCO transfers hogging all the news and rightfully so. Look for them to play right away with Coleman playing Nickel. Sykes is coming over from Arkansas and should see substantial playing time. Leggett comes via the JUCO route earning First-team All Pacific League Honors out of Allan Hancock College.

Frye and Addison (possible safety) are both true freshman (3-star recruits) and should be redshirted with the influx of JUCO players this year.

Impact Player

Octavious Morgan

Morgan, for good or for bad, will be the standard this secondary sets itself by. From all accounts of his JUCO career he is a physical ball-hawk. Something Tech has not had at the corner position since perhaps... Jamar Wall? And if not that far back, definitely within the last couple of years.

Sleeper


Tech also got a bit of good news as LSU grad-transfer Abraham Wallace will be joining the Tech defense as a walk-on. Don’t let the walk-on status fool you. All reports say that Wallace is quite good, but just couldn’t break through on a stacked LSU defensive backfield. Look for him to have a big impact once he gets onto the field.


Size


The biggest reason Tech’s secondary will be successful this year is simply size. If you only know one thing about the group Kingsbury, Gibbs and company have been recruiting it’s size. Gone are the days of 5-9 Nigel Bethel and take a look at the sizes of Tech’s corners today... (Again, not including safeties)

Bray: 6’0
Smith: 6’2
Morgan: 6’0
Leggett: 6’0
Davis: 6’1
Sykes: 6’0
Frye: 6’1
Coleman: 6’1
Lane: 6’2
Addison 6’1

Get your popcorn ready.