August 29, 2011

Tech pleased with newcomers

The Texas Tech defense hasn't been tested yet but when head coach Tommy Tuberville talks about the unit there's a slight smirk on his face that just wasn't there last year.

There is way more confidence in the Red Raiders defensively heading into game one of 2011 than there was at this time a season ago.

"It's yet to be seen, but we're more athletic," the head coach said during Monday's media luncheon. "We've got a lot more depth. There are even some places last year where we were barely one deep, this year we're three deep. Now that's people playing those positions. Can they get the job done?

"It's going to take a few of them, like Delvon Simmons a while to figure out the speed of the game. Leon Mackey, even though he's over 20 years old and played two years of junior college ball, it's going to take him a while to figure out how to play his position. I'm really encouraged by the athletic ability we have on all the defense. We fly around a lot better. We've got guys that are asking better questions. I think they're a lot more comfortable with what we're doing now.

Virtually any defensive improvement is a major improvement for Tech. The Red Raiders ranked near to last in any conceivable defensive category.

The defense wasn't as bad as it seems on first glance though. There simply wasn't much depth and that showed about midway through the season when the situation at defensive line got so dire that Dartwan Bush had to shed his redshirt and former defensive tackle Colby Whitlock had to play nearly 80 plays a game.

The coaching staff recognized the issues and did wonders in the offseason. Tuberville and crew brought in some of the best raw defensive talent ever seen in the 2011 recruiting class and some of those guys will get their first taste of college football Saturday after holding their own against the Red Raider offense in fall camp.

"I'm excited about watching the younger guys play for the first time that I think will be household names for the next four years here at Texas Tech," Tuberville said. "Offense and defense guys like Blake Dees, LaDarrin Robertson, Delvon Simmons, Sam Eguavoen."

The freshmen will get tested by fire. Even though Texas State is a heavy underdog, the Bobcats still should have some players that are bigger, faster and stronger than the Tech freshmen. Upperclassmen tried by fire in their own right.

Saturday will help separate the men from the boys.

Tuberville said he feels good about 31 defensive players for the Texas State game but he wants to trim the number of players in the game to about 25 by the New Mexico game.

For the next three or more years to come, there finally is depth on the Tech defense and the plan is to continue expanding with more good recruiting years. But the best news is that above the depth is a layer of experienced players who should get the brunt of the work while the younger players continue to develop at 10 to 15 plays a game.

Tech fans trust guys like Cody Davis who is about to begin his third season as a starter in the secondary. But should that experience not suffice, Davis believes the younger players are more capable than outsiders might think.

"Bringing in youth does bring a lack of experience somewhat, but at the same time the intensity is probably even higher, just coming in with more focus and more intensity," Davis said. "Want to go learn the game plan faster, trying to get in there and show what you've got as a young guy and bring some more intensity to it."

With an experienced upper class and depth below them, the Red Raiders feel this could be a surprisingly successful season for a unit that has everything to prove.

"I think we need to step up and show we have defense here at Texas Tech," Davis said. "Last year pretty bad stats, terrible stats at that, but we need to just come up and come with a new attitude and show what we've got."

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