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March 22, 2013

Preview: Uncertainty at DB

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There is talent in the Texas Tech secondary. The objective is going to be sorting through everyone to put the best possible defensive backfield out there against some aggressive pass offenses in the Big 12 Conference.

The secondary is going through an identity crisis as mainstay safeties Cody Davis and D.J. Johnson have exhausted eligibility after starting for four and three years respectively. Last year's primary starting cornerbacks, Cornelius Douglas and Eugene Neboh, also have graduated from the program to create a blank slate with hardly any experience available.

There aren't many known quantities returning to Texas Tech's secondary, which will make for a fascinating spring. Tre' Porter started eight games in a nickel role in 2012 but is expected to slide over to safety. Beyond that, the secondary is completely open for the taking.
The Basics
Returning Starters: Bruce Jones (6), Derrick Mays (3), Tre Porter (8)

Others Returning: Brandon Bagley, Shawn Corker, Olaoluwa Falemi, J.J. Gaines, LaDarius Newbold, Theirry Nguema, Jeremy Reynolds, Austin Stewart, Keenon Ward

Departures: Jarvis Phillips
Notable 2012 Statistics
Jeremy Reynolds is the only returning defensive back that registered an interception in 2012.

Bruce Jones is the secondary's leading returning tackler, as he posted 31 stops in 2012.

Tech ranked No. 88 in the country and last in the Big 12 in interceptions last season (8).
Kliff Kingsbury and company have done what they can to supplement talent in the secondary. Redshirt freshman Keenon Ward has been moved to safety after a little bit of debate of where he best fit, and as former Tech receiver Shawn Corker also will get a look at safety.

There are more experienced options available at safety as well.

Tre' Porter moves from playing predominantly the nickel position last year to safety and will most likely anchor the unit at the strong safety position considering his athleticism. There won't be much of a drop off between Johnson and Porter this spring.

J.J. Gaines is someone who could step into a starting position at safety this year after an impressive fall camp as a redshirt freshman and a little bit of playing time in the 2012 season. His stock is definitely on the rise.

Rising senior Austin Stewart rounds out players who could see playing time at safety.

There are less established options at cornerback.

This could be rising senior Bruce Jones's year after some significant playing time his first year on campus. Derrick Mays and Olaoluwa Falemi also are returning for their senior years.

Maybe it's time for some freshmen to step up. The Red Raiders have a lot of young options at cornerback.

La'Darius Newbold, Brandon Bagley and Theirry Nguema are now burning eligibility and sophomore Jeremy Reynolds was once a promising player who could recapture a spark in spring ball.

Tech has a lot of options to fill out the secondary and have some depth behind the starters. It's just going to be a process to get the defensive backfield sorted out.

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PRESSURE IS ON: It's hard to believe, but Porter is already a senior. He's battled injuries and, like others on the roster, been moved around quite a bit as a result of the Red Raiders' seemingly annual shift to another base defensive scheme. Porter will be looked at to plug one of the team's holes in the secondary -- at safety -- and is the most proven player that returns to the defensive backfield.

BIGGEST QUESTION: Who emerges as the favorite for the second safety spot? Keenon Ward enters the spring with a fair amount of buzz surrounding him, but he'll be going through his first spring so it's hard to pencil him in for anything yet. Could Shawn Corker make a push after being moved from wide receiver? Will Austin Stewart step up?

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