Football

Five Spring Thoughts on the Defensive Line

The Texas Tech defensive line may be the most maligned position group, but with Mike Smith as the new position coach and a handful of returning players there is hope that this group is significantly better.

1. Baby Deer Skin. Anyone else think about why defensive line coach Mike Smith used that phrase two or three times in the one time that we’ve heard from Smith. The implication here is that Smith didn’t think very much of the toughness of the group last year. This was and is a point of emphasis I’m guessing this spring and it’s strange that this is something that needs to be emphasized. I don’t blame John Scott, Jr. Not really. I think toughness is something that’s taught year after year and players pick up on how tough the older players are and it trickles down each year. That term “toughness” may be the one thing that isn’t definable from what we can see, but has been the one thing that makes or breaks this team moving forward. How tough and rough can the defensive line be and how tough can Smith teach the younger guys to be? I suppose that’s to be determined, but it’s going to have to happen.

2. Backing Up Jackson. We’ve already talked about replacing defensive end Branden Jackson (and yes, I may be concerned about nothing, but the recent results of JUCO players not performing the first year may warrant that concern), but maybe the next question for 2015 is who backs up Jackson? I didn’t notice this until recently re-watching the spring game, but included on the team, but not on the roster, is transfer Armani Brumfield, a defensive end from Abilene Christian who I have no idea what happened when he appeard at ACU in 2011, but is now apparently playing for Texas Tech. Also mentioned in the article above is the thought that Andre Ross, Talor Nunez and maybe Gary Moore are all options to back up at defensive end with Ross, Brumfield and Nunez the most likely candidates. It’s pretty thin.

3. Lots of Depth at Tackle. This really is a situation where Texas Tech does have a lot of depth and I still think this is one of those situations where it would really benefit one of the two JUCO guys remaining from last year to take this year as a redshirt year. Just trying to put together a depth chart, you’ve got at least four guys at defensive tackle, Keland McElrath, Demetrious Alston (and he could maybe flip to defensive end to spell Branden Jackson), Breiden Fehoko and Poet Thomas. That’s a pretty good bunch and one that I’m pretty comfortable with overall.

4. Maturity. When David Gibbs was asked about Josh Outlaw, he said, repeatedly, that he needed to mature, both on and off the field. That is not what I wanted to hear after seeing the progress that I thought he made during the spring. but at the very least, Gibbs, who hasn’t said this about anyone else, is giving Outlaw an incredibly clear sign, a beacon if you will, that he better get his tail in gear if he wants to play defensive line and be part of that group with Breiden Fehoko next year. The troublesome part here, and you really don’t need me to draw you a map, is that without Outlaw being part of this thing and figuring out a way to be a bit more mature then I’m not even sure what to say in 2016 other than you will certainly be able to sell to any JUCO player that would be willing to listen that Texas Tech has some opportunities for immediate playing time. Immediate. Outlaw had better figure it out, for his and this team’s sake.

5.A. Big Boys in the Middle. I love the new and improved Rika Levi and it was good to see Anthony Smith get some meaningful reps. I think the disparity between the two is pretty big, but Smith can be a big-time contributor next year and a guy that can contribute as a reserve this year. No question about that. Levi looks thinner and looks like the player that Texas Tech signed up for when he signed last year. He did a really nice job of getting to the quarterback and I generally thought he did a good job of playing in the proper position.

5.B. 124 of 128. This is really the bottom line here and it’s something that I’ve really pushed out of my brain for the spring. The defense was bad, but the rush defense was abysmal and unacceptable. Teams averaged over 5 yards a carry and near 260 yards a game. That will get you 124th in the nation. There may not be more pressure on any coach other than Mike Smith to get a particular unit to improve. It absolutely starts here, up front with these guys. There is no way you cannot emphasize the importance of this group improving. And yes, we know that it’s not just about the line, but the linebackers in terms of stopping the run, but if you can some how manage a passable run defense, then the sky is the limit with this team. If Mike Smith can do that, then he might be some sort of wizard. I’m not going to be betting against him.


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