Football

Texas Tech Football Position Preview: Defensive Line

What’s the line, man?

We’re off and running with a look at the second position group. Probably would have been smart for me to spread these out (i.e. cornerbacks one week and then safeties the next), but I’m not smart like that.

This week we’ve got the defensive ends and defensive tackles.

Previous Position Previews: The Secondary

Defensive Ends

# FULL NAME POS. HT/WT YEAR
99 Ibeneme, Gilbert DE 6-3/275 RS-Fr.
53 Howard, Eli DE 6-4/275 Sr.
90 Drew, Devin DE 6-2/285 Jr.
91 Mbanasor, Nelson DE 6-3/265 Jr.
77 Lewis, Tre’Jon DE 6-4/240 R-Fr.
97 Bradford Jr., Tony DT 6-1/270 So.

By the end of the year, the starters were Broderick Washington, Jaylon Hutchings, and Howard, with Savier Benson as your rush end. I don’t know that I’m convinced that this is enough of a pass rush. Last year, Texas Tech had 24 total sacks, good for being tied for 80th in the nation. Of those 24, 7 of them happened against Oklahoma State. That’s kind of an outlier, especially against Big 12 competition. Prior to those 7 sacks, the high for sacks in a game (makes me think of Snakes on a Plane for some reason) was 5 against SMU in 2010 in a 35-27 win, and if you want to go one year further, in 2009, Texas Tech had 6 sacks against Rice in a 55-10 win and then had 5 sacks against Nebraska, 31-10.

The point being is that 7 sacks is a lot, in one game, hasn’t happened for darn near a decade, and those 24 sacks may not be representative of the actual pass rush, i.e. 80th in the nation may be generous.

With that being said, I’d love for this team to employ more 4-man fronts with two traditional defensive ends and two defensive tackles (a nose and tackle). Part of the rational here is that the pass rush is maybe one of the more important aspects of the success of a defense. Or maybe a pass rush without bringing a blitz is maybe the best defense. Eli Howard was your top sacker with 5 last year and I think his spot is pretty well cemented, while linebacker Riko Jeffers was 2nd, along with Jordyn Brooks, with 3.

Howard is relentless, but he’s not quick-twitch, at least I didn’t think that he was last year. I’m absolutely fine with that because we can’t all be quick-twitch in terms of getting ot the pass rusher. I’m fine with him being strong-like-ox and if he beefed up a bit playing that defensive end spot, then I’m good with that too. I’d love it if a combination of Bradford, Mbanasor, and Ibeneme would get a significant number of snaps opposite or with Howard. I think we’re at the point that a rotation would do the team and us some good.

One other addition is that I think that head coach Matt Wells has said that JUCO addition, Devin Drew, is still adjusting to the strength aspect of the Big 12 level of play. I believe that is a very nice way to say that he’s struggling perhaps. That shouldn’t be a surprise, it usually takes a year for a JUCO player to really adjust. I think that Drew has 3 years to play 2, which means that he might be better served redshirting and maybe he’s another guy that transitions to a tackle spot.

Defensive Tackles

# FULL NAME POS. HT/WT YEAR
92 Jones, Noah DT 6-3/285 SR.
93 Scott III, John DT 6-3/275 So.
95 Hutchings, Jaylon DT 6-0/295 So.
96 King, Jonathan DT 6-1/335 Jr.
98 McCann, Nick DT 6-2/310 Sr.
59 Semrak, Zackery DT 6-2/280 Jr.
61 Te’o, Troy DT 6-2/270 Jr.

At tackle, last year Broderick Washington was a rock and Hutchings came in and I think surprised a lot of people (that would be me) being able to start and play as much as he did as a freshman. If I was worried about a position on defense other than safety, this would be it. I’m not worried about Hutchings, he’s gonna play and play well, but who else gets the other defensive tackle spot?

Does McCann step up and be a starter? That seems likely. Has Scott fully recovered from his gunshot situation? I don’t know if I can ever recall Noah Jones, who I think is maybe a defensive end, has played meaningful snaps in four years of playing for Texas Tech or really ever been part of the conversation. Does Jonathan King get significant playing time? I could only find that King was on the 2018 roster (not the 2019 roster) for Army and that he had no stats for 2018 or 2017.

The pickings are slim and the only other thing that I can maybe think of is if some of those defensive ends play the tackle spot. I don’t know if Bradford has the height to really play defensive end, but a 6-1 280 pound defensive tackle that’s accustomed to getting after a passer? Yeah, I think that’s highly useful.

Is this going to be the 2015 defensive line? A defense that was last or darn near last in rushing defense? That defense consisted of Breiden Fehoko, Branden Jackson, Rika Levi, Keland McElrath, Talor Nunez, Ondre Pipkins, Marcus Smith, etc. That defense (and I know it wasn’t all the line’s fault, but they’re going to get a brunt of the blame) gave up 280 rushing yards a game, 127th out of 128 teams, and then mustered only 19 sacks for the entire year, 103rd in the nation. That was Patrick Mahomes sophomore year and a loss to LSU in the bowl game.

The question is if the guys coming up are developing and are strong enough to hold the line. Last year, even though I think that Washington was a good defensive player,

The Freshmen

# FULL NAME POS. HT/WT YEAR
LB Moore DE 6-3/215 Fr.
Philip Blidi DE 6-4/235 FR.

Only two defensive linemen in the 2020 class, and they were two defensive ends, although I could absolutely see Blidi rounding into a defensive tackle at some point. He’s probably bigger than the 235 he’s listed at, but the lack of tackles, with the actual lack of tackles listed above, is problematic from my perspective.

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