The Texas Tech football team struggled in a few areas during Tommy Tuberville's maiden voyage on the Caprock. Special team blunders caused many clumps of hair to be pulled by Red Raiders across the state. Critical fumbles caused what hair remained to turn white. But it was the team's abysmal pass defense that caused tresses to fall out entirely, perhaps never to return.
A fine tonic for all these hairy problems, and a real boost to Tech's prospects in 2011 would be dramatic improvement in pass defense. The Red Raiders surrendered a woeful 294 passing yards per contest last season, which was third worst in the nation. James Willis' defense was marginally better in pass percentage defense, placing No.81 nationally in that category, while Tech's 28 allowed touchdown passes was good for the No.111 spot. Clearly, there is much work to be done.
The 1985 Chicago Bears defense was not built in a day, and likewise one cannot expect Chad Glasgow's pass defense to go from whipping boy status to world-beater in one short year. But we can certainly expect noticeable improvement. Glasgow certainly does.
Toward that end a benchmark of 225 passing yards allowed per game seems reasonable. That's the number Florida State put up last season and it was good for No.71 in the nation. But for the Red Raiders to reach even that modest number, they will have to improve by approximately 70 yards over their 2010 performance. Can they do it?
Fewer/More: Will Tech's pass defense allow fewer than 225 passing yards per game in 2011?
Part of the secondary's problems in 2010 stemmed from switching to an almost exclusively man-to-man coverage scheme from one that was almost entirely zone. Tech's defensive backs faired reasonably well under Ruffin McNeil's zone defense, but never got a handle on James Willis' man package.
And one reason for this difficulty was the complexity of Willis' defense. In a classic case of paralysis by analysis, Tech's defenders spent more time trying to figure out what they were supposed to do than simply doing it. The results were ugly.
Chad Glasgow has simplified the defense and he will not rely strictly on man coverage. In theory, these changes should benefit the Red Raider pass defense.
It would also prove beneficial if Tech's front seven could gin up a more robust pass rush than what we saw a year ago. In 2010 the Red Raiders averaged 1.92 sacks per game, which was 66th best in the land. And gone is leading sacker Bryan Duncan. But defensive end Scott Smith—once he's eligible—should more than offset Duncan's absence, while sophomore Dartwan Bush and freshman Jackson Richards are capable of chipping in a trap or two on the side.
Let's also not forget defensive tackles Chris Perry, Pearlie Graves, Kerry Hyder and Donald Langley, who were quite disruptive this past spring. If they can collapse the pocket, Tech's defensive ends will reap a nice harvest of quarterbacks.
But an improved pass rush will not be enough to turn the pass defense around unless the defensive backs get their act together. Another year of collegiate experience should help young but talented cornerbacks Tre' Porter, Derrick Mays and Jarvis Phillips. Safety D. J. Johnson also took well to his move from cornerback and is a good coach on the field type. Fellow safeties Cody Davis and Terrance Bullitt were sometimes exploited in coverage during the spring, though. And that is a genuine concern.
At this point there are simply too many questions about this defense for me to expect dramatic improvement in the pass defense.