The Elite 18 - No. 13 Jarvis Phillips

Joe Yeager takes a look at how sophomore defensive back Jarvis Phillips can improve in Texas Tech's new defense after an impressive freshman season.

Like any football team, good, mediocre or bad, Texas Tech has several players whose performance will be particularly critical to the squad's success. These players, whether by virtue of sheer talent, experience, leadership ability, importance of the position played, or depth concerns, are especially crucial. They may or not be the best players on the club, but they would be very conspicuous were they to be absent for any reason. In fact, that may be the best way to conceive of the critical players—they are the performers the team could least afford to lose.

With this weekly series, we will take a reverse order look at the Red Raider football players we consider most invaluable.

Jarvis Phillips

Texas Tech figures to be considerably improved in pass defense this season. How could they not be? The Red Raiders were No.118 nationally in pass defense last year, No.111 in touchdown passes allowed, and No.81 in completion percentage allowed.

With a new defensive coordinator, inexperience in the secondary, and a sporadic pass rush, the abysmal probably should have been expected. Still, it was shocking to see just how dreadful Tech's pass defense really was.

Once again, the Red Raider defense will go to battle with a new defensive coordinator, and remaining concerns about the pass rush, but the pups in the secondary are now capable of barking rather than just yipping. Time will tell whether they're ready to bite.

One player who showed a bit of fang in 2010 was true freshman cornerback Jarvis Phillips. The former Dallas Carter quarterback started from the get-go and racked up four interceptions early in the season. Phillips looked to be a revelation. But Phillips got stuck on four picks and the entire defensive backfield got picked apart more routinely as the season wore on.

Still, four interceptions and 10 passes defended was not chopped liver for a true freshman making the transition from quarterback to cornerback in the pass-crazed Big 12. As a reward, Phillips received some Freshman All America notice.

Phillips sat out the vast majority of spring workouts with an injury, and as a consequence, is not currently listed as a starter. The first-team corners are now Tre' Porter and Derrick Mays. And busting back into the starting lineup will be no mean feat for Phillips. Porter's talent is as good as it gets on the Red Raider defense, and Mays is a kerosene-burner who is coming on very, very strongly.

Whether or not Phillips starts, he will play an integral role as Tech tries to shore up the pass defense. He could possibly emerge as the nickel back, and will play huge reps regardless of where he lines up. Phillips also has a wealth of experience for a true sophomore, and if players really do improve most between their freshman and sophomore seasons, he could be a force with which to reckon. All Red Raiders certainly hope so, because the 2010 pass defense was a farce.

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