Texas Tech Preview: Secondary

Joe Yeager takes a look at the Texas Tech defensive secondary and what they need to improve on for 2011.

2010 Position Review: Tech's pass defense last year was something everybody involved would just as soon forget. Out of 120 teams, the Red Raiders ranked 118 in pass defense, just above Rice and Tulsa. Tech's pass defense was as bad as the rush defense was in 2003, and that's saying a mouthful.

But to some extent, this horror show should have been expected. Geriatric graybeard Cody Davis, a true sophomore, was the secondary's veteran. Alongside him were freshman corners Jarvis Phillips, and Derrick Mays, sophomore corners Will Ford and D. J. Johnson, and freshman safety/corner Tre' Porter. Senior safety Franklin Mitchem was in and out of the lineup with injuries as was senior corner LaRon Moore.

Adding to the difficulty, the Red Raiders were transitioning from a zone-based defense to one that relied heavily on man-to-man coverage. The fact that new defensive coordinator James Willis' scheme was exceeding complex only compounded the problems. But excuses and explanations aside, this was a file-it-and-forget-it year for pass defense.

Grade: F

Your Starters: Defensive coordinator Chad Glasgow will put five defensive backs—two cornerbacks and three safeties—on the field in his base defense. The strong safety will function like a hybrid safety/linebacker and will usually line up fairly close to the line of scrimmage.

Cody Davis returns and will start at weak safety. He's seen a lot and absorbed a lot in his time on the South Plains, and Glasgow will count on Davis to provide a steadying hand in the secondary. Davis is an active player who is often around the ball, but needs to improve his pursuit angles and become more disruptive in pass defense.

D. J. Johnson moves from a nickel back position to free safety. He's another bright player who will help coordinate the back half of the defense. Johnson had average speed for a cornerback but is quite rapid for a safety. He should excel at his new position.

Starting at strong safety will be Terrance Bullitt. He's not fluid in coverage, but at a rangy six-foot-three and 210 pounds will do good work in run support and manning up against tight ends.

There are three serious candidates to start at cornerback but the current first stringers are Derrick Mays and Tre' Porter.

Mays is probably the fastest player on the defense, and has picked up the nuances of corner play quickly after moving from wide receiver. He looks like an absolute natural for the position and could be Tech's biggest surprise on the defensive side of the ball.

Porter's talent is borderline immense. He's fast, physical and athletic. If left to develop at cornerback—no surety—Porter's star will rise rapidly.

The Field: The primary backup at cornerback is Jarvis Phillips. He started every game there a year ago as a redshirt freshman and collected four interceptions. But making plays on the ball remains an area in which Phillips must improve. He often sticks like glue to receivers, but fails to close the play.

Backups at safety are Jared Flannel, Brett Dewhurst and Giorgio Durham. Flannel, a senior, has had an injury-plagued career, but does have some ability. He's very quick and surprisingly physical for a player of only 180 pounds.

Durham was an All American at Central Oklahoma before transferring to Tech. He looks to be an extremely solid all around player, and there will be little drop off when he comes in for D. J. Johnson.

Dewhurst is always in the right place, but will not be a physical presence while on the field.


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