In 2011 the Texas Tech secondary did everything but cover and tackle.
Injuries were certainly part of the problem as Terrance Bullitt, Tre Porter, Jarvis Phillips, Derrick Mays, Pete Robertson and Happiness Osunde all missed part of the season with maladies of one sort or another. Porter missed about half the season and Robertson practically all of it.
The injuries combined with overall ineffectiveness, created a sense of desperation, which catalyzed change. Specifically, receivers Shawn Corker and Cornelius Douglas were moved to cornerback. And predictably, Corker promptly suffered a season-ending injury after having played in only one game.
But with the precedent for change, and hopefully improvement, having been set by the move of Corker and Douglas, there's no reason to abandon it as the Red Raiders head toward spring workouts. Defensive backfield play was so miserable that dice-rolling and experimentation are absolutely justified. Fortunately, Chad Glasgow and whoever winds up coaching the secondary do have some pieces to move around the board.
Clearly, the transfer of Douglas and Corker is permanent. The best time to make position switches is when players are underclassmen, which is what happened with freshman Corker. Unfortunately, Douglas was a junior when he was moved, but he adapted about as well as could be hoped.
Douglas is a tough, fearless player and he loves contact (Robert Griffin would attest to this, if he could remember). Naturally, his technique is unsound at this point and it will be incumbent upon the cornerbacks coach to get Douglas up to speed. Nevertheless, with more experience Douglas could prove to be a real find.
We have not seen enough of Corker to make much of a judgment. He looked completely lost in the one game he played on defense, but he also has the size and athleticism to do well at the position.
The cornerback position will be bolstered in the spring by redshirt freshmen J. J. Gaines and Jeremy Reynolds, and in the summer by highly touted recruit La'Darius Newbold. Given the shaky status of Derrick Mays, Jarvis Phillips, Eugene Neboh and Happiness Osunde, it is important that the freshmen make an impact.
But we're talking about change here, and it is at safety where we will hopefully see some real shakeups.
Now Terrance Bullitt is a rock at strong safety. Despite playing much of the season with an injury, he was Tech's second best defender behind Scott Smith.
But weak and free safety is another story.
Starters Cody Davis and D.J. Johnson did some good things, but they had their difficulties. Major difficulties.
One possibility for improving safety play is to move Tre' Porter from corner to free safety, which is arguably his natural position. He is a physical and athletic player who arguably tackles better than Davis and Johnson. And placing him at free safety would allow him to be a factor over the entire field rather than on just one side of it. Pete Robertson and Giorgio Durham could back up Porter.
If Porter were moved to free safety, Johnson could be moved to weak safety where he would replace the departed Brett Dewhurst and compete with Davis for the starting position.
Davis is more aggressive against the run than Johnson, and is probably the better tackler, but Johnson makes more big plays. He forced three fumbles and intercepted two passes last season. Neither Davis nor Johnson was particularly effective in coverage, however, and that needs to change.
It is one of many things that must change in the secondary. And the sooner the better.