Report Card: Defensive Line

Joe Yeager continues to hand out final grades and the defensive line's grade is in after a tough season.

 

 

Kerry Hyder, Scott Smith, Dartwan Bush, Leon Mackey, Donald Langley, Dennell Wesley, Jackson Richards, Delvon Simmons, Chris Perry, Kindred Evans, Aundrey Barr

 

Key Stat: The Red Raiders tied New Mexico State, Ball State, Duke and San Jose State for the No.102 spot nationally in total sacks with 16. They were No.100, along with Duke, Ball State and San Jose State in sacks per game with 1.33.

 

 

Rarely, if ever, has a Texas Tech defensive line been so talented and yet so ineffective. Scott Smith, Leon Mackey, Donald Langley, Jackson Richards, Delvon Simmons and Chris Perry all boasted glorious high school or junior college accolades. And Dartwan Bush was widely considered to be one of the great sleeper recruits out of the Texas high school ranks when he signed with the Red Raiders in 2010.

 

Despite the star power, however, this unit simply did not hold the line in 2011. And the problems began early when lowly FCS program Texas State romped all over the Tech defense in Lubbock, rushing for 256 yards in the season opener. Suffice it to say matters hardly improved from that point on.

 

The root of the problem was the complete absence of any presence in the interior of the line. Donald Langley and Kerry Hyder did the best they could, but were too undersized and underpowered to play heavy reps on the inside.

 

Defenses can sometimes improve by converting cornerbacks to safety, safeties to linebacker, and linebackers to defensive end. But the law of diminishing returns kicks in with a vengeance when you start playing defensive ends at tackle and noseguard as the Red Raiders tried to do in 2011.

 

Dennell Wesley and Chris Perry were heavier players, but Wesley was ineffective and Perry rarely saw the field. Freshman Simmons wasn't yet ready for Big 12 football despite his royal blue chip pedigree.

 

Matters were slightly better at defensive end, but still far from ideal.

 

Scott Smith, who sat out the first third of the season while serving a suspension, was far and away the line's best player. He played every down like it was his last and made a meal of many a Big 12 offensive tackle in the process. Smith finished the season with 37 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in only eight games. To say he'll be missed in 2012 is an understatement.

 

Dartwan Bush was the usual starter opposite Smith, and his most noteworthy accomplishment was forcing four fumbles. Bush is capable of playing with power and force, but also disappears for very long stretches.

 

Freshman Jackson Richards was a disappointment. Nobody expected him to be an instant Terrell Suggs, but many expected him to be a solid run-stopping defensive end. That didn't pan out as Richards made a habit of biting on fake bellies and dives, and often got washed to the outside on off tackle runs.

 

Another freshman, Kindred Evans, showed great promise early, but didn't play after the Nevada game. An injury is the probably culprit for his truncated season.

 

Unfortunately, no single cause can be cited for the collapse of Tech's defensive line in 2011. The factors were manifold.

 

Grade: D-


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