Cody Davis, D. J. Johnson, Terrance Bullitt, Brett Dewhurst, Tre' Porter, Jared Flannel, Derrick Mays, Cornelius Douglas, Happiness Osunde, Jarvis Phillips, Sawyer Vest, Eugene Neboh, Shawn Corker, Giorgio Durham, Pete Robertson
Key Stats: Texas Tech was No.66 nationally in pass defense, which, by the standards of last year's defense, is not bad at all. But that ranking masks other sickening truths. The Red Raiders were No.112 in interceptions with only five, No. 113 in pass efficiency defense, and No.115 in yardage allowed per pass attempt. The terrible reality is that if Tech's rush defense hadn't been the nation's worst, their pass defense might have been.
As was the case with the rest of Tech's defense, some of the secondary's woes were due to injury. Promising freshman safety Pete Robertson was kayoed for the season in game three. Terrance Bullitt was dinged early on and fought a valiant but uphill battle henceforward. Tre' Porter was chronically injured. Jared Flannel, Happiness Osunde and Shawn Corker suffered wounds of varying severity. And Jarvis Phillips went into the season less than 100 percent healthy.
Rare, in other words, was the Red Raider defensive back who stayed healthy for the entirety of the season.
But other of the defensive backfield's wounds appeared to be self-inflicted. Jarvis Phillips and Sawyer Vest, for instance, were two of Tech's better coverage corners and also acceptable tacklers, but both rarely saw the field, particularly later in the season when the injury plague was at its most virulent.
Instead of playing Phillips and Vest, receivers Corker and Douglas were converted to cornerbacks. In the long run, these moves will pay dividends, but they didn't do much for last year's team.
The problems at corner, as well as the front six's total inability to slow down the run, made chop suey of Tech's safety play. Fearing coverage breakdowns, Cody Davis and D. J. Johnson were very slow to react to runs up the middle. And being forced to cheat up against the run, they were frequently in no position to stop deep balls over the middle. It was the ultimate dilemma, and that is why opponents completed so many long passes against the Red Raiders.
For any defensive unit to be better in 2012, all units must be better. A defense is an interlocking entity, and breakdowns in one area damage all the rest. That said, if all the defensive backs return to full health, there is hope.
If nothing else, Johnson and Davis will be two of the Big 12's most experienced safeties, and Johnson demonstrated the ability to make some big plays last season. Bullitt is tough as nails, and a good tackler. He has All Big 12 potential. A healthy Pete Robertson should be a help to the safeties. Cornelius Douglas is hardnosed, competitive and should make for a decent cornerback. Tre' Porter is talented enough to play corner, even though it's far from his natural position.
Regardless of how this group shakes out next season, it almost has to be better than what we saw in 2011. The secondary's performance was all part of the nightmare.