Spring Personnel: Delvon Simmons, Leon Mackey, Jackson Richards, Chris Knighton, Kindred Evans, Dartwan Bush, Branden Jackson, Kerry Hyder, Lee Adams, Dennell Wesley, Donte Phillips
Fall Additions: Chase Robison, Anthony Smith, Michael Starts, J. J. Lollar
Pre-Spring Power Rating: 65
Post-Spring Power Rating: 82
Money Quote: "He [Leon Mackey] is a really strong kid. We had a kid a year ago when I was at the University of North Carolina that's a friend of his, and when I talked to him about him, they're very similar guys. And he's really strong. He's 270 pounds right now; he could get a little bit bigger and he's really strong. I'm anxious to see what he can do. I think he can really be a factor in there. "—Art Kaufman
Spring Performance: Texas Tech had defensive problems across the board a year ago, and those difficulties started up front. If the Red Raiders are to experience an instauration on defense in 2012, it too will start with the defensive line.
Entering spring camp, the prospects for major improvement up front seemed modest. Defensive end Scott Smith, the only Red Raider lineman who looked like he belonged in the Big 12 last season, had used all of his eligibility. And the returnees, frankly, didn't inspire great confidence, while the newcomers gave little promise of solving the line's problems.
Now with spring camp in the books, however, the defensive line shapes up as the team's most pleasant surprise outside of the secondary.
With the move of Leon Mackey inside, Tech now has six defensive tackles and noseguards. Veteran Kerry Hyder, who weighs only 265 pounds, didn't make numerous extraordinary plays, but repeatedly garnered praise from Tommy Tuberville and Art Kaufman. Hyder appears to have his technique down pat, and he understands the defense. As Tuberville stated, however, Hyder must gain weight if he's to be a serious factor in the Big 12.
Mackey, who likely will play at 275 or 280 pounds, figures to start alongside Hyder. Mackey was not extremely quick or dynamic for a defensive end, but figures to be both of those things by the standards of a defensive tackle. If he's the solid oak tree Kaufman believes him to be, Mackey could flourish on the inside.
At this point Delvon Simmons, Lee Adams, Dennell Wesley and Donte Phillips are the candidates for backup duty. Kaufman expects to play five interior linemen, which means one of this quartet will see little action. Redshirt freshman Phillips, because of his inexperience, is the least likely to play meaningful snaps.
Defensive end looks to have more star potential at this point. To wit, Dartwan Bush appears ready to become Tech's next great pass rusher. Along with Cornelius Douglas and Will Smith, he may be Tech's strongest All Big 12 candidate on defense.
But the really pleasant surprise was the emergence of Branden Jackson. The redshirt freshman was the less touted of Tech's Pennsylvania defensive line recruits (Simmons was the other) from a year ago, but looks like he will beat his fellow Keystone stater to the starting lineup. If Jackson continues to develop he will provide the Tech defense with that most delightful of rareties—a second serious pass rush threat.
Primary depth at defensive end will come from Jackson Richards, who is very solid against the run. But Art Kaufman still must find two more defensive ends to ensure that this group is of Big 12 quality.