State of the Position: Linebackers

Joe Yeager breaks down the linebacking core that Tech has, as we inch closer and closer to the summer.

Spring Personnel: Pete Robertson, Sam Eguavoen, Justin Cooper, Blake Dees, Zach Winbush, Daniel Cobb, Chris Payne, Will Smith,

Fall Additions: Terrance Bullitt, Ryan Flannigan, Kris Williams

Pre-Spring Power Rating: 63

Post-Spring Power Rating: 84

 

Money Quote: "Will [Smith] is a guy that he'll get better ever snap. He's playing inside now, we've got him at a home. He'll be our quarterback on defense in terms of getting us lined up and getting everything called for next year. He plays with a lot of confidence and he's got a lot of height. He can see. You know, he can see things going on. The thing about him, he just needs reps. So we'll spend a lot of time with him the next five months to make sure he understands what's going on a lot more than what he does now."—Tommy Tuberville

 

Spring Performance: Tommy Tuberville has said on more than one occasion that Blake Dees and Sam Eguavoen, because of their complete inexperience, had no business being on the field against a Big 12 offense last season. Frankly, that assessment could apply to the entire linebacker corps as not only Dees and Eguavoen, but Daniel Cobb and Cqulin Hubert, played as if they were in shock most of the season.

 

Hubert is no longer with the team, but the remainder of last season's corps returns. It has been bolstered by a batch of newcomers as well.

 

Based upon spring workouts, there can be no doubt that the linebacking unit as a whole has improved dramatically. Some of that improvement can be attributed to the defensive line which is occupying the offensive line much better than last year's front four.

 

The added experience is also a boon. Players such as Dees and Eguavoen—who only started playing football during his senior year in high school—are reading plays much better and filling gaps with precision and authority. Eguavoen in particular has drawn praise from defensive coordinator Art Kaufman.

 

But the most obvious difference between this year's linebackers and last year's is the presence of junior college transfer Will Smith. In short, he is better than expected and he was expected to be pretty good.

 

Smith has most of the physical traits it takes to be a great linebacker. He's quick, fast, athletic and will strike a ball-carrier. But where Smith is gold to the Texas Tech defense is in his ability to coordinate the defense on the field.

 

As Kaufman stated, Smith arrived as a raw rookie with no knowledge whatsoever of the defense. Within a couple of practices he had assimilated the scheme better than any other player on the roster.

 

What Smith's profound grasp of the defense means is that the blown assignments and miscommunications that plagued last year's defense could be largely a thing of the past. Smith should be able to get the Red Raiders lined up properly, which means that the players will be in better position to make plays and avoid critical breakdowns.

 

If Tech's defense can eliminate 85 percent of the mental errors that tormented it in 2011, it will be at least 20 percent better.

 

That is a lot to lay on the shoulders of a junior college transfer who has never played a down of D-1 football. In a short period of time Will Smith has been elevated to the second most important player on the team after Seth Doege. To fill that bill, Smith will not only have to be mentally sharp, he will have to be mentally tough. 


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