State of the Position: Secondary

Joe Yeager concludes his State of the Position Series with a look at the Secondary for the Red Raiders

Spring Personnel: Cornelius Douglas, Urell Johnson, Derrick Mays, Tre' Porter, D.J. Johnson, Cody Davis, Jarvis Phillips, Jeremy Reynolds, Austin Stewart, Eugene Neboh, Thierry Nguema, J.J. Gaines

Fall Additions: Happiness Osunde, Olawaola Falemi, Bruce Jones, La'Darius Newbold, Micah Awe

Pre-Spring Power Rating: 66

Post-Spring Power Rating: 87


Money Quote: "He [Cornelius Douglas] understands that hey, when he has something bad happen to him he doesn't go into a shell and doesn't panic. He's got thick skin and that's what you've got to have at that position. I think he's gonna really improve cause when you look at it, he's been a corner only half a year. He got no camp time to work on fundamentals, and this is the first spring he's had and it made a lot of difference."—Art Kaufman


Spring Performance: If one were to use a single adjective to describe the defense's performance in the spring it would be "suffocating." Whereas previous Tech defenses gave ball-carriers hectares of space in which to roam, the current defense blanketed runners like black on licorice.  And nowhere was this new phenomenon more noticeable than in the secondary.


It is becoming an axiom of defensive football that it is okay to allow a catch as long as you don't allow yardage after the catch. It is more important, in other words, to be in position to make the tackle than to be in position to break up a pass.


This seems to be the new modus operandi for the Red Raider secondary. Spring statistics will doubtless show that Seth Doege and Michael Brewer completed a high percentage of their passes. But the more important statistic is yardage per pass attempt, and you can be certain the secondary did a very good job by that measuring stick. Explosive plays in the passing game were just pretty doggone rare.


The key to Tech's improved pass defense was better play from the cornerbacks. Eugene Neboh and Cornelius Douglas are the undisputed starters, and both of them had sterling springs.


Douglas has gotten the lion's share of the publicity, and the attention has been justified. He had quite possibly the best camp I've seen from a Texas Tech cornerback since I began covering these affairs in 2004.


But as well as Douglas played, Neboh was right there with him. Last season Neboh showed signs of being a solid cornerback, but also dogged it from time to time. There was no evidence whatsoever of poor effort from him this spring. He played hard every play and got better results for having done so.


Nickelback too seems in excellent hands with Jarvis Phillips. The junior from Dallas got into the previous defensive coaching staff's doghouse last season and never got out. It appears Phillips has been given a clean slate for 2012 and he took advantage of it in the spring.


Safety play was not as impressive as cornerback performance, but was still quite good. Cody Davis had a good spring, while D.J. Johnson was inconsistent. Johnson makes spectacular plays and sometimes blow routine ones. Both need to do a better job shutting off deep slant routes.


Tommy Tuberville, without mentioning names, has stated that he likes some of the young players in the secondary. So do I. In particular, cornerback Thierry Nguema showed signs of being able to contribute this season, while J.J. Gaines is clearly the third best safety on the roster.


With quality play from the starters and improved depth from the newcomers, this Texas Tech secondary may just turn some heads in 2012.

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