Speed At All Cost

Joe Yeager breaks down the speed that is on the field for the Red Raiders and how it can be improved.

Tommy Tuberville has made it absolutely clear that he values speed above all else on defense. In his post-Red/Black scrimmage remarks about recruiting he stated that the Red Raiders need "linemen on both sides of the ball and [to] continue to get speed."


Tuberville's recruiting has borne out his desire for speed. Why else would he sign Chris Payne, a linebacker who weighs all of 190 pounds?


But it is not just recruiting that points to Tuberville's quest for raw speed on defense. There has been a plethora of position switches which should make the Tech defense much faster. And smaller.


Former defensive end Leon Mackey, who is currently listed at 255 pounds, has been moved to defensive tackle. Pete Robertson, previously a 220-pound linebacker, now holds forth at defensive end. Terrance Bullit, a hybrid safety/linebacker in 2011, will likely be Tech's starting weakside linebacker in the fall. He currently checks in at 215 pounds.


These moves serve to make a very light front seven even lighter.


Texas Tech's heaviest possible front seven lineup (and a very unlikely one) would feature Dartwan Bush (255 pounds) and Brandon Jackson (250 pounds) at defensive end, Dennell Wesley (285 pounds) and Delvon Simmons (280 pounds) at defensive tackle, and Daniel Cobb (225 pounds), Zach Winbush (230 pounds) and Will Smith (230 pounds) at linebacker.


The reality is that the only likely starters in that group are Bush, Jackson, Smith and possibly Simmons. Thus Tech will be considerably lighter than that "heavy" scenario.


You can be certain that strength coach Joe Walker and the rest of Tech's training staff will work hard to add bulk to the slender members of the front seven. Sometimes this sort of effort bears fruit, sometimes it does not. Some players simply cannot pack on the weight, and others who manage to do so, become sluggish and ineffective. In other words, there's no guarantee that the weight gain gambit will effectively make up for the lost bulk of the position switches.


Now nobody questions the value of speed on defense. Particularly in the Big 12, where passing is paramount and defenders must play in space, speed is critical. But a monomaniacal focus on stopping the pass could leave Tech vulnerable in another area.


Specifically, the Red Raider defense ranked dead last nationally in stopping the run a year ago, yielding a ghastly 259 yards per game and 5.3 yards per carry. Will a slimmed down Tech stop unit be able to improve those numbers considerably?


It will have to because a Red Raider run defense as porous as last year's unit will prove too tempting to even the most pass-happy offenses in the Big 12. Baylor, one of the most prolific passing offenses in America last year turned to the ground after Cornelius Douglas turned out Robert Griffin's lights, and proceeded to rush for 360 yards against Tech.


If the Red Raider run defense isn't considerably improved next season you can bet that if opposing offenses are not getting the results from the passing game they desire, they will go to the ground and will do so successfully. Tech fans must hope that in the mad rush to put speed on the field, the coaching staff hasn't further compromised a run defense that can hardly withstand further attenuation.

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