Over the past several season the Texas Tech defense has not routinely churned out sack maestros. There were two notable exceptions. In 2009 Brandon Sharpe was second nationally with 15 quarterback traps, while Brandon Williams, in 2008, tallied 13 QB hits behind the line. But outside of those two stellar seasons, it's been bupkis in the sack department.
Last season Scott Smith, in abbreviated play, led Tech with 5.5 sacks. Brian Duncan was the leader in 2010 with seven (most of them came in non-conference play). Brandon Williams recorded 5.5 sacks in 2007, as did Dek Bake in 2006, while John Saldi led the Red Raiders in sacks in 2005 with a paltry three. Over the course of the past seven seasons, Tech's leading sacker has averaged eight traps for the season.
The current Tech defense would benefit tremendously from a big year by a defensive end. Statistically, however, there doesn't seem to be reason for much hope. Tech's leading returning sacker, Dartwan Bush, recorded all of two sacks last season.
Can the junior from Clute emerge as Tech's first serious pass rushing threat since Brandon Sharpe?
Will Dartwan Bush record fewer or more than eight sacks in 2012?
Following every spring scrimmage and a good many practices, Tommy Tuberville remarked that the defense didn't blitz very much. That may bode well because the defense managed to get a significant amount of pressure on the quarterback with only a four-man rush. And the player most responsible for badgering Seth Doege and Michael Brewer was Dartwan Bush.
Despite Bush's activity in the offensive backfield, however, he rather flew under the radar this past spring. Most observers, and coaches as well, were busy cooing and purring over new linebacker Will Smith. And when they weren't doing that, they were slobbering and drooling over Kerry Hyder, Cornelius Douglas or Sam Eguavoen.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. Smith, Hyder, Douglas and Eguavoen all did great things. But Bush, for my money, was Tech's third most impressive defender of the spring behind Douglas and Smith.
Verily, there were times when he got to the quarterback at will. It was fortunate there was a no-contact rule for the quarterbacks or Brant Costilla might be the Red Raiders' number one signal caller going into the fall.
But before visions of Terrell Suggs commence to dancing in our heads, there is one small thing to remember: Bush was matched up most of the spring against redshirt freshman right tackle Le'Ravin Clark. And the redshirt freshman looked very much like a redshirt freshman.
So how much of Bush's dominance was a function of his working against an ultra-green lineman? There's no way of knowing for certain, but probably a good bit of it.
But working in Bush's favor are two other significant factors. First, if the defense really did blitz as rarely as Tuberville claimed, you can bet that the pass rush will become all the more effective once defensive coordinator Art Kaufman punches the throttle wide open. And this action will only create more opportunities for Bush to get sacks.
Second, redhsirt freshman Branden Jackson was developing into a nice pass rusher in his own right toward the end of spring. If Jackson continues to come on, offenses will have to worry about rushers from both flanks, reducing double teams and chips on both of them. That adds up to more sacks for Bush.
And I think this correlation of factors will allow Dartwan Bush to exceed eight sacks for the season.