Examining Texas Tech's defensive performance over the past 17 years, a worrisome trend emerges. During that period, Tech has had six defensive coordinators. In chronological order they are John Goodner (1995-1999), Greg McMackin (2000-2002), Lyle Setencich (2003-fourth week of 2007), Ruffin McNeill (fifth week of 2007-2009), James Willis (2010) and Chad Glasgow (2011).
The concerning pattern is that, with the moderate exception of McNeill, points yielded per game has increased with each new defensive coordinator.
Goodner's defenses gave up an average of 20.9 points per game over the course of his tenure. McMackin's surrendered 25. Setencich's units allowed 26.5 points per contest. As noted, McNeill was the lone aberration in the trend, improving Tech's defenses to 24.8 points per game. Then there were colossal dropoffs with Willis at 30.9 and Glasgow at 39.2.
Now obviously, each coordinator coached different defenses against different opponents, but all did coach in the Big 12, and with the exceptions of Willis and Glasgow, coached long enough to provide a good statistical sample. In the cases of Willis and Glasgow, the defensive performance was sufficiently horrid to preclude a lengthy tenure.
Now comes Art Kaufman, Tech's seventh defensive coordinator in 18 seasons, and the third in the last three. Can Kaufman buck the deepening trend of increasing defensive ineptitude? And even more important, can he reduce points allowed to respectable levels? Over the last 17 seasons Texas Tech has allowed an average of 25 points per game. Let that stand as the benchmark.
Will Art Kaufman's defense allow more or less than 25 points per game in 2012?
Chad Glasgow's defense scaled new heights in lows last season. The 39.2 points allowed per contest was a full 8.3 points per game worse than Tech's previous worst defense of the past 17 seasons, and was No.136 nationally out of 139 teams. Other stats were even worse, but there's no reason to engage in perverse masochism here.
The above goal of 25 points allowed per game would have been good for 57th best in the country in 2011. And of the programs currently in the Big 12, only Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and TCU did better than that last season.
But as daunting a task as improving from No.136 to No.57 is, if you asked Art Kaufman, he would probably say it's doable.
And there is some reason for optimism on this score (so to speak). To begin with, and as has been well noted, Kaufman has simplified the defense. Last year's defense often resembled the Keystone Kops because nobody was sure what they were supposed to do. That should be much less of a problem in 2012.
It is worth mentioning, moreover, that Ruffin McNeill took the simplicity approach when he took over for Setencich in 2007 and reduced Tech's points allowed from 28.3 to 24.9 despite playing a much tougher portion of the schedule.
Experience is also better across the board with as many as five seniors and several other juniors likely to start on defense at some point. There's also some proven talent at key positions, with Dartwan Bush at defensive end, Terrance Bullitt and Will Smith at WILL and MIKE respectively, Cornelius Douglas at cornerback and Cody Davis at strong safety.
But most important, Art Kaufman is a solid, experienced, and competent coach. There's nothing flashy, sexy and exotic about him. But you can be certain that game preparation, game planning, and gameday play-calling and adjustments will be much improved over a year ago.
Still, a 14-point improvement in points allowed per game is probably a bridge too far. But do not be surprised if Kaufman's defense keeps opponents under 30 points per game on average.