Like any football team, good, mediocre or bad, Texas Tech has several players whose play will be particularly critical to the squad's success. These players, whether by virtue experience, leadership ability, importance of the position played, depth concerns, or sheer talent, are especially crucial. They may or not be the best players on the club, but they would be very conspicuous were they to be absent for any reason. In fact, that may be the best way to conceive of the critical players—they are the performers the team could least afford to lose.
With this series, we will take a reverse order look at the Red Raider football players we consider most invaluable.
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Over the last several seasons the Texas Tech defense has seen more than its fair share of changes and instability. Red Raider defenders have played under defensive coordinators Lyle Setencich, Ruffin McNeill, James Willis, Chad Glasgow, and in 2012 will operate under the supervision of Art Kaufman.
One anchor within these turbulent seas, however, has been strong safety Cody Davis. Much like former defensive tackle Colby Whitlock, Davis played and started as a freshman, and has been a fixture in the defensive lineup ever since. To say he will be the most experienced player on the Tech defense would be an understatement.
Davis' experience, along with his football acumen, should pay dividends for a Red Raider defense that was in utter disarray last season. One of Art Kaufman's primary goals for the coming season is to ensure that his players know what they are supposed to do on each and every play. The presence of Davis, along with high football IQ free safety D. J. Johnson and middle linebacker Will Smith will help Kaufman achieve his goal. Heck, Tech's defense may even be a bit cerebral in 2012.
But Davis brings more than just intangibles to the table. He led the Red Raiders in tackles last season with 93, and his combined 10 passes broken up and defended also topped Tech charts. And in 2010 and 2009 he was second on the team in tackles, trailing Bront Bird and Brian Duncan respectively. Suffice it to say that Cody Davis will conclude his career as one of the top tacklers in Tech history.
So obviously, run support is Davis' forte. He has not earned his scholarship with interceptions and Dwayne Slay-style hits, but he is usually in the right place at the right time to bring down a ball carrier, and he does so with great aplomb.
And the good news is that Davis looked better than ever in the spring. Not only was he making tackles in the secondary, he was also recording many stops along the line of scrimmage, and even behind it. If Art Kaufman uses Davis more aggressively, as spring camp suggested he will, Davis could actually become a bit of a big-play defender in this, his senior campaign. And that could earn him some notoriety outside the city of Lubbock.