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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Tommy Tuberville says that in order to be successful on defense in the Big 12, you've got to have a lock-down cornerback and you've got to have a serious pass rusher. Tuberville hopes Dartwan Bush emerges as the latter in 2012.
Bush, who started seven games last season, was hardly a classic sack artist as a sophomre. He registered only two sacks and three quarterback hurries.
By way of comparison, Brandon Sharpe had 15 sacks and six quarterback hurries in 2009, while Brandon Williams tallied 11 sacks and a quarterback hurry in 2008. Obviously, Bush must elevate his productivity dramatically to enter the territory of the two Brandons.
One suspects Bush is poised to do just that. He will start from day one this season, which means he'll get roughly double the pass rushing opportunities he got in 2011. Furthermore, Bush was practically unblockable in the spring. The only caveat here is that he feasted at the expense of redshirt freshman Le'Ravin Clark, who is still quite green at right tackle.
Was Bush's big spring a function of facing Clark or was it the result of his own improvement? Probably a bit of both.
Regardless of who he abused in the spring, the projection here is that Bush will dole out a heapin' helpin' o' hurtin' on opposing quarterbacks this season. He looked like a very special prospect when Tech pulled him out of the Clute bulrushes a few years ago, and with the addition of 10 extra pounds of muscle from a year ago, looks ready to emerge as one of the Big 12's best pass rushers.
But even if Bush does not contribute double-digit sacks, he will likely contribute in another way. Specifically, Bush forced four fumbles last season, which topped the Big 12 in that category.
As a somewhat short but very stout defensive lineman, Bush is always in a natural position to rake the ball away from diminutive running backs who come his way. Elvis Dumerville, a five-foot-11 260-pound defensive end for the Denver Broncos is a past master at creating fumbles. He is the model of what Bush is capable of doing.
Fortunately for Bush, and the Red Raiders, Tech looks to have a full complement of solid defensive ends to assist him in his havoc-wreaking endeavors.
Branden Jackson is already coming on as a pass rusher and he's only a redshirt freshman. Jackson Richards should develop into a rock against the run. And the coaches love the potential of former safety and linebacker, Pete Robertson.