When Tommy Tuberville hired Art Kaufman to take the reins of Texas Tech's defense from Chad Glasgow, the Red Raiders went from one end of the spectrum to the other. Glasgow brought the 4-2-5 alignment from TCU. Kaufman brings the 4-3 scheme from North Carolina. Glasgow, then age 39, had never coordinated a defense in his life. Kaufman, approximately 20 years Glasgow's senior, has been a defensive coordinator a total of 14 seasons in the collegiate ranks.
It is no surprise, therefore, that experience is what Tuberville points to when discussing his new defensive coordinator.
"Art's a guy that worked with me for four or five years at Ole Miss back in the late nineties," says Tuberville. "He's very experienced, understands how to run defenses and how to recruit for a defense. So we're excited about his being at the helm of our defense, ‘cause that's where we're lacking."
Kaufman's experience, which includes stops at Northwestern State, Louisiana Tech, Arkansas Tech, East Carolina, Middle Tennessee and Southern Mississippi, in addition to stints with Ole Miss and North Carolina, should pay dividends when the Red Raiders face the variegated offenses of the Big 12 this season.
"You know the big change that we're probably gonna have in this league is the emergence of West Virginia," Tuberville asserts. "And then you've got TCU. You've got Texas that's changed their offense. There's gonna be a dramatic change each week in terms of what offense you play, and so you've gotta have somebody who understands how to adapt to different offenses, how to make changes in terms of your personnel on defense. And that only comes from experience. And Art's been there."
"We've been through a lot of the same scenarios when we were at Ole Miss together. He did the same thing in the ACC the last few years, seeing different teams in that league each week," continues Tuberville. "So I think that's the big factor with an experienced defensive coordinator being able to make those changes week-in and week-out. Personnel—move people around. How to do those things in terms of giving yourself a chance for success."
As is well known, the Texas Tech defense went from bad under James Willis in 2010 to dreadful under Glasgow in 2011. Tuberville was more disappointed in the performance of last year's defense than he will ever say publicly, but ever the gentleman, Tuberville refrains from even veiled criticism of his former coordinator.
"Well everybody's different. I won't say he [Kaufman] is any better or worse [than Chad Glasgow]. Everybody's got their temperament. I like Art's temperament. Of course I've worked with him a long time, known him for a long time," Tuberville states.
And speaking of temperament, Kaufman may have been holding back a bit in the spring when he was a relative wallflower in comparison to the volcanic Glasgow. Tuberville suggests a more settled Kaufman may emerge from his shell in August.
"Now he [Kaufman] is gonna be a little bit different than he was in the spring," says Tuberville. "He's a fireball. He gets after ‘em. But I want to make sure he's comfortable in how he coaches because it's important that the players respect him number one, and that's he's his self, and he's not somebody else."
From a schematic standpoint, Tuberville has stated that the Red Raiders will be multiple in the secondary, utilizing both zone and man concepts. The level of blitzing, on the other hand, is an unknown. Much, apparently, will depend upon the opponent.
"Art picks his poison. Again it goes back to how is the game goin'? Do you need to [blitz]? You need the ball back? It's really no rhyme or reason, unless you go into a game saying, hey, we can take advantage of this lineman, you know, this center, this back blockin', or their scheme. Are they goin' empty a lot? You want to make ‘em throw real quick? That's when you see a lot of blitzin'. But me and Art's been in it before where we blitzed probably ever other down to maybe where we've gone into a game and didn't blitz any."
Another factor that may influence the frequency of the blitz is the play of Tech's cornerbacks. Obviously, when a coordinator feels comfortable leaving his corners on an island, he is more likely to blitz. Fortunately, new secondary coach John Lovett may have Kaufman's backside covered.
"The big thing is technique," says Tuberville. "John Lovett is my favorite guy I've ever worked with for teaching technique to corners, because you can be as athletic as you want but if you don't have the technique of playing bump-and-run and zone and playing inside-outside leverage you don't use your talents as well as you could. But I saw a lot of progress from our corners just in technique."
With improved technique in the defensive backfield, and a colossal upgrade in coaching experience, perhaps the optimism about Tech's defense has some basis in reality. Tuberville and his Red Raiders cannot afford another mirage.