One prominent school of defensive thought holds that great defense is almost entirely a function of effort. Unlike offense, which relies on precision, discipline and execution, defense is all about 11 crazed demons flying to the football like iron filings to a magnet. Texas Tech's sophomore linebacker Micah Awe subscribes to that philosophy. Or a variation of it.
Awe, who is currently penciled in as a middle linebacker along with Blake Dees and Zach Winbush, is a proponent of "energetic" defense. Very much an energy guy himself, Awe sees lack of energy as a defense's downfall, and a superabundance of energy as its salvation.
"I'll tell you the difference [from last year] that has already happened; was it two practices ago?" Awe asks.
"We were just down, there was no energy, and that's when there's lots more missed opportunities, missed plays. I think the only difference between last year, and any defense in the country, is energy. That's what I've realized. If there's energy on defense, that's really all you need."
Awe, who indeed made a bit of a name for himself last season with his ever-revving motor (he chased a receiver 40 yards across the field and delivered a massive lick in the 2012 Red-Black Scrimmage), clearly sees himself as a player who can catalyze the Red Raider defense.
"I think what makes defenses great is how the energy spreads out and the swagger you have," Awe declares.
"All the great defenses, you can name ‘em by having some kind of adjective behind ‘em. Like Miami in the 80s, the Ravens defense. They all have some kind of edge behind ‘em. I think our edge could be speed and just energy. Just getting after you. Even if you get scored on, just get back out there and just keep going."
Playing in the center of the defense as a middle linebacker, Awe will certainly have the opportunity to radiate the energy which will make Tech's defense better.
Notably absent from Awe's views on great defense is physical size. And there's one very good reason for that--Awe is not your prototypical six-foot-three 245-pound middle linebacker.
"I'm 210 right now," Awe allows.
"I don't think it's an issue, but coach wants me to be 220. I'll do my best to get there, but if I don't, there's a lot of guys I can compare to that are small. Danny Amendola yesterday. He's smaller than me, shorter than me; he's in the NFL making millions. So I don't think size matters at all."
Awe continues, "I know people think I'm too small and all, but I don't really care. And I think I'll do better than most people expect."
Awe clearly has a bit of a chip on his shoulder regarding his lack of size. Perhaps that anger, that felt need to prove he can play despite not being a colossus, is what has made him the defense's designated bomb-thrower. In the snaps he got last season, Awe was conspicuous for playing physically and very much on the edge. These qualities didn't make him popular with opponents, and apparently are not endearing him to the Red Raider offense either.
Speaking of the spring's first scrimmage, Awe relates, "I've been waiting for this the whole off season. I knew we were gonna do good. I know we're gonna have a great year because in the off season we got at it a couple of times doing some gassers. Offense hates me, but coming back out here and finally proving myself, that's the fun part. And we all love each other, though."
Awe also cryptically alludes to certain incidents that occurred in practices for last year's Meinecke Car Care Bowl. But when you're a 210-pound middle linebacker playing in the Big 12, you have to do whatever you can to gain an edge. For Micah Awe, that means playing all out, all of the time. And it means getting in the head of the opposition. Whatever works.