Like any football team, Texas Tech has several players whose performance will be particularly critical to the squad's success. These players, whether by virtue experience, leadership, 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.
5' 7" 170
New defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt has made lots of noise about how aggressive his Red Raider defense will be. Texas Tech will mix it up on the defensive side of the ball. There will be multiple formations, switching man and zone coverage schemes, and plenty of blitzes, hopefully just when the offense is not expecting them.
The defense sounds like a barrel full of monkeys, and if executed properly, could be a real handful. But as always, a scheme is unlikely to be much better than its personnel. And in a gambling, aggressive scheme like Wallerstedt's, the personnel had better be particularly strong at cornerback.
Usually, when a defense blitzes, cornerbacks are left on an island. And because blitzing removes tacklers from the back seven, the ability to tackle in the open field is crucial for the linebackers and defensive backs.
It is somewhat worrisome, therefore, that cornerback cannot presently be classed a position of strength for the Red Raider defense. Indeed, senior Bruce Jones is the only player at the position who has extensive experience combined with a certain amount of on-field success in the Big 12.
Jones, who started six games last season, is probably Tech's best cover corner. He had no interceptions a year ago, but was second on the team in pass breakups. Jones is plenty quick and has enough speed to run with most receivers.
One might be somewhat concerned with Jones' size, however. At five-foot-seven and 170 pounds, he could be the smallest staring cornerback in the Big 12. Last season, however, nobody really exploited Jones' short stature, which is a testament to the fact that he was usually covering his man rather well.
Perhaps even more impressive, Jones is a very good tackler. Pound-for-pound, Jones is probably one of the toughest players on the team. He is not afraid to butt heads with big backs rumbling out of the backfield, and in the Red-Black scrimmage was even seen taking down massive tight end Jace Amaro in the open field.
But aside from his guts and intestinal fortitude, Jones is simply a sound tackler. He squares up and wraps up, and given Tech's likely defensive posture, that trait will be almost as important as his ability to cover.