Defense Shows A Pulse

For the first time this spring the Red Raider defense held its own during an open scrimmage by creating a couple turnovers and making some stops.

The Red Raider offense "won" the annual Red-Black Scrimmage 37-30, but it was the defense that emerged feeling pretty good about itself. And after suffering drubbings at the hands of Dangerous Davis Webb and the offense, the defense certainly needed a shot in the arm.

Not that Matt Wallerstedt's group was the image of perfection, mark you. On the contrary, poor tackling, a problem that has plagued the defense all spring, once again reared its hideous head and facilitated several explosive plays by the offense. But otherwise, there was reason for some happiness.

Coverage was considerably improved. Yes, the offense made good hay on short crossing routes, but the defense snuffed out the offense's screen game and defended most of the deep shots pretty well. In the two earlier scrimmages safety help was almost non-existent over the top; Wallerstedt had them in better position today.

Run defense was also considerably better. Deandre Washington and Quinton White shook loose a few times, but were not able to cruise through huge chasms as they had in previous scrimmages. On the whole the defense contained the ground game well enough to win a ballgame.

There was also some semblance of a pass rush. In Friday Night Lights and the Petro Scrimmage, Webb and Tanner Tausch were free to do their thing with no concern whatsoever about pass protection. And that is obviously a tremendous advantage! But this time around the defense registered a few sacks, and was able to mount a fairly consistent rush, sometimes without the aid of a blitz. And there was lots of blitzing. The results were a mixed bag for the defense. On more than a few occasions the offense picked up the blitz very well and was able to get big yardage downfield. But there were also a few instances where the defense actually blitzed the screen pass and completely nullified it. That's living dangerously, but it worked in the Red-Black Scrimmage.

The overall impression was of a defense much improved over previous outings. Coverage was much tighter, busted coverages rarer, the pass rush better, and the timing of blitzes much more effective. If the defense can prolong this arc throughout fall camp, it will certainly be ready to roll for the season opener.

Individually, there were many standouts on both sides of the ball.

Despite too many dropped passes, the receivers continued to impress. Jakeem Grant gives every indication that he's headed for an All Big 12 season. Not only is he eel-slippery and blindingly fast, but, as he showed in the scrimmage, he is strong enough to break tackles. There are few receivers in the Big 12 who have his skill set.

Derreck Edwards, who frankly has done little in a Texas Tech uniform to this point, finally showed something this afternoon. And what he showed was speed. Edwards cradled a short pass in the flat, skirted one would-be tackler, tightroped the sideline for a bit, and then rocketed away from everybody before stepping out of bounds on the seven-yardline. Edwards looked like an honest-to-goodness Olympic sprinter on that play.

Davis Webb looked a bit more human than usual but still had a day just about any quarterback would envy. Webb threw four touchdown passes without an interception. He thus threw no interceptions in the three public scrimmages. His only problem Saturday was actually on the short sideline passes. Webb threw behind D. J. Polite-Bray once, and bounced another ball to him. But otherwise, it was basically lights out.

Backup QB Tanner Tausch also looked pretty good, and much better than he did in the previous two scrimmages. Tausch's stats, decent enough as they are, would look considerably better if his receivers hadn't dropped a pair of deep strikes he threw.

The defense had many stars.

Up front, Donte Phillips had a sack, a tackle for a loss, and was pretty much a nuisance. Keland McElrath finally showed some life with a tackle for loss of his own. Gary Moore probably didn't make a huge dent in the stat sheet (he did record a personal foul), but looked disruptive at times. One can understand why Wallerstadt sees big things in his future.

At linebacker Micah Awe continued to record crunching hits and pass breakups. He will be good. Malik Jenkins, playing for the injured Kenny Williams, was all over the field. Likewise, Jacarthy Mack served notice that he will be a nice tool in Wallerstedt's toolbox.

Keenan Ward continued to impress at safety, while Josh Keys had far and away his best scrimmage as a Red Raider. Cornerback play in general was much better than before. Justis Nelson, Thierry Nguema, Dee Paul and La'Darius Newbold didn't make spectacular plays, but neither did they bust.

Without question, this scrimmage was a very solid way to close out the spring. These Red Raiders appear to be on the right track.

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