In the hyped up, highlight reel-driven world of big-time sports in America, it is only natural that fans and media alike focus on talent and measurables. Everybody waits with bated breath to find out where that five-star quarterback is going to play, and who will draft that remarkable tight end. We all ooh and aah over the receiver who runs an electronically timed 4.24 forty and the offensive tackle who presses 50 reps of 225.
But in the rush to gush over the talent crush we sometimes overlook the dull, boring intangibles that cannot be measured, but that can make the difference between a 4-8 dumpster fire season and a 13-1 run to glory. Well, it just so happens that the Texas Tech linebacker corps, thanks to a couple of newcomers and one oft overlooked veteran, could be the intangible heart of the Red Raider football team this season.
One of those newcomers is actually an old hand, but he is now playing in a very unfamiliar place. I speak, of course, of Kenny Williams.
The senior from Pflugerville, Texas plied his trade for three seasons at tailback and carved himself a niche as Tech's undisputed leader at that position. Imagine everybody's shock, therefore, when word leaked out of Red Raider spring camp that Williams, in his final year of college football, was moving to outside linebacker! It was such a bizarre storyline that many were initially skeptical of its veracity, but the reality is that Williams could be a starter in Tech's defense.
Williams, who stands 5-foot-9 and weighs 225 pounds, and does not run a 4.24 forty, will not augment the defense's athleticism overmuch, but he will add dramatically to its intangibles. According to Kliff Kingsbury and Matt Wallerstedt, Williams is a player who is completely respected throughout the Tech football program. The coaches use the word "accountable" when describing him. And as a savvy veteran, one can be certain that Williams will pour as much effort into his play as any player on the squad. Williams will make Tech's defense better by his presence alone.
Look for another senior to pay big dividends as well. Sam Eguavoen, who didn't even play football until his junior year in high school, but was thrown to the Big 12 wolves as a true freshman, is now headed for his final Red Raider rodeo, and all indications are that he may be perhaps the essential cog to Tech's defense.
Eguavoen, who had a fine game in Tech's huge Holiday Bowl victory last season, was actually pulled aside by Wallerstedt immediately following the game, and told that the defense was now "his crew," and that it was his job to step up not only physically, but also vocally to lead the defense to bigger and better things. Well, according to the defensive coordinator, Eguavoen has done just that and then some. As a veteran who's been around the block a time or two, he has the scheme down pat and does a terrific job of calling the signals and getting everybody lined up correctly. And he has taken to the vocal side of leadership like a duck to water. Tech's coaches expect Eguavoen to have a big senior season in more ways than one.
The final member of the intangible trio is newcomer V.J. Fehoko. Many minimized the possibilities of the Utah transfer on the assumption that he couldn't contribute much with only one year of eligibility, and based upon his relatively minor role with the Utes. This modest assessment now looks overly modest.
Wallerstedt acknowledges that Fehoko is not an elite linebacker when playing "in space," but loves everything else about the brother of ex-Red Raider Sam Fehoko. According to Wallerstedt, V.J. "plays the game the way it's supposed to be played." And that means, physically, intensely, and perhaps most important, violently. Wallerstedt goes so far as to say that Fehoko brings a "vibe" to the field that is almost palpable. Look for Fehoko to have a larger impact on this team than what had been expected.
Put Kenny Williams, Sam Eguavoen and V.J. Fehoko together, and what you have is a maturing asset that will pay larger and large dividends as the season goes along. And for a defense that lacks some pieces and is pea soup green at many positions, this trio is absolutely good for what ails it.
New Leadership and Intensity at Linebacker
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