Getting Defensive

The Texas Tech coaching staff, including defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt (pictured above), has never been shy about expressing a desire to significantly upgrade the talent level and depth of its defense. The Red Raiders have gone about making this a reality in a plethora of ways and continue to do so.

Mike MitchellLB2013/TRPlano, TX6-4225
Nigel BethelCB2014Miami, FL5-8165
Payton HendrixS2014Dallas, TX6-2190
Rika LeviNT2014/JCSan Francisco, CA6-3355
Breiden FehokoDT2015Honolulu, HI6-3280
Collin WilderS2016Katy, TX5-11185

For the majority of its time in the Big 12, Texas Tech has been known for its high-flying offense which puts up monster numbers through the air and lights up scoreboards. During this time the Red Raiders have also been lit up by opposing offenses.

The popular belief has always been if the Red Raiders could ever field a notable defense they could possibly challenge for championships. In order to do that, the Texas Tech staff has acknowledged it must recruit and land difference makers at all three levels of the defense.

The Red Raiders are starting to do just that and are piecing together the future backbone of the defense in a variety of ways.

Texas Tech took the

Payton Hendrix

traditional approach to transforming its secondary by signing a massive and talented 2014 defensive back class which senior writer Joe Yeager described as a program changer shortly after National Signing Day. The headliners are Dallas Bishop Dunne four-star safety Payton Hendrix and speedy cornerback Nigel Bethel out of Miami (FL) Washington.

Hendrix (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) was rated as one of the top 200 players in the nation and Tech's highest rated prospect of its class according to He chose the Red Raiders over some of the most prestigious programs in college football.

Bethel (5-9, 165) racked up a trophy case full of state championship hardware both on the gridiron and the track during his career at Booker T. Washington, one of the top prep athletic programs in the country. The Red Raiders flipped him late from hometown Miami in a major recruiting coup.

Hendrix and Bethel are both on campus.

Texas Tech drew deep from the junior college well in the 2014 class at defensive line and may have found some difference makers. The man in the middle of it all is massive defensive tackle Rika Levi (6-3, 355) out of the College of San Mateo.


Rika Levi

is considered a unique talent with surprising athleticsm coupled with his obvious size and strength. The Red Raiders fended off many, notably Oregon and Miami late, before Levi signed on the dotted line.

Tech needs Levi to be the real deal and to contribute immediately. He is on campus.

Then the Red Raiders landed 2015 four-star defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko, who has deep family ties to the program, in the spring. Fehoko (6-3, 280) is rated as the No. 7 defensive tackle in the nation and the No. 37 overall recruit of the 2015 class by

Fehoko is exactly what the doctor ordered in terms of Tech needing an elite-level high school commit who can make an immediate impact up front.

Fehoko is expected to graduate early and to be on campus for spring ball in 2015.

The Red Raiders also made waves recently with the news former five-star linebacker Mike Mitchell (6-4, 225) was transferring in from Ohio State. Mitchell was one of the most heavily recruited prospects of the entire 2013 class and is considered an elite athlete.

He has enrolled and is expected to file a hardship waiver (if he hasn't already), which if accepted by the NCAA, would allow him to play immediately rather than have to sit a year.

The most recent

Collin Wilder

commit is 2016 four-safety Wilder out of Texas powerhouse Katy. The Red Raiders were the first to offer him a scholarship, when Wilder was just a freshman, and it paid off.

Wilder, who is a two-year starter and still has two more high school seasons to play, would at the very least add a physical presence to Tech's secondary.

In the past four months Tech landed a deep and talented 2014 defensive back class, signed approximately 1,200 pounds of junior college beef along the defensive line, corralled one of the most coveted linebackers in recent history who will have at least three seasons of eligibility remaining, hit on an elite 2015 defensive tackle and was rewarded for their faith in a young talent earlier this week with the commitment of a 2016 four-star safety.

Percentages say at least one of these highly-touted players will not pan out, but they also point to at least a couple of the defensive additions not named in this story exceeding expectations.

It will be interesting to see where Tech will find its next defensive stalwart.

Stay tuned.

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