Pete the Bandit

Texas Tech Bandit linebacker Pete Robertson appears poised for a breakout season.

Texas Tech junior linebacker Pete Robertson started all 13 games for a Red Raider defense that suffered another monumental collapse last November.

Beaten down and battered from playing over 90 snaps a game with a myriad of minor injuries Robertson returned home to East Texas after Tech's upset win over Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl. The victory eased some of the pain, but he still didn't feel right.

"My biggest thing was when I went home after the bowl game I went home and talked to my mom and to see my family and just to see the looks on their faces, you know what I'm saying, I know I can change that," Robertson said as he shook his head after a recent practice. "My mindset last year, I went hard, but I know I can go totally harder than I'm going, so my mindset was totally different. When I stepped back on campus this summer I knew it was going to be a different route and I went hard every single day."

The

Pete Robertson

6-foot-2 Robertson, who played at 225 pounds last season, added 15 pounds of muscle in the offseason and attacked his conditioning in a way he never had before to the point he is now bigger, faster and in the best condition of his life.

"It got to a point that when we're running, I'm running, not with the linebackers, but with the receivers; I'm running pretty good," said Robertson, who was quick to credit Tech strength and conditioning coach Chad Dennis for an excellent offseason regimen. "I feel like I have gotten faster with the extra weight. Yeah, bigger and faster."

He's not just lifting more and running faster, he lit it up on the practice field during fall camp as well. In fact, co-defensive coordinator/outside linebackers coach Mike Smith said recently Robertson has been the No. 1 standout of the whole defense.

"It's Pete Robertson, this is the best I have ever seen him play."

"The thing about Pete, and he's always worked hard, but here and there he would take a play off and I'd kill him on it. Actually, this morning I called him after the meeting and just told him I was proud of him and it gave me goosebumps because every single practice in training camp he's gone 110 percent and he's now a leader," Smith added.

Robertson was actually one of the bright spots on the Red Raider defense last season as a sophomore. He did a little bit of everything, which is required from him at his Bandit, or outside linebacker position, tallying 60 total tackles, nine for loss with 2.5 sacks, two interceptions, five passes defended, four QB hurries, a pair of fumble recoveries and a forced fumble.

Robeterson will be counted on to help set the edge in run defense, be one of the premier pass rushers and still be able to cover some in pass defense In fact, Smith said Robertson has 13 different drops in pass coverage at a position expected to be more of a DE/LB hybrid.

Simply put, a lot is expected of Robertson and he has accepted the challenge.

"I think Pete Robertson is a guy that now is starting to take big steps forward in a leadership role of not just vocally, because he's always kind of been a vocal guy, but what he puts on tape on a daily basis," said Texas Tech defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt earlier this week. "He's playing really, really hard and that's what we expect out of him. He's also a guy who's starting to apply pressure to quarterbacks."

If that wasn't enough, Robertson is pumped about the personnel in front of him which he says will allow him to do his job more effectively. Among the returnees along the defensive line are senior leader Jackson Richards, known for his work ethic and selfless play, junior defensive end Branden Jackson, who has beefed up to 270 pounds after playing at 245 in 2013 and Demetrius Alston who has also become appreciably bigger and has been one of the biggest pleasant surprises on the team this offseason.

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Rika Levi

Red Raiders also went out and signed over 1,200 pounds of junior college beef up front in Rika Levi (6-2, 345), Keland McElrath (6-4, 312), Marcus Smith (6-3, 310) and Brandon Thorpe (6-3, 277).

"We got men up there now," Robertson said. "We got Branden Jackson, who has grown a lot, gained a lot of weight and is faster, we got the Rika, we got Keland, all them guys, we got DA, Jackson Richards--it's awesome having those guys up front. I know having those guys ahead me they are going to handle the offensive line to let me and V.J. [Fehoko] and Sam [Eguavoen] just move around and play like we want to."

The one question is who is going to step up as his backup at Bandit, because the coaching staff wants him fresh down the stretch in November in big games against conference rivals Texas, Oklahoma and Baylor. The candidates are Andre Ross (6-2, 234), who is listed as the No. 2 Bandit on Tech's two-deep roster released earlier this week, Kris Williams and Zach Winbush.

"I'm still looking for him (the backup), we're still searching for it," Smith said. "Right now Pete is so far ahead of everybody else I got to have somebody step up. Pete can't play those 90 plays a game, even though he'll try his best to stay out there I can't, I have to get him a breather and I don't know who it's going to be whether it's Andre Ross, Kris Williams, Winbush; somebody has to show me something and pretty soon."

All that hard work Robertson put in in the offseason to transform his body and his game will be brought to bear on the gridiron in a matter of hours as Texas Tech opens its 60th football season against Central Arkansas 6 p.m. tonight at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock. Be on the lookout for No. 10, El Bandido.

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