Wallerstedt's Departure is No Surprise

Texas Tech announced the resignation of defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt on Thursday.

The Texas Tech Athletic Department has released a statement which reports that Matt Wallerstedt has resigned as Texas Tech’s defensive coordinator, and will be replaced by Mike Smith who was previously co-defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach. With the promotion of Smith, Tech is now on its seventh defensive coordinator in eight seasons.

As of this writing, nothing certain is known of the reason for Wallerstedt’s dismissal, although the Red Raider defense has come under severe criticism for its performance in the first three games of the season, two of which featured supposed lightweight foes (Central Arkansas and UTEP). And in Tech’s third outing against Arkansas, the Red Raiders allowed 438 rushing yards and 6.4 yards per carry. Moreover, the Razorbacks finished the game by running the football 30 straight times.

In terms of national statistics, the Red Raiders are No. 116 in turnover margin, No. 96 in sacks, No. 109 in scoring defense, No. 127 in rush defense, No. 104 in rushing yards per carry defense, No. 99 in 4th down conversion defense, No. 95 in red zone touchdown conversion defense, and No. 96 in total defense.

Prior to the 2013 season, which was the inaugural year at Tech for both Wallerstedt and head coach Kliff Kingsbury, the head coach stated his desire for dramatic improvement in rushing defense and in turnover creation. The Red Raiders did improve somewhat in generating turnovers, but that improvement was offset by deterioration in run defense. And so far in 2014, there has been stark regression in both of those crucial categories.

If and when the Texas Tech Athletic Department holds a press conference discussing the coaching staff shakeup, the reason for Wallerstedt’s departure will be given, although how much detail will be disclosed is unknown. Be that as it may, if the reason given is something other than the performance of the defense, skepticism should be the order of the day.

In point of fact, after one and one quarter seasons there was little evidence that Texas Tech's defense was moving in the right direction, despite the oft-heard statements from coaches and players alike that the second go-round in Wallerstedt’s system would produce noticeable improvement.

Similarly, coaches and players spoke glowingly about the improvement that would occur because of the presence of a host of large, new JUCO linemen (Rika Levi, Keland McElrath, Marcus Smith and Brandon Thorpe). All and sundry expected gratification from a larger, more physical and more knowledgeable defense, but that gratification has been denied.

Another point to keep in mind is that urgency, rather than patience is the primary operational dynamic within the Texas Tech football program. Tech has perhaps the youngest coaching staff in FBS college football, and has cultivated an image of hipness that has translated into a huge recruiting bonanza. This is all part of a strategy to “strike while the iron is hot,” garnering as much talent as possible while Kingsbury and his cohort are still the youngest of the young and the hippest of the hip.

This schema cannot tolerate a bad, let alone losing season early in the plan lest it negate the hipness factor upon which Tech’s recruiting has battened. This consideration goes a long way toward explaining why Wallerstedt was presumably eased out after a relatively short tenure at Tech. The defense’s failures may have cost Tech the Arkansas game, and they threaten to undermine Kingsbury’s plan of making huge recruiting inroads early in his career.

All in all, the departure of Wallerstedt cannot come as a surprise, even though the timing may have brought many observers up short. Patience, continuity and the long-term view are just not part of Tech football’s vocabulary right now. Nor is allowing 438 rushing yards in a single game.

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