The Mike Smith era has officially begun for Texas Tech’s defense.
The former Red Raider standout linebacker has seemingly made a smooth transition from the field to the sidelines, and now has been given the headset to run the defense at least for the rest of this season.
Circumstances arose which created this situation, most notably the departure of Matt Wallerstedt; Smith took the podium for his first session as interim defensive coordinator Monday and emphasized a need for simplicity in his schemes.
"One of the problems we had, we have to get better at our bread and butter defense, our base defense we have to get good at," Smith said. "If you do a lot of things with 3-4, 4-3 and then you have some adjustments off it, some checks here, you never really get good at one thing. It's that saying 'jack of all trades but master at none' so I say let's get really good at what we do on first and second down and on third down lets mix it up and keep them guessing."
Smith represents a change of sorts from Wallerstedt, which he – and other players – was quick to soften the blows coming his way.
“I loved Coach Wally,” defensive lineman V.J. Fehoko said after practice Monday. “But also, it’s up to us to be great on defense.”
Despite forcing two turnovers and six punts Thursday against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech still fell short, 45-35. A noted observation from Smith was the dramatic improvement from the defensive line.
"The D-line probably played the best it has all year," Smith said. "They stayed in their gaps, their pad level was low, they got off of blocks, but we just have to get better each game."
The Red Raiders have been outscored by their opponents, 155-135, this season. They have also surrendered 1,051 rushing yards, including a staggering 438 against Arkansas on Sept. 13. Tech’s defensive prowess improved against the run as the Red Raiders limited the Cowboys to 158 rushing yards last week. Yet, the Red Raiders conceded 528 total yards as Oklahoma State took advantage of single coverage on its receivers on the outside.
"I think it went well (last week), I think they responded to the challenge. What I told them all week last week was to 'give me all you got' and I think they did that," Smith said. "Towards the gameplan, you know that was kind of what we wanted, we wanted them to throw it and take away what they do best, which is running the ball.”
Thursday’s improvement was a start for a defense which has struggled at times against teams both on the ground and in the air, but it’s a start, one head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday he hope continues.
“I thought they played hard, great energy. I thought we were in position to make a lot of plays," Kingsbury said. "To Oklahoma State's credit, they made a lot of those plays when the ball was in the air. But I thought they came out with great energy as a defense and as a team I thought we did. It gave us a lot of chances in that first half to get some separation. I was proud of their effort, proud of their preparation, and we just keep getting better from there.”
Smith is Simplifying the Texas Tech Defense
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