Football lore is filled with clichés, and none are more prominent than, “It all starts up front.” Closely allied to this bromide is the oft-heard prediction, “Whoever wins the battle in the trenches will win the game.” Now we all roll our eyes when we hear these banalities, but the fact is, clichés don’t become clichés unless they contain a great deal of truth.
With that in mind, and noting the steady development of football into a passing game, we can coin yet another apothegm, “A good pass rush makes the entire defense look better.” Contrariwise, if you have no pass rush, you’re dead in the water.
All of this gets to the heart of why rush defensive end Pete Robertson is the most important player on the 2015 Texas Tech football team. Forget, for the moment that he sometimes gets washed out against the run. The fact of the matter is that what he brings to the pass rush, and the defense, and therefore to the entire team, is invaluable.
In 2014 Robertson recorded 12 sacks, which was sixth best in the nation, and led the Big 12. That number was only three shy of Brandon Sharpe’s school record of 15 during the 2009 season. With that in mind—and factoring in the expectation of improved defensive tackle play--it is entirely possible that Robertson will set the single season sack record for Texas Tech. It is very much within his reach.
But it’s not simply Robertson’s sack total that makes him so valuable. It is also the fact that, for all intents and purposes, he IS Tech’s pass rush.
Branden Jackson, who recorded a modest five sacks, was Tech’s next most prolific rusher in 2014. And outside of Jackson, no other returning Red Raider had more than one sack. So, without Robertson on the field, Tech’s only real means of generating a rush is to blitz like crazy. Now with the talent Tech has at the cornerback position, that is not an unthinkable proposition, but it is still rather scary. Much better to create a rush with your base package than to resort to desperation ploys.
Depth is yet another factor that elevates Robertson’s stature. Behind him on the depth chart are junior Kris Williams and sophomore Zach Barnes. Between them, they have amassed all of zero sacks. That is not to say that Williams and Barnes are incapable of rushing the passer—perhaps they are—but it is quite clear that neither is at Robertson’s level.
Now it will be interesting to see how Robertson handles the transition from outside linebacker to defensive end. Can he set the edge? But all other considerations aside, Texas Tech can ill afford for him to not be on the field in 2015.