“Do we have talent? Absolutely. Are we inexperienced? Absolutely. Are we the same team we were last year? Absolutely not. It’s a whole new group of guys. They don’t have a lot of experience, but we’re gonna find out who we are as we go through it. I think the big thing is to find out how much confidence these guys can gain going into the first game.”—Defensive Line Coach Kevin Patrick
My take: The concluding sentence is the kicker. Confidence is not the be-all and end-all in the game of football, but it is pretty danged important. Texas Tech’s defense, including the defensive line, has frankly been a punching bag for a very long time. And that is not an posture that breeds confidence. One of Kevin Patrick’s biggest challenges in his first season at Texas Tech will be to convince his players that they can and will whip the guys across the line from them.
“As long as we come to the table ready to work. And as long as we all have a common goal, things will mesh. I don’t think there’s a science to it. I wish there was.“--KP
My take: Another challenge facing Patrick—and he stated repeatedly that he loves challenges—will be to get his players to mesh into a cohesive whole. The only real veterans up front are Breiden Fehoko, Gary Moore, and Zach Barnes, and none of that trio are exactly graybeards. Supplementing them will be JUCO transfer Mych Thomas and a few freshmen. Patrick’s job will be to ensure the work ethic is there, and that the players all keep their eyes focused on the same prize.
“All we talk about is stopping the run. Let me first off say this—it’s not a suggestion. You know what I mean? And I’m the alpha dog in that room. I’m not a dictator but I am alpha dog and that is what’s gonna happen. If they’re gonna run the ball then they’ll run over our dead bodies in that gap, and we’re gonna slow ‘em down that way. Our guys have bought into that.
I’ll be honest with you—we won’t work on pass rush unless the offense gives it to us going into the first week of the season. We’re gonna stop the run.
And let me say this: I’ve watched every team we play in the conference, and every team that we play out of our conference this year. Nobody drops back and throws the ball anymore! These balls are coming out hot. And outside of stopping the run—we’re gonna get better at that. I mean, hey, do or die, that’s what we’re gonna do. Second thing is we’re gonna work on PBUs. We’re gonna bat that ball down. I think they had maybe zero or one last year. We went into this year, and the whole staff knows it and I want everybody to know it. I want these expectations to be honest. Stop the run and bat balls down. We went into spring and in 15 practices we batted almost 40 balls down. Touched 35, 40 balls.”—KP
My take: Say this for Patrick: he understands the problem and seems totally committed to solving it. His passion and the fiery rhetoric should incise the necessity to stop the run on the consciousness of his players. Will that be enough to actually stop the run? No. Certainly not. The players have to put forth the effort, they must have the toughness and stamina, and they must possess at least a baseline level of talent in order to stop the run. To a certain extent therefore, recruiting is the solution. Still, one gets the sense that Patrick will wring as much performance out of his players as is humanly possible, and that should be enough to improve the run defense somewhat.
Patrick’s emphasis on knocking down passes should be music to every Red Raider fan’s ears. In the past it has often seemed that the only offense getting passes batted was Tech’s. If Patrick catalyzes improvement in this area—and I honestly expect him to—then Tech’s defense will improve just as it improved somewhat last season by virtue of generating more turnovers
“Fehoko. All of ‘em. There’s no job that’s secure. I don’t care who you are or where you come from, find eight to 10 guys that I can go into those alleys with, we’re gonna find eight to 10 guys that we can play with. It’s gotta happen. The first eight guys on that defensive line—those are our starters. And I want them to think that way because who cares who goes out there first, we’re all gonna play. How much we’ll try to control as much as possible but if it’s a freshman, then let’s roll. The best man plays.”—KP
My take: At the very least, Patrick doesn’t seem to be hung up on experience! And although that may sound flippant on my part, it isn’t. In my opinion, a common blind spot among football coaches is unwavering loyalty to seniority. And to an extent, that tendency does make some sense. Coaches, naturally, want to reward loyalty to the program and the example set by veteran players. Sometimes, however, the devotion to seniority obscures the fact that a younger player is simply better, and the underclassman sits while the veteran plays. It sounds like this will not be a problem with Patrick.-
“Kolin Hill’s probably one of our more physical guys on the edge. Without a doubt. He’s got a great football IQ. He brings a lot to the table. A matter of fact, he’s made others around him better now.
You look at Gary Moore, there’s nobody more talented than him. Now there’s not a better athlete out there on that field. You watch him run sometimes, it’s spectacular.
But in a sense, again, it’s not where we’re at today; we got a long way to go. I’m excited to watch ‘em all play, but we gotta loooong, long way to go before we can start pounding our chests. We’re gonna be happy with what we’ve done at the end of the season, but other than that, we’re gonna work every dam’ day.”—KP
My take: If defense really is about “want to,” then it sounds like Tech’s defensive line should be in solid shape. Kevin Patrick certainly strikes one as a coach fully capable of inspiring “want to.”