Like any football team, Texas Tech has several players whose performance will be particularly critical to the squad's success. These players, whether by virtue of experience, leadership, importance of the position played, depth concerns, or sheer talent, are especially crucial. They may or not be the best players on the club, but they would be very conspicuous were they absent.
Unless something radical happens, like Texas Tech’s offense and defense swapping ends, defensive players will be a premium commodity for the 2017 Red Raiders. In other words, Tech’s offense should be good enough to win at least nine games, but defensive woes will likely be the proverbial millstone dragging the team away from winning that many games. Every step up the Red Raider defense can take, on the other hand, will raise the overall ceiling for the team.
An unlikely component in Tech’s never-ending quest to produce a respectable defense will be defensive back Justus Parker. The sophomore transfer from Division III Texas Lutheran is currently slated as the backup both to Douglas Coleman at nickel back and Jah’Shawn Johnson at left safety.
Suffice it to say there wasn’t a great deal of hoopla surrounding Parker’s transfer to Texas Tech. The event was tantamount to a pebble dropped into the churning waters of a cat 5 hurricane.
But Parker did have one very respectable football accomplishment to his name prior to his arrival in Lubbock: as a freshman he earned first team Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference honors. And it was almost certainly that early success that convinced Parker he was capable of playing at the Power 5 level.
So far Parker’s decision to jump up dramatically in competition has been justified. He has emerged from a whole host of defensive backs, almost all of whom have splashier pedigrees than him, to become a rotation player and a competitor for starter status. Indeed, during spring camp since-departed receiver Jonathan Giles declared that Parker was the defensive back who gave him the most trouble.
Frankly, the most impressive aspect of Parker’s brief Texas Tech career has been the simple fact that he has competed so well. Parker could not have experienced anything like Tech’s nitro-burning passing attack at Texas Lutheran, let alone while playing at La Vernia high school in south Texas. It would have been the easiest thing for him to get blown away by Tech’s bevy of talented receivers, lose confidence, and never be heard from again. The fact that this didn’t happen testifies to Parker’s mental toughness and to his athletic ability. You don’t do what he’s done so far without a healthy helping of both.
Ultimately, however, Parker will have to show he can do the job in front of 60,000 fans. That is the next step on his college football path. But if he can be a first-rate utility man in the secondary, he will have made of himself a key component of a defense that needs all of the top hands it can find.