Session on the Prowl

Three weeks ago, Texas Tech weak side linebacker Mike Smith promised fans a vastly improved defense from last year's squad. Longtime Tech fans are hoping this defense will rival past teams of the mid-1990's. Just last season, Tech ranked as low as dead last for total defense in division one football, but 2004 has proved to be quite a different story. One major reason for this enormous improvement has been sophomore linebacker Fletcher Session.

"He's a really reliable guy. He always has been," says Coach Mike Leach. "We have asked him to play a lot of positions and fill in at a lot of positions.

This year defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich has started using additional defensive schemes as a result of the players becoming more accustomed to his system. Saturday against TCU the results of Setencich's defense showed up – and in a big way.

The Tech defense held TCU to 316 yards of total offense, nearly 230 yards off of their season average. More importantly, many of these yards were earned after the game was already in the bag for the Red Raiders.

"They had me on the outside," remarked Session. "That gives me the chance to get on the field and show my speed. With the offense they ran, they tried to run the option or throw, but with my speed I can cover the receivers and play the pitch man on the option."

Session is one of the reasons for the depth in the Tech linebacking corps. As a result of the 3 – 4 defense (3 defensive lineman and 4 linebackers), he has started making enormous contributions to the SWARM defense.

So how effective is switching defensive schemes?

"The majority of teams run just one scheme," said Session. "After a while an offense will just break it down, but if you mix it up a little; maybe throw in a little 3- 4, 4-3, Dime or 65 at ‘em and the quarterback will have to hesitate."

A major dividing factor between championship teams and the leftovers is always experience. By redshirting his freshman year in 2002, Fletcher gained a year of college experience without losing valuable playing time for later in his career.

"During my redshirt year I just really learned how fast division one football is," remembered Session.

"They had me covering Wes (Welker) and Mickey Peters and during practice I was running with them everywhere. Sometimes, I swear I would lose like five or six pounds a week just trying to cover them."

The other linebackers on the team see Session's value also.

"Fletcher has put some weight on and he put some strength on," remarked middle linebacker Brock Stratton. "He can be very deceiving when you look at him. He's a bigger linebacker, but he's also fast and quick."

During the offseason Session gained nearly 10 pounds thanks to strength and conditioning Coach Bennie Wylie.

"Last year I was about 215 and not even really that strong, just fast," said Session. "This year I am around 226 and benching 370. It helps me when the offense is running the ball and I can get off the block a whole lot better and play smarter."

Now it's on to Kansas and Big XII play.

Tech plays a much improved Kansas team on Saturday in Lawrence anchored by the nation's tenth ranked defense. As many Tech fans know, over the past few years road games have not been Tech's forte.

"In order to be good in the Big XII or NCAA you have to be a good road team," Session said. "We have to win games on the road. Every game counts."

So how does it feel playing Big XII teams that are ranked in the top 25 week in and week out?

"Playing against OU, probably the first two quarters I was nervous, about to throw up the whole game," recalled Session. "Playing Texas I was nervous as hell. Now I'm confident. I believe we can play these people. They are no better than we are."

Tech's defense has grown over the past year just like a weed in a garden. Fletcher Session now sees his role in Tech's unselfish defense and looks forward to opportunities to showcase his skills.

Session sums it up nicely.

"I'm not a selfish player. As long as we win, that's all that matters to me."

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