Chris Parker - Chris Parker was the first defensive back off the bench in 2005 and became the Red Raiders starting right cornerback during the 2007 season. At 5 feet 11 inches and 175 pounds, Parker is not a physically imposing corner but does a very good job of playing larger than he actually is. A punishing tackler and outstanding player in coverage, Parker's only difficulty was an injury that occurred early in the season and limited his ability to accelerate. But with the time to recover during the off season, Parker should be back to top form and playing his style of football, hard-hitting and sure tackling.
Brent Nickerson - While he only appeared in 9 games, Nickerson can be expected to provide much needed depth and have an outstanding opportunity to be groomed to become another in a long line of very good Red Raider cornerbacks. Nickerson is large at 6 feet 175 pounds and could add several more weight to his frame as he matures in the Red Raider defense. He has the fluidity that is needed of a top flight corner but will need to establish himself in Spring and Fall practice to ensure that the coaches confidence in him is not misplaced.
Jamar Wall - Jamar was a pleasant surprise last season as a true freshman cornerback. While he only recorded 12 tackles and participated in 11 games, he is certainly capable of becoming the best cornerback to play at Texas Tech in a long time. His biggest play of the season was a pass break-up against Oklahoma State University as the fourth quarter was winding to a conclusion. Wall showed off not only his terrific vertical leaping ability but also showed his terrific ability to locate the ball at anytime when it is in the air. Wall is also an extremely fluid corner with fantastic change of direction ability and his capacity for covering opposing receivers is almost unmatched on the Texas Tech roster. While Wall is listed at 5 feet 10 inches tall, his incredible leaping ability means that he plays as if he is several inches taller, allowing him to cover the largest receiver in the Big XII and in the country without difficulty.
Nickel Cornerback - The nickel cornerback has one of the most difficult jobs in the secondary. Called to come into games typically on passing downs (usually 3rd and 10 or longer), the nickel corner is usually one of the best coverage players on the team. Asked to cover the opposing offenses slot receiver without the benefit of a sideline to help, the nickel corner must have smooth transitions, good acceleration, and terrific recovery speed to stay with a slot receiver. The nickel corner is usually the first cornerback off the bench when a starter goes down because of the experience that he has gained while playing in the slot.
Nickel Cornerback Depth Chart - Marcus Bunton
Marcus Bunton - Marcus Bunton is a converted running back and brings all of the skills from his previous position to his new position. As the nickel corner in 2006, he did a very good job of coming in on passing downs and providing the Red Raiders with a third coverage corner that they could have confidence in. Bunton has shown no fear in going up to get a football or to lay the wood to an opposing offensive player. Perhaps his single biggest play of the year was a terrific pass breakup in overtime against the Minnesota Golden Gophers when Marcus dove in front of the intended receiver and prevented him from making the reception. While not listed on the true cornerback depth charts, should the unforeseen happen to Chris Parker or Jamar Wall, Marcus can be expected to step in and acquit himself quite well at any time during a football game.
Free Safety - Free safety is one of the most important positions on the defensive side of the football. The so called "quarterback of the defense" the free safety is typically the one assigned the job of ensuring that the secondary is properly aligned. There is no greater luxury to a defensive coordinator than being able to simply tell the free safety to "play center field" and having confidence that he can cover the entire secondary. A free safety must be able to cover like a corner in man coverage, make plays in the run game, and time his few blitzes perfectly for maximum disruption. A true free safety can make a secondary better than its parts by helping weaker corners out in coverage and being the last line of defense against opposing offenses.
Darcel McBath - Darcel McBath notched only 2 interceptions last season but had a team high 8 passes defended, 2 more than not only any other member of the secondary but two more than anyone else on the Texas Tech roster. A converted cornerback, McBath has shown that he can still cover with the skills of his pervious job while being a dangerous pass rusher, a hard hitting run stopper, and he started to grow into a very good quarterback of the secondary. While he is slightly undersized at 5 feet 11 inches and 196 pounds, McBath has shown no fear in tackling anyone that comes into his area of responsibility. Darcel racked up 75 tackles in the 2006 campaign and fans can expect more of the same from McBath as he continues to grow and develop into a very good free safety.
Daniel Charbonnet - When Daniel Charbonnet decided to transfer from Duke he came to West Texas looking for a high profile team that was on the rise to play for. Charbonnet's transfer was hardly the most important news of the 2005 off season but he made his impact felt last season. He has ideal size at 6 feet tall and 195 pounds and showed a penchant for making great plays at the right time last season both on special teams and as a safety. Perhaps the biggest play of the entire season for Charbonnet came when he was lined up as the Red Raiders strong safety and came flying off Minnesota quarterback Bryan Cupito's right side while Cupito was pump faking and turned facing left. Charbonnet wrapped up Cupito in a form tackle and drove him into the turf, helping the Red Raiders continue to turn the tide against the Golden Gophers as the Red Raiders made the largest comeback in NCAA history. While Charbonnet isn't amazingly fast, he has the speed needed to be a very good back up and the potential to step right in and start should the Red Raiders need him to.
Strong Safety - The strong safety is the "linebacker in the secondary" and much like the title would suggest, he is typically the hardest hitting member of the secondary. While not the best coverage man in the secondary, he is the enforcer and the player that is expected to make the most plays to stuff the run. While not as large as a linebacker, the strong safety is sometimes walked up into the box to bring an extra physical presence close to the line of scrimmage.
Strong Safety Depth Chart - Joe Garcia (Starter), Blake Collier (Back Up)
Joe Garcia - Joe Garcia undoubtedly had his breakout season in 2006, starting all 13 games for the Red Raiders and establishing himself as a hard hitting safety in the mold of other Texas Tech strong safeties Josh Rangel and Ryan Aycock with the same penchant for hitting players right as they are catching the football. The second highest tackler from the 2006 squad and the highest returning member for the 2007 team, Garcia has the potential to be an extremely capable if not outstanding safety if he continues to develop during the Spring like he did throughout the entirety of last season.
Blake Collier - Blake Collier spent the majority of the 2006 season playing as a gunner (the player that races down the field on punts) on the punt coverage team and used that opportunity to showcase his blistering speed and very good tackling form. While he is light on experience, Collier is by far the fastest safety on the team and could develop into a punishing strong safety before his time at Texas Tech is done. While he is a little under weight according to the Spring roster at 194 pounds, he can easily add more weight to his 6 foot 2 inch tall frame without sacrificing to much of his trade mark speed. While Collier is light on experience he was a dominant linebacker in high school and should be able to turn himself into a fantastic strong safety with the coaching that he can receive at Texas Tech University.
Come back next time as Mitchell Fish concludes his Sprinting to Spring series of articles with the most overlooked and underrated portion of any football team, the Special Teams players.