Chip on their Shoulders

Ask nearly any Red Raider fan what their #1 concern is going into the 2007 season, and it will sound like a broken record: "The defensive line." The d-line has been depleted due to players graduating and a few unexpected departures. There isn't much being expected out of such an inexperienced group. Don't tell that to the players though. They are out to prove everyone wrong, and in a big way.

The Red Raiders have been absolutely depleted on the defensive line recently.  Former standouts Keyunta Dawson, Dek Bake, and Seth Nitschmann graduated.  There were also early departures from players including McKinner Dixon, Rashad Hunt, and Dantay Ward that left Tech thin at both DE and DT.

With the loss of so many players, not much is expected from the Texas Tech defensive line in 2007.  Chalk it up as motivation though, for a group of guys that have worked extremely hard and have the determination to go out and prove everyone wrong.

"We're going to shock the world on how good we really are."

-DT Rajon Henley

"We're out here working hard," says DT Rajon Henley.  "A lot of people out there are underestimating the D-line.  If they would come out here and watch, they would see how good we really are.  People say that we're undersized, but they haven't seen our speed or our strength.  A lot of people just think we're weak and just little, but if we go against them, we're going to shock the world on how good we really are."

Several players have been asked to step up, including true freshman DT Colby Whitlock.  Standing at 6'2" and weighing 281 pounds, Whitlock has the size to compete.  But he also has something else that is extremely beneficial to being an effective pass rusher.

"Colby has a great intensity about him.  He's a good football player," explains defensive line coach Ruffin McNeill.  "His wrestling experience helps him a lot on the football field because he understands balance and changes in body momentum on the offensive line on a pass rush.  [That] is the hardest thing to teach as a coach because you only have a split second to take advantage when a guy is off balance.  It just makes him a really great pass rusher."

Defensive line coach Ruffin McNeill has been working hard to prepare the young guys for Big 12 play.

Another young guy to keep an eye on is DT Clint Stoffels.  A walk-on, redshirt freshman who goes by the nickname Turbo, he has impressed the coaching staff and players alike early on.

"He's a little guy, but he's a little guy that packs a lot of power," Henley exclaims.  "When he lines up in front of people, a lot of them are going to underestimate him.  But once he brings that first punch, they're going to realize who they're going against."

The first real test won't happen until September 3rd in Dallas, when the Red Raiders open their season against SMU, and Coach McNeill will be using every day until then to decide which freshmen will be getting playing time, and how much, on Labor Day.

"I don't know how much they'll play.  I need these next 2 weeks to get them ready.  I don't have the amount of plays in mind yet, but I'm going to continue to test them to see who's ready."

No matter which defensive linemen step out on the field at 3 pm on that magnificent day when the Red Raiders officially kick off the 2007 season, they will be headed from the sidelines with a chip on their shoulder, ready to prove everyone wrong.


Strong Side End
 1. Jake Ratliff
 2. Phillip Jones
 3. Daniel Howard
Defensive Tackle
 1. Rajon Henley
 2. Brian Jones
 3. Bobby Agoucha
Nose Guard
 1. Clint Stoffels
 2. Richard Jones
 3. Colby Whitlock
Weak Side End
 1. Brandon Williams
 2. Tyler Yenzer
 3. Brandon Sharpe

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