Texas Tech Preview: Defense

Ask anyone for the reason Texas Tech has had a strong start, and the reason the Red Raiders are already bowl eligible, and they'll point the finger at Art Kaufman's defense.

After the first eight games a year ago, the Red Raiders sat at 102nd in total defense. Right now, at the same point, they're 12th, a 90-spot jump.

But that defense has hit a bit of a wall in Big 12 play. The Red Raiders allowed 14 points or fewer in five of their first six games, but have allowed an average of 49.7 points per game in three of their last four.

While Tech has allowed just 3.6 yards per rush — down from 5.3 last year — the strength of the defense is the Big 12's second-rated pass defense, both in terms of efficiency and in yards given up (178.8).

But the surprising thing is that they've done that without a high-level pass-rush. In fact, Tech has generated just 12 sacks in eight games. Left end Dartwan Bush (6-1 256) is the top pass-rusher off the edge, making 6.5 stops in the backfield and three sacks. Opposite Bush is Jackson Richards (6-4 248), who has 2.5 tackles for loss. The stars of the line have been the defensive tackles. Kerry Hyder (6-2 281) has 27 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and four sacks on the year. And former blue-chipper Delvon Simmons (6-5 290) has four tackles for loss at nose tackle.

The linebackers are fast and improved. A big part of that improvement has been JUCO transfer Will Smith (6-3 224), who has made an immediate impact in the middle with 33 tackles. Terrance Bullitt (6-3 221) is a former safety who runs well and is slated as the starter at SAM. WILL linebacker Sam Eguavoen (6-1 220) rounds out the unit and has 25 tackles on the year.

The Red Raiders received good news when head coach Tommy Tuberville said top corner Cornelius Douglas (5-9 198) "should go" against Texas. He has four tackles for loss and two interceptions despite missing the last couple games with an injury. Bruce Jones (5-7 171) filled in for those two weeks at left corner. Right corner Eugene Neboh (5-10 180) leads the team with seven passes broken up, while nickel back Tre' Porter (6-0 202) provides a bigger presence at nickel back.

Cody Davis (6-2 202) leads the Red Raiders in both tackles (64) and interceptions (three). Left safety D.J. Johnson (6-0 190) is second on the team with 47 stops. Both players are extremely active in run support.

Ryan Erxleben (6-1 191) is an average punter with a mean of 42.4 yards per punt. Kramer Fyfe (5-8 159) handles the kickoffs. He's put 16 of his 49 kicks into the end zone for touchbacks.

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