We’re handing out grades for every position group after four weeks of football. This first addition encompasses the last four games.
Kerry Hyder: 13 tackles, five tackles for loss, one sack, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery.
Dartwan Bush: Eight tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble.
Branden Jackson: Nine tackles, 0.5 tackle for loss.
No surprises here. Loaded with senior leadership, the defensive line hasn’t disappointed preseason expectations thus far. Not a particularly big group of guys outside Kerry Hyder, the line continues to make plays in every game. Even when the sacks aren’t there, constant pressure from these beasts forced opposing quarterbacks into lots of mistakes. Hyder, a preseason All-Big 12 candidate, is well on his way to earning All-Big 12 postseason honors, possibly even All-American accolades, and maybe even a draft pick. Grade: B+
Will Smith: 26 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, one fumble returned for a touchdown.
Micah Awe: 24 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks.
Pete Robertson: 21 tackles, four tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, one interception.
Terrance Bullitt: 16 tackles, two tackles for loss, two sacks, six pass breakups, one fumble recovery.
It may be that the dominance of the defensive line gives these guys plenty of opportunities to make plays, but I’m ready to give this unit the most improved award. Last season, linebacker was a weakness of an average defense. This year, the linebackers, including tackles leader Will Smith, make this defense great. The majority of the sacks and tackles for loss so far come from this group, which boasts four of the top five tacklers on the team. Grade: A
Bruce Jones: 11 tackles, two tackles for loss, three pass breakups, one forced fumble.
Ola Falemi: 14 tackles, two pass breakups.
After the offensive line, cornerback was the biggest question mark heading into the season. So far so good. Starting field corner Bruce Jones was the only sure thing about this group heading into the season, and even his play has been pleasant surprise. One marker of a good defensive back is never hearing his name, or the name of the man he’s covering, called out. While both Jones and Falemi are undersized, both play above their measurables with plenty of grit and aggression. Thanks largely to their efforts, Tech’s defense hasn’t given up a passing touchdown in two straight games. Grade: B-
Tre’ Porter: 25 tackles, one forced fumble.
J.J. Gaines: 11 tackles, one interception, one pass breakup.
Like the cornerbacks, both Porter and Gaines are undersized. And, like the corners, these safeties play bigger than they are. Porter likes to bring the wood against opposing ball carriers and currently ranks second on the team in total tackles. Gaines doesn’t remotely resemble a strong safety, but his coverage skills and instincts constantly put him position to make plays. Grade: B+
Ryan Bustin: 9-10 field goals (90 percent), long of 43, 18-18 extra points.
Taylor Symmack: 11 punts, 462 yards, 42-yard average, long of 60 yards, five downed inside the 20.
Jakeem Grant: Four kick returns, 95 yards, 23.8-yard average.
SaDale Foster: Eight punt returns, 66 yards, 8.2-yard average.
Special teams play is another surprise unit this season. Not a lot of action in the return game, and coverage units gave up a couple long plays called back by penalty, but so far no major mistakes from this unit. Grade: B+