In this week’s position review we look closely at Texas Tech’s linebackers and defensive secondary coming out of spring practice.
There’s good news and bad news here. The good news is this current crop of linebackers is largely unchanged from last year, minus Will Smith and Terrance Bullitt. That kind of continuity and experience will certainly work in Tech’s favor going into 2014. The bad news is, there’s very little depth, especially on the outside.
Pete Robertson is pretty much set at Bandit, a position designed for pass rushing; however, behind him are several candidates with limited experience. Zach Barnes is a promising sophomore, but he’s painfully undersized, and it’s the same story with Kris Williams, who spent 2013 recovering from an ACL injury. He is, however, listed on the official two-deep as the current backup to Robertson.
Senior Sam Eguaveon and transfer senior V.J. Fehoko are two very good options in the middle, backup Micah Awe is a reliable option, and Malik Jenkins played meaningful minutes on special teams last year as a true freshman. Replacing Terrance Bullitt at Raider, a position practically custom built for him as a safety/linebacker hybrid, will be a tall order. The fact that Kenny Williams is the current No. 1 option going into the summer is somewhat worrisome.
As a whole, you’ve got to like the experience and attitude this group brings to the table. Robertson, Eguavoen and Fehoko all have nasty streaks and enjoy taking people out. The biggest question is, can Kenny Williams keep up?
Two words describe Tech’s secondary this year: inexperience and potential. Sure, guys like Keenon Ward, Justis Nelson and J.J. Gaines played meaningful minutes last season against Big 12 competition, but none of them started more than a couple of games. Gaines was the starter at free safety for the first five games of the year, but an injury put him on the shelf down the stretch and Ward filled in occasionally. Still nursing an injury, Gaines was held out of the spring game.
Now Gaines and Ward, with one season of Big 12 play between them, are the starters at safety. Backup redshirt freshman Jalen Barnes has gobs of potential and taste for hard hitting, but he has no experience. It was thought that Josh Keys may contribute right away, but like most JUCO transfers he’s hit a steep learning curve. At corner, Justis Nelson is only guy with any confidence or real experience. He played well in the last three games of the year as a starter, well enough for that title to carry over into the spring, but behind him there’s zero experience. Plenty of potential with guys like LaDarius Newbold and Dee Paul, but no game experience.
Going into the fall, no position in the secondary is safe. Thankfully, Tech signed a monster class of defensive backs this spring to drive competition. The good news with all these young guys is the secondary has plenty of room to grow and develop over the next couple of years. 2014 may be rough, though.