One of the most underrated developments of the 2014 football season in Lubbock, Texas is the trend-breaking return of defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt for a second year.
For five straight years, no Texas Tech coaching door revolved quite like that of defensive coordinator. Not since Ruffin McNeil in 2009 has the Red Raider defense played under the same coordinator two years in a row, something even the seniors haven’t experienced.
But will continuity and carry-over be enough by itself to lift Texas Tech’s defense − particularly the run defense − off the bottom of the Big 12? The reality is, you don’t turn around a historically ineffective defense in two seasons of hard coaching; you have to add copious amounts of talent, as well.
Now, no one can fault coach Wallerstedt and his staff for not trying. Their class of JUCO defenders this year, headlined by Rika Levi and Josh Keys, was arguably the best in the country. They attempted to immediately fill gaping holes left by departed seniors Kerry Hyder, Dartwan Bush and Tre Porter, but even the most highly sought-after transfers need time to develop and grow in a new system at a higher level of competition.
Other holes remain, too. Tech’s two-time rushing leader Kenny Williams made the move to outside linebacker to help shore up depleted depth there, but he’s likely to experience a learning curve. Also, true freshmen Tevin Madison and Jah’shawn Johnson immediately snagged spots in the two-deep ahead of more experienced players like La’Darius Newbold.
Clearly, talent deficiencies exist.
All that said, having total continuity on the defensive side of the ball for the first time in half a decade will pay dividends right now. Last year, no one currently on defense had ever heard the same voices preaching the same things two years in a row, and now they have. Now there’s repetition and familiarity, where before everyone was merely focused on learning new concepts.
Wallerstedt’s second year on the job means more trust from players who were all-too familiar with broken promises. Trust leads to even more buy-in, which leads to better technique, better understanding of more complex schemes and better executed assignments.
In short, having coach Wally back this year will make a big difference and it will make the defense better. But Tech won’t be a house-hold defensive name until he gets more talent across the board.