Defending David Gibbs: Building Texas Tech’s Defense Will Take Time


Texas Tech’s David Gibbs has been repeating the same refrain since he arrived in Lubbock earlier this year. However, now that the season has begun and the defensive coordinator’s words seem increasingly prophetic; are Red Raider fans willing to listen?

Despite his pedigree as a successful NFL assistant coach and college defensive coordinator, Gibbs never promised that he would work miracles with the perennially struggling Texas Tech defense.  In fact, he said just the opposite.

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"“I tell everybody I wish I did have a magic formula because I’d sell it and go hang out on a beach somewhere,” Gibbs told the Amarillo Globe News back in February."

Yet no matter how often Gibbs reminded the press and Texas Tech fans alike that playing good defense in the Big 12 is difficult, the narrative continually focused on the near miraculous turnaround he oversaw while at the University of Houston.

In his two years as defensive coordinator for the Cougars, Gibbs’ defense created an amazing seventy-three turnovers. Along the way, the Houston defense climbed from 113th in total defense the year prior, to Gibbs’ ascendance to an 18th -ranking in 2014.

Thus, when Gibbs signed a $550,000 contract to be the eighth Texas Tech defensive coordinator since 2007 the hiring was lauded as a home-run acquisition by the local media, college football experts and Red Raider fans alike. But the reality of the situation is that Gibbs is being asked to do what no one in the history of the Big 12 conference has been able to do: field a top-flight defense at Texas Tech.

After the first two games of conference play, Texas Tech’s defense is ranked 127th out of 128 teams nationally. That is not what fans expected from the new defensive guru brought in to plug all of the holes in Tech’s defense. However, David Gibbs’ task is more akin to sealing a gaping hole in the side of the Titanic.

In order for Gibbs to be successful at Texas Tech he will have to change the program on a number of fronts. First of all, he is implementing a new system, which is the fourth new system in four years that the seniors on the team must learn.

Next, consider the number of underclassmen David Gibbs must rely on for significant playing time. Taylor Nunez, Breiden Fehoko, Zach Barnes, Dakota Allen, Tevin Madison, Nigel Bethel II, Jalen Barnes, and Jah’Shawn Johnson are all being asked to step up and compete against teams such as Top 5 Baylor, a complete team absolutely loaded with upperclassmen.

These players are still learning how to play college football as well as learning David Gibbs’ new system. Many of the mistakes being made by the Texas Tech defense have been a result of players not being in the correct position, a trait of young players that often find the speed of the game disorienting.

Another reason David Gibbs defense has struggled is the competition it has faced thus far. Over the last three games, Tech has faced the No. 1 (Baylor), No. 2 (TCU) and No. 24 (Arkansas) ranked offenses in the nation. All three teams have averaged over 475 yards of offense per game.

In other words, not many teams in the nation will be capable of stopping these offenses, especially a team with the lack of experience and lack of quality depth that David Gibbs is working with.

Finally, the Texas Tech defense simply lacks the caliber of players to field a top 50 defense. Say what you will about recruiting rankings, they are indicative of the caliber of player a team is bringing in and the Tech defense is lacking in top-flight talent.

Only three players David Gibbs is working with were rated higher than a 3-star prospect coming out of high school.

Defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko, a 4-star recruit and Under Armour All-American is just a true freshman still learning the college game. Former 5-star recruit Mike Mitchell (who is currently injured) is playing his first football in two years after suffering a season-ending injury in his first collegiate game and then sitting out a year when he transferred to Texas Tech from Ohio State. Finally, there is Nigel Bethel II, a 4-star corner from Miami who missed four games due to suspension last season and missed much of fall camp as well as the first four games of 2015 after suffering a hand injury.

To expect David Gibbs to instantly transform this young and inexperienced Texas Tech defense into even an average defense is unrealistic. Texas Tech fans must realize that there will be no defensive turnaround until there is stability at the defensive coordinator position.

Phil Bennett has coordinated Baylor’s defense for five years, while TCU’s Gary Patterson has been building his team’s defense since 1998 when he was hired as the defensive coordinator. Likewise, Kirby Smart, Alabama’s defensive coordinator, has held his position with the Crimson Tide since 2008. Find any successful college football defense and you are likely to find stability among the coaching staff.  That has not been the case at Texas Tech which has been a revolving door of defensive coordinators since 2009.

David Gibbs is a high-quality coach and has been praised by almost everyone he has worked with as an innovative, confident and professional man of the game.

"Therefore, we must listen when he says, “You aren’t going to go out there and stop [the opponent] every time… You can make [players] execute… hopefully it happens sooner rather than later. But it’s not a magical fix where you can go out there and say ‘Hey, we’re going to play great defense.’ Link"

While the frustration Red Raider fans feel when seeing yet another Texas Tech defense give up yards en mass is justified, there is no reason to start labeling David Gibbs as the latest failed Texas Tech defensive coordinator. Fans must understand that despite his reputation as a defensive mastermind, David Gibbs will need more than half a season to fix the damage done to the Texas Tech defense after almost a decade of coaching instability.

Next: Texas Tech Football offers 3-Star Defensive Back Desmon Smith