Texas Tech football: With Jordyn Brooks out, we got preview of 2020 defense

LUBBOCK, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 16: Running back Darius Anderson #6 of the TCU Horned Frogs is tackled by linebacker Xavier Benson #37 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the first half of the college football game on November 16, 2019 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 16: Running back Darius Anderson #6 of the TCU Horned Frogs is tackled by linebacker Xavier Benson #37 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the first half of the college football game on November 16, 2019 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images) /

Without leading tackler Jordyn Brooks sidelined on Saturday, we got a preview of what the Texas Tech football team may look like defensively in 2020.

It’s a reality that Texas Tech fans don’t really want to have to consider right now.  But next year, Butkus Award semifinalist Jordyn Brooks will not be patrolling the middle of the Red Raider defense.  Unfortunately, we got a preview of what that might look like in Saturday’s 33-31 loss to TCU.

Brooks has been dealing with a shoulder injury for a few weeks and after the first series of the TCU game, he realized that he wasn’t fit to play.  Monday, head coach Matt Wells said that his senior captain is day-to-day and we know that Brooks will try his best to make it onto the field for his final game at The Jones.

Life was ugly without Tech’s best player.  TCU racked up 549 yards with 223 of those coming on the ground.  What’s more, the Frogs converted 15-24 3rd-down conversions.

"“I don’t want to make excuses,” defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said Tuesday.  “But when kids practice at a certain position all week trying to get them prepared in case something like that were to happen, and then the first series of the game, you’re playing a different position than you’ve repped all week…there was something to it.“Because we didn’t execute a couple of pressures…the run fits kida got loose a little bit, which really hasn’t happened all year long, so [the absence of Brooks did impact the defense early in the game]…Once we did settle down, from the middle of the second quarter on, they made three field goals.”"

With Brooks on the sidelines, the Red Raiders had to scramble to cover defensively.  Junior Riko Jeffers had to move over to Brooks’s middle linebacker spot meaning that someone had to cover his outside LB duties, a huge part of which includes rushing the passer.

But with LB Evan Rambo also unavailable, sophomore safety Adam Beck got his first playing time at outside LB.  The former transfer from Minnesota impressed with a team-high 12 tackles and was credited with two quarterback pressures.

"“Adam stepped up today, and I mean, that’s what we expect out of him,” Jeffers said Saturday after the game.  “We practice, we preach next man up, and so he came prepared. He got a really good week of practice in, and it just showed today. I mean, being around the ball all the time, he was flying to it, so I think Adam did really good today.”"

Prior to that, his career-best was five tackles, which came against Arizona in week-three.  Now, there’s a chance that the 6-foot-2, 205-pound safety might see more time at the linebacker or spur position.

"“There’s no doubt,” Patterson said when asked if we might see Beck playing more as a pseudo linebacker rather than a traditional safety.  “We moved him in there closer to the box and he got more aggressive and seemed very comfortable and did a lot of really good things.  So, yeah, that’s something that I think we can expand here over the next two games for sure.”"

With the injury woes the defense is facing, the future appears to have arrived a bit sooner than expected on that side of the ball. Saturday, as many as five freshmen were on the field for the Red Raiders in a virtual must-win game for the team’s bowl hopes.

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True freshmen Alex Hogan and Dadrion Taylor both saw significant time at corner.  Keep in mind that Taylor played running back exclusively in high school and it’s easy to see how the learning curve has been quite steep for him especially.  Hogan had four tackles and a pass defense while Taylor was credited with one stop.

Another 2019 signee, Tony Bradford Jr. saw significant time on the defensive line and registered two tackles.  Meanwhile, redshirt LB Xavier Benson was impactful with eight tackles including one sack. In addition, true freshman LB Tyrique Matthews also saw some snaps on defense and special teams.

For most of the season, this team has been heavily dependent on upperclassmen (as any team should be) but now, it appears like the light is starting to come on for some young defenders.  Tuesday, Patterson sounded upbeat about what he’s seeing from his group of freshmen.

"“I think it’s been invaluable to play some of those younger guys in these critical situations and games,” Patterson said.  “And we’re still in games at the end of every one of them.”"

Perhaps there will be hope for next year’s defense to be competitive even though it will be losing its three best players in Brooks, Broderick Washington, and Douglas Coleman. Of course, those players will be leaving some huge holes to fill.

Look for Jeffers to likely play the middle linebacker spot that Brooks has been manning with such excellence this year while Beck’s future looks like it could be at the spur position, but he’s going to have to put on some weight this offseason to hold up while playing more in the box.

Hopefully, the experience Hogan and Taylor are getting will help fortify a secondary that brings back corners Zech McPhearson and DaMarcus Fields and the issues we’ve see this year with the secondary being exploited because it lacked depth will not be such a flaw on next year’s team.

Of course, we still have two games left with the seniors and we should all appreciate what they’ve brought to the program, especially Brooks, who is the best LB the program has produced since maybe Zach Thomas.  But even those seniors have started thinking about what next year will look like.

Next. Turning points in Tech's loss to TCU. dark

Patterson said that he and Brooks were discussing how the second half of the TCU game was a glimpse of the future.  And while a future without Brooks is not something we necessarily want to think about until it arrives, at least we know that there are some young players who are proving that they should be capable of giving this team som valuable snaps next year.