Texas Tech football: Matt Wells banking on experienced coaches to fix defense

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Khalil Tate #14 of the Arizona Wildcats fumbles the football as linebackers Riko Jeffers #6 and Jordyn Brooks #1 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Texas Tech football head coach Matt Wells has made the decision to rely on two long-time NCAA assistant coaches to help fix his program’s greatest weakness.

Death, taxes, and awful defense.  That’s what life seems to guarantee Texas Tech football fans and while there’s no hope that the former two of those inevitabilities will ever relent, we continue to dream of the day when the Red Raiders finally figure out how to field a representative defense.

There’s always renewed optimism at the beginning of a new coaching staff’s tenure but what we saw from the defense in year-one of the Matt Wells experiment gave us no reason to believe that the Red Raiders are any closer to fixing what has been this program’s scarlet letter for the past two decades than the program was during the tenures of Davide Gibbs, Lyle Setentcich, Greg McMackin, or Chad Glasgow, all of whom failed to be the answer we’ve been looking for at defensive coordinator.

Enter Keith Patterson.  Arriving with Wells from Utah State, the long-time college NCAA assistant came to town talking about playing an aggressive style of defense that was going to put pressure on the quarterback and disrupt opposing offenses thus leading to a number of mistakes that his team would be able to capitalize upon.

That sounded great…until the games began.  Then we soon realized that 2019 was going to be another year spent watching the Red Raider defense through our fingers as we tried to shield our eyes from the horror that unfolded on a near-weekly basis when opponents had the ball.

In the nine Big 12 games last season, Tech surrendered at least 30 points eight times.  The only offense that failed to get to that mark was West Virginia, the Big 12’s lowest-scoring unit.  And even the Mountaineers racked up 549 yards.  However, four turnovers kept them at bay in a 38-17 Tech win in Morgantown.

Giving up an average of 35.9 points per game in conference play, Tech finished ahead of only Kansas in regard to scoring defense.  Likewise, they were just 9th in the conference against the run (172.5 yards per game) and last against the pass (307.8 yards per game).

Nationally, Tech was No. 127 out of 130 teams in the country in total defense.  Against the pass, the Red Raiders were just 128th.

So how do you fix something that has been a cancer infecting your entire program since the start of the George W. Bush administration?  There are two schools of thought and the debate feels like a chicken or egg quandary.

Some believe that the best way to elevate the talent on that side of the ball is to bring in a coaching staff filled with top-flight recruiters.  Often, teams choose to surround a veteran defensive coordinator with assistants that are known more for their recruiting prowess, many of whom have been high-profile high school head coaches who can use the ties they developed in the high school ranks to bring in elite talent.  That’s a recipe Baylor followed when hiring Matt Rhule back in 2017 and it worked rather well in Waco.

But Matt Wells is taking a different approach.  Virtually every assistant coach on his staff, regardless of the side of the ball, has spent the vast majority of his time in the college ranks and came to Tech from another NCAA program.  The belief is that the experience of those coaches will help develop the talent that Tech can bring in and once the defense starts to perform better, recruiting will pick up.

Some think that’s a wise strategy given that the level of individual talent that will typically man the defensive side of the ball in Lubbock isn’t going to rival the top-level programs in the nation anytime soon.  Wells did not deviate from that plan this offseason when bringing in a pair of new defensive assistants to round out his staff.  So let’s get to know the two long-time coaching veterans who have joined the Red Raider program in recent weeks because they both face some serious challenges if they want to be part of a defensive renaissance on the South Plains.

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