After a disastrous 2019 season, Adrian Frye has to prove that he’s still an asset in the secondary if the Texas Tech football team is going to have a shot at competing this fall.
Life in the Big 12 is hell on defensive backs. Just in case Adrian Frye through that wasn’t the case after a standout redshirt freshman year in 2018, he got a dose of reality last fall. Now, he needs to prove for the second time in his career that he’s an asset for the Texas Tech football program. If he doesn’t, the Red Raiders’ greatest defensive flaw from last season will continue to haunt the program in 2020.
So how does one go from a freshman All-American and a first-team All-Big 12 selection to the program’s greatest defensive liability in the span of just one offseason? The answer is two-fold: a position switch and injuries.
After posting five interceptions in 2018 as a corner, Frye was asked last year to move to safety where Tech had to replace both starters from the previous season. He wasn’t the only corner to make the move as senior Douglas Coleman also changed positions from corner to safety.
But while Coleman took to the new role as well as anyone could have hoped (he was tied for the national lead with eight interceptions), Frye struggled. It seemed as if he was unable to learn how to pick up receivers as a safety where players often have to make judgments about which man to cover and which to pass on to a teammate.
When playing corner, Frye typically had just one man or one zone of the field to worry about making his life much easier. But safeties often have to be responsible for an entire half of the gridiron and many times, they are expected to help cover for a teammate’s gaffe. A corner’s job is primarily all about sticking with one man while a safety has to read and react to everything that happens on the field and that’s where Frye struggled most in his sophomore season.
Frye also missed part of the Oklahoma game and all of the following week’s win over Oklahoma State with a concussion. We will never know how much that injury impacted him upon his return but after he came back, he simply was not as effective as he needed to be.
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But the talent is there for Frye to once again be one of the best cover men in the Big 12. The former high school track star has all the speed needed to keep with just about any receiver and as a freshman, he displayed nice footwork and incredible hands, traits that are critical for elite corners.
In 2018, he was credited with at team-high 13 pass defenses. But last year, that number fell to just two. Should he return to the form that he displayed two seasons ago, the Red Raider secondary will suddenly look rather formidable.
Senior Zech MePhearson proved to be a durable and tough-minded corner last year after arriving as a grad transfer from Penn State. The former 4-star recruit is set to start opposite of Frye at the other corner spot.
DaMarcus Fields will slide into the slot corner role, which Tech calls the “spur” position. He was fifth on the team last year with 54 tackles and in each of his two seasons on campus, he’s earned honorable-mention All-Big 12 recognition.
At safety, senior Ja’Marcus Ingram is set to start after also coming to Tech last year as a grad transfer. The former Utah State DB is as familiar as anyone with DC Keith Patterson’s defensive scheme and he’s coming of a decent season in which he registered 15 tackles and two pass breakups as a backup safety after arriving in the middle of fall camp.
The other safety spot looks like it will go to Eric Monroe, a senior grad transfer who was a backup in the secondary last season for the National Champion LSU Tigers. Like McPhearson, he was a 4-star recruit and top-100 player in the nation in high school who never got the chance to start so he’s come to Lubbock looking for playing time and that’s what he’s likely to get plenty of.
Other key pieces of the puzzle include junior Adam Beck, a hard-hitting safety/LB hybrid who came on strong as 2019 progressed, and sophomores Dadrion Taylor and Alex Hogan, both of whom took their lumps last year at times but who proved to be tough enough to handle life in the pass-happy Big 12.
Tech simply has to have more from the secondary that it got a season ago. Tech was third-worst in the country against the pass by allowing over 288 yards per game through the air. That can’t happen again if 2020 is going to be any better than the four-win debut that Matt Wells put together and it feels as if the key is going to be whether Adrian Frye can return to his status as one of the Red Raider secondary’s better players.