After a big debut performance, Texas Tech linebacker Krishon Merriweather has earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Texas Tech middle linebacker Krishon Merriweather has some big shoes to fill. But after one week, it appears that he may be up to the task.
Wearing the same No. 1 that his predecessor, 2019 second-team All-American Jordyn Brooks, wore, Merriweather did his best Brooks impression on Saturday night with 12 tackles (7 solo and 0.5 for loss). That was good enough to earn him Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week recognition.
Merriweather’s performance marked the most tackles for any Red Raider in his debut with the program since the 2000 season. And it was the fourth-most tackles of any player in the FBS for the week.
“I think he’s kinda an old-school football player,” head coach Matt Wells said Saturday night after his team’s 35-33 vicotry over Houston Baptist. “He’s a throwback. It’s just kinda like ‘Give me my uniform. I’m gonna go out and play.’ …He’s a grinder.”
The biggest play Merriweather made against the Huskies came at the end of the first half. With Tech leading 21-10, HBU faced a 4th-and-goal from the two-yard line.
Making an odd decision to take the ball out of the hands of their star QB Bailey Zappe, the Huskies tried to go to wide receiver Jerreth Sterns, who lined up as a RB on the play. The rushing attempt was stymied by Merriweather at the half-yard-line to keep the visitors off the board and given that this game turned out to be a two-point contest, that stop will forever loom large.
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Any hope the Red Raiders have of fielding a competitive defense (a statement that almost seems laughable after Tech allowed an FCS team to rack up 600 yards in week one) revolves around Merriweather’s ability to fill Brooks’ shoes. Last year, Brooks amassed 108 tackles, including 20 for loss, in just 11 games before being selected in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks.
It isn’t fair to Merriweather to continually compare him to the best Texas Tech linebacker since Zach Thomas but that’s likely going to be what happens this year, especially given that he’s wearing No. 1. However, that decision apparently wasn’t Merriweather’s.
According to Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Merriweather wanted No. 17 but was given No. 1 by the Texas Tech equipment staff. However, Tech’s new middle linebacker seems intent on living up to the legacy that his predecessor established.
“It makes me want to play harder,” he told Williams last week, “because he set the standard.”
Merriweather’s ability to hold down the middle of the Red Raider defense is critical to the plans of defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. By knowing that he has his middle LB position in good hands, he is now free to unleash senior Riko Jeffers and Arizona transfer Colin Schooler as that tandem can now focus on being disruptive forces who will line up all over the defensive formation to wreak havoc.
In recent years, Tech has benefitted from remarkable play at middle linebacker. First, it was Dakota Allen, who racked up 249 tackles in three seasons in Lubbock, and then it was Brooks, who was a Butkus Award semifinalist in 2019. Now, Merriweather aims to continue that trend of strong play in the middle of the Red Raider defense and after a sterling debut, he’s off to a great start in that pursuit.