The secondary is replacing two starters
While most Texas Tech football fans feel more at ease with the state of the defense than we have in some time, the last line of defense on that side of the ball is going to be tasked with replacing two starters.
Corner Zech McPhearson and safety Thomas Leggett have both moved on from the program this offseason. They take with them 104 combined tackles from last year, 4 interceptions (all by McPhearson), 9 pass defenses, and five tackles for loss. That’s quite a bit of production that will have to be replaced.
McPhearson is the bigger loss by far. Last year, he earned first-time All-Big 12 honors from the league’s coaches as he seemed to be constantly making plays. In fact, you could argue that he was Tech’s best defensive player, and perhaps the team’s best overall player in 2020, and his departure for the NFL leaves a sizeable void in the secondary.
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As for Leggett, he was an effective and willing run-stopper from his safety position. He racked up 51 tackles last season and 101 for his Texas Tech football career. But he was also a liability in pass coverage, something that is certainly an important component of playing safety.
This year, Tech has brought in several transfers to help fill in the holes in the secondary. We can be almost certain that Duke transfer Marquis Waters will start at safety in Leggett’s spot. The senior has 234 career tackles and three interceptions to his name and he was a huge recruiting pickup for Wells and Co.
But who starts in McPhearson’s place at corner is yet to be determined. N.C. State transfer Malik Dunlap is an option. He’s made 10 starts and compiled 41 tackles thus far in his career, which spanned three seasons (including a redshirt year) with the Wolf Pack.
Also competing for McPhearson’s spot will be Rayshad Williams. In 22 career games at UCLA, he amassed 42 tackles and 3 pass breakups.
It will be important for those veteran players to fortify the secondary this fall because Tech is rather short on talented young players in the defensive backfield. In fact, in the 2021 signing class, the program added only one defensive back, Lubbock Coronado’s Imari Jones, who appears to be a long-term project.
So as the spring unfolds, keep your ears open for word on how Dunlap and Williams are faring at corner because that will be a key battle to watch. And keep a lookout for any updates on all three of the positions we’ve discussed today because they need to be sorted out this spring.