Texas Tech defense a work in progress as spring football wraps up

Defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter spoke to the media this week about where his defense is as spring football reaches its conclusion.
Texas Tech's defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter gives instructions during football practice,
Texas Tech's defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter gives instructions during football practice, / Annie Rice/Avalanche-Journal / USA TODAY

This offseason, the Texas Tech defense is being largely overhauled due to a large number of departures and graduations. That puts the spotlight on defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter who met with the media this week to update Red Raiders on where his group stands as spring football comes to a close.

Specifically, DeRuyter was asked about the task of replacing multi-year starters Tony Bradford Jr. and Jaylon Hutchings at defensive tackle. That is part of the job according to DeRuyter.

"Well, every year you gotta replace guys," he said. "I mean that's just the nature of college football and as a staff, you gotta do a good job developing guys. I think our assistants have done a really nice job, particularly up front.

"You know, we're losing 2 guys that had a heck of a lot of experience in [Hutchings] and [Bradford]," he said. "Our young guys, I think, are really, really talented and they're starting to step up. You know, the older guys Quincy [Ledet] and Dooda [Banks] are having a really good spring. They've improved their game but you've got to have depth to play and we feel pretty good about five or six guys right now."

Also, the secondary is having to replace four regulars from last season. DeRuyter discussed where that group stands heading into the summer.

"I think our corners in particular have been much more physical," he said. "Really impressed with [Maurion] Horn. He's had a great camp. Braylon Lux got more playing time last year and he's improved his game. Both those guys are doing a really nice job in press coverage but they are also you know very good tacklers for us so the physicality I think has gone up and I think anytime you have guys playing with a lot of speed because they know what to do you can actually play faster and play more physical."

Speaking of the secondary, DeRuyter was asked about the status of the star posiiton, which is a combination safety/linebacker. He said the competition there has been strong.

"Yeah I know we've had great competition there," he said. "[Brendan Jordan] for a true freshman I thought did a lot of good things but you know there was a drop from [2022 starter Marquis Waters] it's not his fault. He didn't play you know as many snaps in college football as [Waters] did you know just going out there and so we didn't want him to feel comfortable and putting AJ [McCarty] there letting those guys compete and push both them and I like where that position is you know."

Last year, Jordan registered 20 tackles and appeared in all 13 games as a true freshman. Meanwhile, McCarty sat out after transferring in from Baylor due to NCAA transfer rules. Between them, the competition for the starting spot at the star position will be fascinating to watch in fall camp.

Another area of concern for Tech is always the pass rush. Last season's four starting defensive linemen are all gone and DeRuyter was asked who his top pass rushers have been this spring.

"That's a good question," he said. "I think Amier Washington has done a really nice job on the edge. He's got to be much more disciplined in not jumping offsides. He's got a great get-off [but] sometimes he doesn't time it out very well, you know.

"We've gotten Braylon Rigsby back this week and he's really flashed at times as an inside rusher. Those two guys have done a nice really nice job you know as we go forward. Again they're younger guys that haven't played a lot of college football but they've got some raw material there that we're looking forward to working with."

With all the young guys who have been pressed into key roles this spring, DeRuyter was asked who has grown the most.

"Probably a couple of guys you know," he said. "[Linebacker] John Curry...I thought he really made a step up. I think [defensive back] Jalon Peoples has really upped his game. Mo Horn at corner I think is playing as well as anybody in our defense right now so it's good to see him really step up you know.

"I like where Dooda has come you know in the three years that we've had him. Every year he's made progress and sometimes a guy thinks 'OK the older guys are gone and you know I'm gonna inherit it' he comes out and he works and so I think he's done a really good job.

"I think Quincy's done a nice job doing that as well. Both those guys have to be more consistent but I think they're doing a nice job of taking up the slack you know with two veteran guys leaving about 6000 reps as as Red Raiders not being here anymore."

Texas Tech has been forced to cancel its spring game this year due to projected poor weather in Midland on Saturday. So we will have to wait until August 31st to see DeRuyter's new defense in action. That's why it is interesting to review what he had to say about where that unit is as the spring wraps up.