August 10, 2011

DL helps defense win the day

Texas Tech's second team defensive line jammed the middle and the younger Red Raider running backs had nowhere to go. Tackle for losses galore.

Something was wrong during Wednesday's practice, the first one in full pads. The Red Raider defense was jumping all over what is supposed to be a pretty good offense.

"Offensively we've taken a big step backwards," head coach Tommy Tuberville said after the practice. "We gotta find some leadership on offense. Guys are going through the motions. I know it's three weeks away from the first game but we have no room to waste a practice like this on the offense today. We didn't look very sharp, didn't look like we were trying to get better, not a lot of enthusiasm.

"Disappointing day in that regard. But that's the reason we practice, that's the reason we have coaches and we've got to come back and get better tomorrow."

It had seemed the offense was ready to roll the Tech defense at the midway point of practice before things culminated with team drills.

Quarterback Seth Doege looked sharp and Jacob Karam looked like he got the upper hand on Scotty Young for the backup job with some pretty good throws of his own.

Receivers like Darrin Moore and newcomer Jakeem Grant burned the defense in one-on-one and seven-on-seven drills. The tailbacks continued an impressive showing not only on the ground but also on the end of some tough catches.

Things changed when the linemen made their way from their own one-on-one drills to the turf practice field.

It was clear from the get-go the defensive line was going to break down the offensive line.

The linebackers and safeties were getting into the backfield with ease. The quarterbacks were being flushed out of the pocket, throwing the ball away or being simulated sacked.

Outside the hashes, the receivers were struggling to hang on to the ball and the coverage was there most of the time anyway.

The offense made some plays of course, but the general consensus was the defense won team drills.

"We did," defensive tackle Donald Langley said, smiling, when asked about whether the defense got the best of the offense. "We're just using what coach (Chad) Glasgow is coaching us. Just give it up to coach (Joe) Walker and the strength staff this year. We look a lot faster and we look a lot better, have a lot of speed."

The defense definitely turned up its play on the first day of full pads.

"There are no excuses anymore," Langley said. "We have full pads on so now we can get after it. Now you saw what we're capable of for a little bit but each and every day we've got to get better."

It was the defensive line, that position group that was the Achilles heel of last season, that made the difference. A position group that added eight new defensive linemen including junior college transfers [db]Leon Mackey and Dennell Wesley who are ready to play out of the box.

Runs inside were jammed up. Runs outside were contained. There was less success in defending the pass but it was clear the secondary was improving and backed up by a front capable of rushing the passer.

"Mackey, Leon Mackey," Langley said. "Physically he looks the part (of a defensive end) and he plays like that too. But we feed off each other. We gelled real quick. That's a good part, when he's down I lift him up and when I'm down he lifts me up. That's what we need to go into the season."

Langley, Wesley, Mackey are just part of a rotation that will enter the 2011 season at least two-deep at every position. Aside from them are promising players like Pearlie Graves and Chris Perry. They're both having good early practices.

Then there are the ends,Dartwan Bush, Aundrey Barr and Scott Smith, that also could do some damage on the outside of the line.

Suddenly defensive line looks like a strong suit rather than a weak point, at least that was the case Wednesday.

"I feel like each and every day we're getting better," Langley said.

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