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The Texas Tech secondary, with 46 combined starts returning from last season's
squad, could be a team strength this season. The only thing standing in the way
is the lack of a clear-cut No. 2 corner and unproven depth up and down the
The coaching staff did what it could to help out the secondary during the
offseason with the addition of cornerbacks Bruce Jones,
Olaoluwa Falemi and
Austin Stewart from the junior college ranks plus a few
freshman players who could potentially help out immediately.
Typically, a position group that returns a combined
46 starts from a year ago would likely be referred to as a team
strength. That isn't the case for Texas Tech's defensive backfield, as
it cycled through starters at corner due to injury and inconsistency.
The Red Raiders hope that they have found an answer at one of the spots
in converted wide receiver Cornelius Douglas, but the team enters fall
camp looking for someone to step up opposite of him.
• Texas Tech ranked second in the Big 12 in passing
yards allowed per games (226.75), though that was likely attributable to
the team's porous rush defense.
• The Red Raiders ranked No. 116 nationally in interceptions last
season, picking off just five passes -- only three by defensive backs.
This was by far the team's lowest interception total in over a decade.
• Cody Davis logged 72 solo tackles in 2011 and is the nation's active
career leader in the category (202).
BATTLE TO WATCH
No position battle will be more important to
Tech's defense than the battle for the starting boundary cornerback
spot. There are several returning contenders -- Jarvis Phillips, Derrick
Mays, Eugene Neboh -- but none really grabbed hold of the position in
the spring. Newcomers Bruce Jones and Olaoluwa Falemi will get a look
"There's some added depth back there," strongside linebacker
Terrance Bullitt said. "We've added depth and those guys have looked
good this summer."
That being said, the Red Raiders will really be counting on senior safeties
Cody Davis and D.J. Johnson to help over the top and the team
needs both players to go injury free throughout the season. Both are solid
football players -- Davis is the NCAA's active career-leader in solo tackles --
but the team will need them to be difference makers this season.
Behind Davis and Johnson, the Red Raiders have viable options between Porter,
Stewart and J.J. Gaines. Freshman athlete Keenon Ward has been
assigned to the defensive backfield, but he won't be ready to contribute this
At cornerback, Cornelius Douglas is Tech's clear No. 1 option. He
started out last season as a receiver but was converted over as attrition hit
the secondary depth as bad as injuries hampered the Red Raiders' running game.
Douglas, who was recruited out of high school as a defensive back by some
programs, has committed himself to learning the cornerback position. He
dramatically improved his body for the position over the offseason and had a
Who will line up at the other cornerback spot is a huge question. Jones or
Falemi will get a good look this fall, as none of the returning players made a
definitive case during the spring.
Behind those three cornerbacks the Red Raiders will be counting on a combination
of Happiness Osunde, Mays, Phillips and Reynolds to round out depth
plus maybe freshman
La'Darius Newbold, although
Newbold will likely start out at safety.
Depth isn't ideal in the secondary, but Tech is at a good starting point. As
long as the injury bug doesn't bite too hard, the Red Raiders' defensive
backfield should be expected to show improvement from last season.
NEW FACES: Both Jones and Falemi should make an impact right
away after transferring from junior colleges. Jones is more polished at this
point, but Falemi may have more upside.
Stewart, another junior college transfer, will be relied upon as a backup this
fall. He's still adjusting to the Division I level, but he could be a major
factor in 2013 and 2014.
Ward could play either receiver or safety, but has been handed over to
first-year secondary coach
John Lovett to bolster depth at safety.
There's a good chance Ward will redshirt.
Newbold rounds out the newcomers, and could conceivably play this season. He has
great athletic ability and very good size, so it will just be a matter of how
quickly he can adjust to playing Big 12 football.
Thierry Nguema joined the team in the spring after greyshirting last
PRESSURE IS ON: Cornelius Douglas. If Douglas isn't an answer
at cornerback -- remember, he's only played a handful of games on defense --
then the Red Raiders are in deep trouble.
BIGGEST QUESTION: Who emerges as the starter at boundary
cornerback? Will it be newcomer Bruce Jones or Olaolua Falemi, or a returning
player like Eugene Neboh? Either way, this is arguably the biggest question mark
of camp for Tech.
PRE-CAMP DEPTH CHART
Aside from the boundary cornerback spot,
the top of the Red Raiders' defensive back depth chart is fairly set in
stone. Cody Davis and D.J. Johnson return at the two safety positions,
Cornelius Douglas is locked in at field cornerback and Tre' Porter has a
solid hold on the primary nickel spot.