Their Texas Tech teammates are expecting defensive ends Scott Smith and Leon Mackey to help turn the tide for a Red Raiders defense that ranks 102nd in the nation. The 6-foot-6, 260-pound Smith will return from a one-year suspension to play his first game of the season Saturday against Texas A&M. The 6-5, 255-pound Mackey came back last week from a lung injury that had sidelined him since the first half of the season opener.
“Leon Mackey and Scott, they’re grown men,” linebacker Daniel Cobb said Tuesday. “Those are men. That helps tremendously. The push off the edge, their speed, their power, that’s a big difference, and it helps a lot.”
Mackey made four tackles in the opener against Texas State before he got hurt and four tackles last week against Kansas in his first appearance since. Smith gave a glimpse of what he could do in the first four games last year, recording three sacks, two caused fumbles and an interception.
“He’s a great pass rusher,” cornerback Jarvis Phillips said. “Him back in, that’s a big plus for us. That’s all we really need to make a play.”
Tech has struggled to start 4-0, coming back from double-digit deficits in three of its games. But in terms of available defensive personnel, the Raiders are much better off than they were two weeks ago when they edged Nevada 35-34. Aside from the return of Smith and Mackey, the Raiders have gotten back starting defensive backs Cody Davis and Tre Porter, both of whom missed the Nevada game with injuries.
Davis made 14 tackles and Porter four tackles last week against Kansas.
Sophomore linebacker Daniel Cobb’s 11-tackle performance Saturday at Kansas came almost out of nowhere compared to his previous bests. Cobb had had a three-tackle game and two two-tackle games before then.
“It helped my confidence out,” Cobb said, “but at the same time, for the past four games I kept preparing like I was going to be the starter that day, and when my number was called I wanted to be ready. When I got my number called, I went in and did what I could.”
Cobb finished spring as the starter at strong-side linebacker, then slipped down the depth chart until he resurfaced Saturday.
Tech coaches haven’t said publicly which linebackers they’ll start against A&M, but head coach Tommy Tuberville said Cobb and Cqulin Hubert began the week with the first team. Both had big production off the bench Saturday.
“A couple of man coverage deals, we could have played better,” defensive coordinator Chad Glasgow said, “but some positive things happened for us.”
Compiled by Don Williams