Daniel Cobb says he’s reached that age when birthdays lose their luster and presents aren’t what they used to be.
“At this age, you don’t really get gifts anymore,” said Texas Tech’s sophomore linebacker.
Cobb turned 21 at midnight on Sunday, just as Tech was wrapping up its 41-38 upset of No. 3 Oklahoma.
That was gift enough for the Killeen native, particularly since he contributed a team-high nine tackles to the effort.
“That was a good birthday,” Cobb said. “It was crazy, fun. We enjoyed it.”
Cobb has come on strong for the Red Raiders since the start of Big 12 Conference play, surging back from a titanic tumble down the depth chart.
The redshirt sophomore was first string at the end of spring but was supplanted by true freshman Blake Dees. Defensive coordinator Chad Glasgow then gave Zach Winbush, Tanner Foster and Tyrone Sonier shots at being the No. 2 strong-side linebacker.
Cobb had faded out of the picture and was listed behind Dees, Foster and Sonier when Tech traveled to Albuquerque, N.M., for its first road game. Foster later suffered a season-ending knee injury in Tech’s Sept. 24 victory against Nevada.
“It was nobody’s fault but mine,” Cobb said Monday. “I didn’t do what I needed to do to be in the position to start. I had it. I lost it. My mindset became just to work and good things will happen.”
Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said Cobb might be the most athletic of all of Tech’s linebackers but is still learning how to prepare himself.
“A linebacker’s like a quarterback,” Tuberville said. “You have to study. You have to study formation, film, players, how they’re going to run the play, look at reads of the offensive line backwards and forward. There are a lot of little things. You just don’t go out there with ability and run to the ball. You’ve got to understand splits and wide receivers. He’s starting to learn a little bit of that.”
Cobb admits his film-watching habits weren’t good when he got to Tech. He never had to watch film when he ran over the competition at Killeen Ellison.
He said he’s been studying more and more, particularly during the week leading up to the game against Oklahoma. Cobb said he spent countless hours before practice and in his free time preparing.
“I have been playing football all my life and this is what I do,” he said. “So why invest in something that you’re not going to go in 100 percent?”
With that attitude, Cobb has worked himself back into the rotation. He had a breakout game at Kansas on Oct. 1, totaling a career-high 11 tackles.
Of his nine tackles Saturday, 21/2 were for loss. Cobb also forced a fumble on second and goal from the Tech 1-yard line. The Sooners recovered but were forced to settle for a field goal after Landry Jones’ third-down pass fell incomplete.
Cobb, who was named Tech’s defensive player of the game, is quick to give credit to teammates when asked about his performance.
“Watching that film allowed us to line up and get the fronts called and go to where they were going to go before they got there,” Cobb said. “We were lining up so fast and watched so much film that we got them out of their NASCAR (offense), We had them behind schedule on their track.”
Despite barely playing in the opening weeks of the season, Cobb is fifth on the team with 28 tackles and has five for loss — one shy of Terrance Bullitt’s team-leading six.
Free safety D.J. Johnson said there was never a doubt Cobb had that ability in him. He just needed the opportunity to show it.
“He came out there and surprised a lot of people,” Johnson said. “We talked to him all week about just giving the calls. Don’t overthink and just play football. He did that and executed.”
And Cobb still has two more birthdays to celebrate with the Red Raiders.
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